Chemistry, synergy, in-synch, call it what you will: The most critical ingredient every team needs to consistently turn out good results is balance.
So how can you tell if your team is out of sorts?
Teamwork balance is hard to define, but once you lose it, you’ll know. When a team is out of balance, it affects everyone’s performance levels, even when they’re working on their own.
Team imbalance can sneak up on even the most careful and observant managers. To work well together, team members need to recognize each other’s strengths and weaknesses and must trust each other to do his or her job and do it well.
It’s up to managers to pay attention to how employees adapt and work with others on the team, especially if you’ve had an influx of new hires or changes among your veterans.
Human Nature Plays a Big Role
Human instincts are far more sophisticated than say, herd animals, but we still react in many of the same ways, says Steven Hunt, Ph.D., SPHR, Director of Business Transformation at SuccessFactors.
We tend to follow a leader if someone asserts themselves within a group. We’re comfortable going “along with the pack” when it might be risky to turn in a better direction.
Much of what we believe is possible or expected at work has a lot to do with what our co-workers are accomplishing. Our drive, skills, and knowledge are naturally affected by the people around us.
So, many of us subconsciously mimic the actions of our peers, adapting their work ethic as if it’s contagious.
Managers can use this to an advantage by encouraging the more assertive, confident team members to actively participate in decision-making and planning. They’ll be the ones who end up directing and coaching the more reserved team members to help them step up their game.
While employees tend to play off the performance of their co-workers in one way or another, they can also react to competition very differently.
High-performing people tend to draw energy and ideas from being around other high performers, Hunt says. These types of employees love the thrill of a challenge and don’t intimidate easily.
But they can lose that energy when working with people who are more laid-back and passive. These employees can view competition as something that’s threatening, and often underestimate their own skills in comparison to others on the team.
If you want engaged and productive high performers, then you need to encourage low performers to compete. This doesn’t mean setting up contests between employees, which will only make lower-energy performers feel inferior.
It means pointing out places or areas where they’d likely do as well or better than their co-workers. Emphasize that not all strengths are obvious; for example, just because an employee doesn’t excel at public speaking doesn’t mean he or she can’t write or compose an effective presentation.
Pay Attention to Your Strugglers And Misfits
Most low-performers in a team setting tend to be strugglers and misfits, Hunt adds.
Strugglers aren’t intentionally uncooperative or lazy, but their productivity lags. They’re not bad employees, they just don’t mesh well with a team, and so, they don’t hit expectations as quickly as high-performers.
Misfit employees often are quite productive on their own, but shrink when they’re working in a team dynamic. They seem to succeed more when not surrounded by others’ influence.
The manager’s job is to integrate both groups into your team dynamic. These employees actually can add to the balance of the team when used properly. Some might work well under tight deadlines and others could be excellent organizers. Regardless, draw them into team interaction by emphasizing their positive contributions and playing to their strengths.
Focus on Group Communication
Effective communication goes to the core of a balanced team. But some managers make the mistake of mentally separating their high-performers from their low-performers and communicating things differently to each group.
This is a mistake, even if you feel you communicate essentially the same information. Cultivating a balanced team means all members hear necessary communication at the same time, in the same manner.
Otherwise, you set the stage for miscommunications, faulty assumptions and general distrust among team members – which can only lead to project disasters.
Even if you have different expectations and goals for some of your employees, all of them need to be in the loop on a regular basis to function together as a well-oiled machine.
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No matter the size of your team, it’s important to keep an eye on teamwork balance and how your employees mesh together. It could spell the difference between happy, contented employees and unhappy, unmotivated ones.
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