by Paul Gauci, People Skills Enabler, a Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (UK)

Do you manage a group of individuals or do you lead a team? Which are the ‘soft skills’ enablers to step up from recruiting new hires and managing staff to building an effective team of people? Are these to be considered as soft skills or crucial skills which are necessary to complement the technical competencies required in today’s modern workplace?

“Senior leaders, listen up: Soft Skills are not soft; they are in fact critical.”

Josh Saterman

Within an organisation, many groups are formed to accomplish company goals. They may be created for different purposes and they may make use of different methods to communicate. There are several different types of groups and each work in various ways to reach these goals. Simply put a group is a collection of individuals who simply coordinate their efforts, while a team is a group of people who share and work together towards a common goal. 

The benefits of an effective team are clear:

Teams are most appropriate when work objectives and tasks require the pooling of ideas, abilities, knowledge and skills. There is more focused effort and skills resulting in greater productivity and effectiveness. The diversity in skills and knowledge leads to better decision making and problem solving. There can be shared responsibility for decisions and execution of work. Motivation and commitment to work objectives can be enhanced. A sense of belonging and pride can be generated. Team working offers opportunities for personal development and learning.

However many barriers often hinder team synergy. These include misunderstandings, personality clashes, differences in goals, desire to achieve personal credit, lack of co-operation, disagreement over processes, non-compliance with culture and inadequate leadership.

Most teams have conflict …it is the ability to resolve it that makes them truly ‘a team’. However as William Dyer states “The main obstacle to team building is a feeling of not knowing how to go about team building processes.” One may assert that the basic building block of good teambuilding is for a leader to promote the feeling that every human being is unique and adds value.

Whilst there is no guaranteed recipe for building team performance, best practice suggests that successful team leaders:

  • Promote a clear vision of team goals
  • Establish clear procedures
  • Address objectives and development of individuals
  • Face up to conflict and encourage openness
  • Encourage participation
  • Be honest, fair and transparent
  • Empower and trust team members
  • Deal with problems promptly
  • Listen and communicate
  • Set and review team performance related goals
  • Identify where individuals/team can make improvements
  • Set an appropriate leadership style
  • Enable not order
  • Be a player as well as a captain
  • Build trust by leading by example

The leader as a ‘role model’ cannot be underestimated. Indeed, good practices are more caught then taught. For a real sense of mission, leaders need to believe in team synergy to their core and also to demonstrate it through their every action…leaders need to ‘walk the talk’. As Albert Schweitzer stated: “Example is not the main thing in influencing others, it is the only thing.”

Some tips for Leaders:

Don’t try to devise a perfect course of ‘team building’ action

A good plan that you can act on today is better than a perfect one tomorrow.

“I quickly learned that teamwork – all pulling together toward an identifiable common goal worked far better than rushing headlong – over the top – only to discover that no one was behind you.”

Arthur Sulzberger

Set tight but realistic deadlines

Push for quicker decisions. Let them know you tolerate honest mistakes – but not inaction or inertia.

And hold them accountable for all assigned tasks, timetable and deadlines.

“It’s okay to make mistakes. Mistakes are our teachers – they help us to learn.”

John Bradshaw

Communicate and build confidence

Through words and actions of empathy, encouragement, appreciation and understanding.

“Developing excellent communication skills is absolutely essential to effective leadership. The leader must be able to share knowledge and ideas to transmit a sense of urgency and enthusiasm to others. If a leader can’t get a message across clearly and motivate others to act on it, then having a message doesn’t even matter.”

Gilbert Amelio

Lead through Emotional Intelligence

According to Daniel Goleman, studies of outstanding performers show that two thirds of the abilities that set star performers apart in the leadership stakes are based on emotional intelligence (EQ); only one-third relate to raw intelligence (IQ).

Emotions are contagious!

There is an unseen transaction that passes between us in every transaction that makes us feel either a little better or a little worse. It holds the key to motivating the people we work with.

“Success is strongly influenced by personal qualities such as perseverance, self-control and skill in getting along with others.”  

Daniel Goleman

Monitor don’t control

Leaders must have the ability to hold their team like a bird. Just right.

“It’s like holding a small bird in the palm of your hand. If you hold it too tight, you will crush it and destroy it. If you hold it too loosely, it will fly away. If you hold it just right, you will achieve all you want.” 

Kevin Weldon.

Teamwork is the ability to work together towards a common vision. It is the ability to direct individual accomplishment toward organisational objectives. It is the fuel that allows common people to attain uncommon results.  Team resonance releases energy in people, and it increases the amount of energy available to the team, which, in turn, puts people in a state where they can work at their best. The members “vibrate” together – with positive emotional energy. When a team as a whole shows EQ, i.e., resonates, it will be a top-performing team, no matter what its performance criterion might be.

And remember: Achieving team synergy is a marathon not a sprint. Good luck on your journey!

21 Academy is pleased to have partnered with Mr Paul Gauci, with a view to supporting the facilitation of critical soft skills and emotional intelligence through short training programmes focused on leadership development and team synergy. More information from this link.