As a football fan, I watch the comings and goings in the summer transfer market with fascination. I don’t really look so much at who a manager has signed in the close season, interesting though that is. Instead I focus on how many new players have arrived at a club.
Too few signings and there’s little room for optimism, especially if the team under-performed previously. Too many signings and another danger emerges: that come the first day of the season, they will all play as if they are strangers. Which, of course, they are.
The danger of the “new broom”, in business as well as in football, is that it can simply leave a nasty new mess all over the floor. So realistically, how quickly can a brand new team bond together? In my experience, developing “Super Glue” strength team bonds takes time and effort on all sides. Yet the process can be rapidly accelerated if certain principles are practised from the outset.
In football, of course, the goal is …. well, goals. Lots of them. And more than the other side. In business, however, the goals can be more multi-layered. Financial goals can understandably dominate the thinking of some leaders, though for many others in the team it will be values, beliefs and behaviours that will drive them. So for any team to bond quickly, there needs to be the following:-
A clearly laid out and understood set of goals. Does every team member know what needs to be achieved - and why? Do they collectively have a realistic view and know what their priorities are?
The team needs to have discussed the goals in detail. Does everyone know who is going to do what – and when? Who is leading the debate at each stage? Who should be involved and at what point? And who is ultimately responsible for making a key decision? Too often this last point is glossed over in the rush to get going, but today’s fudge is tomorrow’s trust-buster.
Each member needs to have the same interpretation of what was agreed. This is easier said than done, unless as team members keep checking in with each other. The unity of purpose that the team felt at the outset will need to be re-established at every stage.
Everyone needs to know what delivering on a goal really means. Are team members being as proactive as they could be? Are they challenging each other (positively) to achieve the collective goals? Do they know what success looks like? And how are they going to measure it?
It requires teams to focus on these four areas to bond quickly and effectively. Inevitably, teams will be strong at some aspects, less strong on others at different stages of a project or programme. That’s understandable, as long as the collective will is to remain focused - and to take prompt action to resolve issues quickly where they occur.
Michael Moran is CEO of 10Eighty, the engagement specialists