How To Grow A Self Managing Team

Growing a Self-Managing Team requires a unique set of skills not normally possessed by conventional team leaders. So, what does it take to grow a Self-Managing Team?

Self-Managing Teams require considerable expertise from their leaders.

Six areas of capability are required:

  1. Belief and Commitment
  2. Continuous Improvement
  3. Team Empowerment
  4. Commercial Awareness
  5. Team Motivation
  6. Growth and Development

I shall examine each in turn below.

1. Beliefs and Commitment

Those that grow self-managing teams are almost ‘evangelical’ in their beliefs of the benefits of self-managing teams and their commitment to these beliefs. Why? The reason is that they have worked with the conventional ‘hands-on’ style of management and seen that it simply does not produce the best results. They have seen the blockages that this style of management creates for the organisation amongst which are:

  • Managers operating too much in the day to day detail as ‘super technicians’.
  • Insecure managers who won’t let go of control over everything their teams do.
  • Managers failing to grow themselves into bigger thinkers who can make a difference to the business.
  • Managers failing to engage all the talents of the organisation’s people to continuously improve results.
  • Managers failing to grow their people to realise their potential and thus achieve the organisation’s potential.
  • Managers standing in the way of change.

Realising the risks of conventional approaches to the management of people those that grow self-managed teams have become convinced that there must be a better way.

A way in which:

  • The full potential of team members is released.
  • Freedom to act replaces frustration with management control.
  • Teams are equipped to make decisions and solve problems at their level to be more accountable, and visible for the achievement of results (with resultant increase in their job satisfaction and personal motivation).
  • Personal growth and development is an everyday reality.
  • Insecure managers obsessed with transactional leadership are replaced with transformational managers committed to step change.
  • Managers are forced to grow out of their jobs to take on more responsibility giving room for others to move up.

Because of the difference they see in this way of working they will never go back. The personal rewards and the rewards of seeing others grow are too great. That is why their beliefs and commitment to self-managing teams is so strong.

Those strong in this area of growing self-managing teams have taken on-board these truths for themselves and their way of operating reflects these core beliefs.

Those weaker in this area are either unwilling to be persuaded or worse still are holding onto a paradigm of the role of management that will eventually end in heartache for them and their people.

2. Continuous Improvement

At the very heart of the thinking behind Self-Managing Teams is the concept of continuous improvement. This includes:

  • Business Process Improvement
  • Product/Service Improvement
  • Customer Satisfaction Improvement
  • Financial Improvement
  • People Improvement

Those that grow self-managing teams see the connection between all five and seek to facilitate the efforts of their teams towards achievement of all five, simultaneously. They are therefore skilled holistic thinkers who understand the needs of the overall business and are able to align their team’s contribution to these needs. They not only see the big, high level picture themselves they are able to communicate this to their team in a way which elevates their importance, and reinforces the message that what it does really can make a difference. They impart this big picture thinking to their teams so that their teams can clearly see the consequences of their actions on a day to day basis and the impact on the business as a whole.

Those that grow self-managing teams are likely to be familiar with Quality Management Practices, Lean Manufacturing Techniques, the use of Six Sigma, the key elements of Business Re-engineering and Program/Project Management.

They understand that, far from constricting people, well documented, properly followed processes release their people to work on the business to make both incremental and step changes.

Those strong in this area of growing self-managing teams have taken on-board the need for their teams to have the tools and techniques to deliver business process improvement.

Those weaker in this area will not have broken out of their narrow, silo approach to operating in their given area of specialist expertise. They will not be skilled in the area of continuous improvement, lacking both the knowledge and skills of continuous improvement themselves, and making it impossible for them to pass on these skills to their teams.

For these managers continuous improvement and process re-engineering will possibly be a huge knowledge gap to fill as well as a personal motivation issue to overcome.

3. Team Empowerment

Team empowerment is the real essence of self-managing teams. The whole concept of self-managing teams is that of allowing a group of people to decide on their objectives and plan how best to deliver a required result and even to exceed that required result. This requires a high degree of trust from the manager growing a self-managing team who really must embrace the key elements of people empowerment:

  • Fully engaging team members in the challenges before it.
  • Enabling team members to perform at the highest levels by removing blockages to their efforts.
  • Encouraging team members, particularly in the face of setbacks.
  • Enlarging team members’ capabilities and confidence with rigorous training/coaching
  • Exciting and motivating team members in the empowerment process, particularly by recognising and celebrating successes.
  • Facilitating the team’s activities and adding objective insights and suggestions.

The challenge for the aspiring leader of a self-managing team is to train and trust; to let go; to allow people to learn for themselves, to force people into self-sufficiency, and to facilitate their learning.

The parallel is that of a parent allowing his/her child to grow up knowing that the child will make mistakes, be bruised by events, and will take some hard knocks but in the end, with parental support and belief will succeed.

It is essential that in self-managing teams members are allowed to work largely independently of their manager but interdependently as a group. This subtle mix requires the manager of a self-managing team to constantly push the boundaries of the team’s empowerment, continuously taking the team out of its comfort zones and tirelessly working to ensure that the team is not dependent on him/her for their ongoing success.

Those that grow self-managing teams are committed to this facilitation/coaching/mentoring role resisting all the time, the temptation to get unnecessarily involved.

Those that have strengths in this element of growing self-managing teams will be comfortable with a high degree of empowerment and delegation and will easily adopt this facilitating/coaching role.

Those that are weaker in this area will feel that they need to be in control, micro-manage and not take the risks of empowerment. They may well struggle in this area of self-managing team leadership.

4. Commercial Awareness

In a sense those that grow self-managing teams are consultants to their teams. Great consultants not only have a defined area of expertise they also possess a wider knowledge of businesses, how they work, how they fail and/or succeed and most importantly how they make money. It is this commercial awareness and understanding that is so important when growing a self-managing team.Their team will need to know:

  • How to calculate the costs of the processes they use, both direct and indirect costs.
  • How to identify activities in the processes they use which add/do not add value.
  • How to calculate the value add they provide.
  • How to eliminate costs attributed to non added-value activities.
  • How to work with internal teams from whom they receive work and to whom they deliver work to improve cross functional team working for margin improvement.
  • How to use best practices associated with their type of work and industry norms.
  • How to improve their financial success as measured internally by their organisation.

It is the job of the aspiring leader of self-managing teams to educate their teams in all of the above so that they can understand the commercial implications of their day to day operations.They must therefore possess the knowledge and skills to do this.

Those strong in this element of growing self-managing teams possess this knowledge and can pass it on.

Those who are weaker do not and need to fill this knowledge gap if they are to be effective leaders of self-managing teams.

5. Team Motivation

Aspiring leaders of self-managing teams really understand how to motivate team members. They possess a high level of soft skills which enables them to:

  • Gauge the degree of stretch to give their team.
  • Build some easy “wins” into new initiatives to boost morale.
  • Play team members to their strengths.
  • Provide frequent positive and reassuring feedback.
  • Confront the brutal facts when problems arise.
  • Use training and coaching to lift the team’s performance.
  • Help the team learn from their achievements and setbacks.
  • Influence on behalf of the team to effect needed changes outside of their immediate control.
  • Compare the team’s results to best practitioners to incentivise higher performance.
  • Celebrate successes and build recreation time into the team’s activities.

They encourage calculated risk taking, creative and innovative thinking and experimentation within the team. They allow freedom to make mistakes and to learn from them. They keep reminding their team of the necessity to push the boundaries of what is possible to achieve. They promote the idea of being catalysts for change which the whole business can learn from. They increase the team’s visibility within the overall organisation.

Those with strengths in this area of skill recognise the importance of team motivation and the key ingredients to it. They naturally and intuitively know how to build high performing teams.

Those who are weaker need to really focus on the above list of skills to acquire and develop them.

6. Growth and Development

Those that grow self-managing teams are fanatical about personal growth and development, their own, and that of their team members.

They understand that if they and their team members are not growing their knowledge, insights and skills they are not just standing still but going backwards. They recognise the need for people to both broaden their understanding of the wider external environment, their industry sector development, and how effective organisations succeed, they also see the need to deepen their own and others’ understanding of their own specialist area of expertise. They work on both, for themselves and their team members.

To support and encourage personal growth and development amongst their team members they:

  • Accurately assess people’s performance.
  • Understand their people’s satisfaction needs.
  • Identify people’s unique talents and strengths.
  • Hold regular personal development discussions with their team members.
  • Use a variety of techniques and resources to grow and develop people’s talents.

They force themselves to grow by growing themselves out of their own jobs, equipping others to “step into their shoes”.

They see themselves as transformational leaders, challenging the status quo, and embracing thought leadership as a way to get people’s attention and to build personal credibility.

They love what they do and investing in their future is no hardship for them. They are generous with their time in helping others to achieve their aspirations. Their energy and enthusiasm is magnetic.

Those strong on this element of leading self-managing teams will naturally focus on their own and their team members’ personal growth and development. They free up their time to attend to this and create space for others to do the same.

Those weaker on this element possibly rely too much on the talents they and others already have and perhaps see growth and development initiatives as an “add-on” activity, nice to do but difficult to achieve. These people need to seriously revisit their mind-set and attitude to increase their motivation to invest in this vitally important part of their role as a leader of a self-managing team.

To find out more about this topic contact me or join me at Jeremy Francis HR
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