12/11/2013

By Dr Lynda Shaw, Psychologist, cognitive and business neuroscientist and Director of Successful Ageing

We probably spend more time with our colleagues than we do with some of our closest friends, but team dynamics are often ignored until they start to go wrong. The average team can have members that span generations, race, gender and religions which can together create some fairly divisive issues. A team with good dynamics work like a smoothly oiled machine, supporting each other and working effectively. Easier said than done though.

Every individual is different and we are constantly developing, so a team dynamic is just that, it constantly changes. There is an enormous amount of literature on the psychology of efficient working teams, which always include certain basic considerations. The first is that no matter what the task all members need to know who is responsible for what and how long they have to do it. This seems obvious, but is often not clearly defined. Once this is established mutual agreement is needed to ensure cooperation. Then, to keep on top of any issues that may arise regular communication with all members present is essential. By ensuring these elements are in place every time a team works together there is a greater chance of achieving cohesion and more importantly compassion and understanding.

This is the first time in history that we may have four different generations in the workplace, and as age doesn’t always correlate to seniority of position, this can lead to situations that may be difficult to handle. Each generation will have different expectations of work, and will approach situations and projects differently and so communication in the team is essential. If you are of a more mature disposition, think about what you can learn from those who are fresh out of university and visa versa to create a cohesive team dynamic that is conducive to productivity.

One of the simplest ways to create a good working relationship is to remember that they don’t just have to be your colleagues. Get to know them, find out what interests them – go out for lunch as a team every so often! Try to talk about things that have nothing to do with work as this will help you to form personal bonds which will have a positive effect on how you work together. The stronger your professional relationships are, the more effective a team you are going to be.

For those in management I strongly recommend an ‘open door’ policy. If your team members feel comfortable in approaching you then if and when conflicts do arise, you can know about them early on and are set to deal with them in a healthy and positive way. If you see a dynamic is just not working, then you need to do something about it. Try expanding or altering the roles of those team members so that they have less direct contact with each other or get them to discuss the issues – it is up to you to keep the cogs turning smoothly!
Keep up a routine of weekly or biweekly meetings with your staff. At these meetings you should ensure that staff are fully informed of company plans, new hiring’s, client wins and losses and more. Ask them to be involved in the meetings and to come to them with ideas. Junior employees can often feel as if they’re not included and the pressures of the hierarchy above them. Where possible cc junior staff in to emails and invite them to join you in meetings. Keeping junior members informed and involved can help enable you to master the art of engaging with your employees and assists in their training.

Research has shown that conflict that arises between generations at work is often because of the different values that were prioritised as they grew up. Managers need to be able to use different management styles to reflect those in their team and any obvious differential that an employee may have.

Top tips
1. On top of providing your employees with feedback, you should encourage staff to give feedback about you, both positive and negative. We are always learning to better ourselves and listening will improve our leadership skills.

2. Everyone appreciates being appreciated, so make sure you praise your employees when they have worked hard and when they have succeeded. Giving rewards and incentives is a great way to show your appreciation. Never take credit for work that your employees have done, give credit where credit is due.

3. Take time to understand what your employees want to achieve and what their interests are. With this understanding you can help train them in the most suitable areas so that they are able to progress to where they want to be. Try to continually motivate your staff to fulfil their ambitions and help where you can to get them there.

4. Try to eliminate strict hierarchy in the office where it is not necessary. When it comes to lunch or coffee breaks try to engage with your staff in a social and communal area, don’t sit alone in your office. Or have a day in the shoes of your employees. This is the best way to have a true reflection of what your employees feel in their working environment. You will better see, from their perspective what does and does not work. You can then make informed decisions to provide an optimum work environment.

5. Give your employees a chance to have an opinion on major decisions for the company. It is likely that they have first-hand knowledge of the day to day running of the business and may have some great ideas about how you and the company could progress.

www.drlyndashaw.com

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