In the same way that finding a perfect match in personal relationship is not an easy task, finding a right match for a position, let alone building a team with multiple positions is not trivial at all. In today’s market, the majority of the human resources placement, especially in mid- to big-size companies, is being done through some sort of mediator, i.e. recruiting agency or human resource department. There are several, “common sense” reasons for that:
a) No manager has enough time to interview and review hundreds of resumes,
b) The recruiting consultants are usually the only ones who have access to an extensive database of people to choose from, and
c) There is widely spread belief that if the employee does not fit, agency will help with replacement immediately, which gives an illusion of shared responsibility and relatively low cost of wrong placement. (BTW, this one is a pure myth, but companies still continue to operate upon this false assumption. I’ll write about that in a separate post.)
So yes, manager is getting a lot of help from recruiters who supposedly have a knack for finding the best experts in the industry, but eventually it is the manager’s duty to turn a group of individuals into a team and to make them work and produce results. Having highly elaborated details in the job description and hiring the best experts still do not guarantee that the team will perform perfectly. It is up to the manager to ensure that teammates are functioning as one well-constructed unit, a body if you will, completing each other and not taking away from each other’s qualities.
I really prefer the metaphor of a living body, as opposed to the metaphor of “human machine”, which became popular in the recent years. The main reason for that is that people are not machines. Building teams that will need to function in informationally rich and challenging environment is not at all like incorporating a human element into automated production line.
Additionally, I think this metaphor is much more natural and easy to use. I’m sure you heard more than once someone saying things like “He is the heart of the team”, “She is manager’s right hand”, or “This team has such a strong core”. I look at a team as a human body and find it extremely beneficial when structural changes need to be introduced to a team or processes it’s involved with. In our body every organ has its purpose, a role to fulfill. The essence and the scope of this role are never questioned: we don’t doubt whether we need a heart or how many hearts do we need. We are also aware of the importance of each of the parts and the interaction between them. And the last, but not the least, no one will argue that we need to nourish our body to maintain its tonus or else we starve it to death. Despite that we learned all this in kindergarten (and may be, for this very reason), they can be successfully applied when building a team.
Let’s play with the concept some more and I’ll show you how this parallel can help you with many specific issues of Team Building, from defining the particular characteristics of each team member to identifying the actions to be performed in order to make your team perfect. For the sake of brevity, I decided to outline four high level issues of Team Building, and later discuss each and every one of them in further posts under a tag “Team Building”.
A perfect team is like a perfect body. Everyone who trained his or her body knows their current level of shape and what needs to be further trimmed or built up; what needs to be achieved. So here you go, in one second you can visualize the outlines of the team and its needs. There are different body parts, i.e. different roles to be fulfilled, but before we go into details we need to see what we have and set where we are heading.
Team members function together like organs of human body – Responsibility structure and Team functions. Despite being a very important organ, a heart would never assume liver’s responsibilities even if the liver isn’t there, because the heart already has its own responsibilities crucial for survival. The same goes for a team. Each teammate needs to know the responsibility structure of the team, or hell is about to follow. You will save yourself and your teammates a lot of grief by making sure the roles are not overlapping and that each member knows the functions of the others in addition to his or her own. That imminently brings us to the next point –
A new member is like a new organ in your body. Manager can either make a new employee’s life miserable or facilitate a smooth transition to the new position. Similarly, when new body parts are incorporated into a body by natural growth or surgery, they necessarily become connected to bodily fluids circulation and the nervous system and if this connection fails – so does everything else. The ability to quickly connect with surroundings is the main parameter for success; welcoming a new person into the team means making sure that all the important connections are being made and all major processes are introduced.
Strengthen your Team as you strengthen your body. Your team needs resources and energy to function. There are many nourishing sources to find: they can be external to the team, they can be generated inside the team during the interaction between team members and the nourishment can also come from the manager as a standalone figure. As in the body, good circulation is critical to nourishment: even if all other sources fail, the manager can save the day by making sure communication channels are open and information can flow, ideas can be exchanged and the environment is that of mutual respect.
The four points named above encompass the main directions we should be working on to successfully develop a Perfect Team. The metaphor of “team as a human body” is there to remind us that as human beings are complicated, there are no shortcuts in such complex endeavor as Team Building. There are many useful techniques available for that task and I’ll continue to write about them in the next posts on the subject, but first and foremost a successful manager will never fail to recognize the priority of Team Building among the other responsibilities he has, because in the end, he is the manager of PEOPLE.
- A Perfect team is like a perfect body
- Team members function together like organs of human body: Part 1 Responsibility Structure