Team dynamics play a part in the success or failure of every team out there. Certain teams just seem to flow; they can work off each other and they are greater than the sum of their parts. This is the result of perfect team dynamics, the ever elusive “flow state” of working and creativity. Some teams, on the other hand, seem to have all the right parts but just deteriorate into spinning wheels and wasted time. The question that is probably top of mind for anyone responsible for team building is how do we end up with the first scenario more often? Well, let’s take a look at team dynamics a bit closer, then we’ll go into some tips.
We all know what a team is, so we won’t go there. What is the actual definition of “dynamics,” particularly in the context of team dynamics?
Looking to Merriam-Webster there are a couple definitions of dynamics that are note-worthy for our purpose:
- A branch of mechanics that deals with forces and their relation primarily to the motion but sometimes also to the equilibrium of bodies
- The pattern of change or growth of an object
We like the two different definitions for the following reasons. The first discusses how there are (unseen) forces at work that have a relationship with motion and/or equilibrium. The distinction between forces that cause motion or encourage equilibrium is very important to note. Motion to us represents movement towards progress or movement away, but it’s also very important to note that sometimes progress is achieved only when there is equilibrium. They are unique to each other and very true in a workplace context. The second definition is applicable as well because it not only speaks directly to the growth and change (of a team) but also that there is a pattern. Team dynamics tend to have patterns that repeat towards achieving more or achieving less.
To summarize all the above into a digestible format, Six Sigma Team Dynamics put it best:
Team Dynamics are defined as the motivating and driving forces that propel a team towards (or away) its goal or mission.
Now that we have a solid definition, let’s break it down into some actionable ideas for your team.
What should you be keeping a pulse on for great team dynamics?
Great team dynamics tends to be the result of key drivers, versus something that you can directly address. You should look to address the large factors of team building to see changes in performance. George Eckes is able to identify some of the key indicators/elements in Six Sigma Team Dynamics:
- Does the team have a clear leader who is empowering?
- Do the team members believe in the leader?
- Without proper leadership and hierarchy, many teams disseminate into less effective forms of productivity. Empowerment is a driver of constant motivation for teams of all sizes.
Roles and Responsibilities Tuned to Strengths
- Does each team member understand what they bring to the table and what they are responsible for?
- Does this leader understand and empower each player’s strengths?
- Clarity and vision bring respect to others on the team and as a whole. Without clear understandings about what each person ‘brings to the party’ and who is tasked to what, team’s do not feel a sense of purpose. This leads to lower productivity and higher negativity.
Measurable Goals and Objectives
- Are there clear KPI’s for success? Do they roll up to company-wide initiatives therein serving a greater purpose?
- Are there tools in place to measure progress on a team and individual level?
- Without KPI’s and the tools to measure them, many times teams lose direction. Without direction, laziness and withdrawal will creep into your team.
If you do not have clear “yes’s” for all of the questions above, you can expect to see poor performance either now or in the near future.
How can you hire for great team dynamics?
As we outlined in our previous post about selecting top tier candidates, one of the greatest resources out there for hiring is the book Who by Geoff Smart and Randy Street. The reason being is the driving methodology behind the process is having a clear purpose for every position and a scorecard that goes along with it. The interesting thing is that the scorecard process for hiring, when followed correctly, acutely addresses the three elements identified by Eckes above.
How do hiring scorecards work?
- Define what success will mean in the job and quantify it. Make sure the role’s success aligns with your overall KPI’s or critical success factors.
- Define and quantify mission of the position, competencies of the ideal candidate, and desired outcomes.
- Vet all candidates against the same criteria.
Just by following this simple process, you will find a team that works exponentially better together. The other benefit of quantifying all the way from the beginning of the hiring process is how non-performers will immediately stand out. Many times they will eject themselves from the team before you have to take action because they are uncomfortable with the level of accountability. Do not be afraid to eliminate the bad egg if they do not remove themselves; having this person in the team directly violates the last two elements above.
Please do take a look at our previous post, Selecting Top Tier Candidates Who Will Crush KPI’s, we go into more detail and best practices for hiring.