Let’s say you already have a perfect team, the work is progressing to your complete satisfaction and any contingency you encountered was successfully overcome. Does this mean you can relax and leave your team members to their own devices?
No, if you want things to remain as shiny as they are now.
Because now, that you’ve built a team and successfully maximized its physical parameters, you need to keep it that way. Any achievement has to be sustained or it disappears without any trace, and all the previous efforts disappear with it. The same as you sustain your body by nourishing and exercising it, you have to provide your team with nourishing energy and proper exercise to keep its strength at maximum. Without it, any success would be temporary.
Now that we know what we’re talking about, let’s start with reviewing the three available energy sources for your team. These sources are: External, Internal, and Manager per se.
Literally as it sounds, External sources comprise the interactions of the team with its environment. This includes external consulting, exposure to different departments, connection to additional managerial levels (for example your team lead duplicating your presence at VP meeting), training of any kind etc. In every interaction of this kind, the team could either loose or gain more energy – the same way it happens on interpersonal level. It is up to manager to establish the boundaries or rather to set expectations for engaging the “world outside the team”, if the intention is to get more energy out of any interaction. Anyone who has ever worked in a company with more than one department is familiar with issues of protecting the boundaries of the domain, information filtering and selective channeling. Power play will always be present in any social constellation, but the choices should be made in a conscious way, because the instinctive desire of cutting of your team from any external connections will stop the energy flow completely. “Not losing” is not enough, you have to win! Other groups, networks, forums, professional institutes – they all could be an external energy source, if you position your team correctly in its social environment.
Internal sources include all interactions between the team members themselves. It might be anything from celebrating birthdays together to spending time on any work-related tasks. Yes, the work itself could be an energy source! Having atmosphere of mutual respect and sharing of knowledge is extremely rewarding experience for all parties involved. All activities that are somehow connected to work, be it knowledge transfer, problem solving, practically every team meeting and any attempt for organizational change could influence the energy level of the team, and its completely in manager’s power to turn the sign from minus to plus. Of course, the most satisfying and long-term way of nourishing your team is when team members are nourishing each other without your direct involvement. Each interaction presents an opportunity to build a bond; your goal is to provide an environment where bonds could be built and sustained.
Manager per se – it is most natural to imagine the manager as the “head” of the body, and it may be so. But when talking about nourishing your team with creative energy, the manager is more like a heart constantly pumping blood through the circulation system. This flow is what actually brings the energy from other sources to every cell of the body. In an organizational environment, circulation means open channels of communication, healthy exchange of ideas, constant knowledge transfer, and support where needed (in the exact needed form). Everyone on the team should have equal access to this circulation, no favorites allowed. The sustainment of this circulation system is the sole responsibility of the manager. If the team members will know they can approach the manager when they have a problem, they will endure any hardships in a hope for better tomorrow, because it will seem certain. This is exactly the case when effort is more important than the results it brings – you just have to show your team you are available as an energy source, so it is wise to invest in this impression.
Maximizing the output of all three sources of energy is more complicated than just naming them, but what’s really important here is to understand the very fact that proper nourishment is crucial for your team. In the next post I’ll cover the main principles of how to apply those sources to sustain your team’s perfect shape :-).