The Team in the Lead Role

by Daphne van Beek

August 20, 2020

Uncertain times require companies to make fast changes and continuous adjustments. A flexible organization, with agile teams, has the power to steer itself onto the right course. In this article, we deliver some great tips on creating strong and agile teams.


Intrinsic motivation & the team

The hierarchical model in which a manager determines the direction has some obvious advantages. However, the issue with this model is that one person (the manager) is always looked up to when the team is confronted with a problem. If you put the team in the lead, the team and the manager begin jointly bearing the responsibility. If you know how to create the ideal conditions, your team can be as cohesive as a sports team or music band. There is a common, clear goal and everyone does their best to help each other move forward. They not only push each other to be better, but they also dare to talk openly about things that can be done better. Together, as a team and as individuals, they become the best versions of themselves.


From functions to roles and talents

When the team knows and begins experiencing what it’s like to take on more mandate and responsibility, they slowly but surely get into a flow. This is partly because of the fact that teams rotate roles and use their personal talents to achieve the team goals.

In order to be agile, it’s important to look beyond functions. It’s more relevant to look at everyone’s talents and assess which roles should be fulfilled by asking questions like:

  • “How can the talents present in the team be used best to achieve the set goals?”
  • “Who should assume what role and how will it contribute to the common goal?”

Make clear agreements about these questions and you’ll find you’re already well on your way to building agile teams that can join hands and tackle challenges effectively.


Structure and coordination

Working remotely as a team requires structure. Which is why it’s very important to structure into your own daily rhythms ways to find and maintain a healthy work-life balance. Many managers mistakenly think that this balance is created at the expense of work. But, more often than not, it’s the other way around.

It’s crucial to create the time and space to get in contact with your colleagues. Create avenues to provide frequent mutual contact; set up “daily huddles” to briefly discuss the goals for the day, figure out what’s needed from each other and what each person can actively contribute to that day. Finally, don’t forget to create space for the “small talk” that normally takes place – the water cooler conversations are important too. This will ensure you’re in touch with the whole team and that you have a deeper understanding of each other’s situation.

The COVID-19 pandemic may have forced us into new situations for working – but overall, every company has the ingredients required to become the breeding ground for effective and high-performing teams. Treat the pandemic as an opportunity to take a critical look at how you’ve been organized so far and how you can do things differently. Think about the kind of work culture you want to offer to your employees and use this time to build an agile organization with strong teams that revolve around the customer.


Tools for forming teams that make their own decisions

Trust and psychological safety: Whether a team stands tall or falls flat depends on the extent to which the team members know each other. Trust and psychological safety are the keywords here. A good step in this direction is for teams to explore each other’s talents as well as pitfalls. That promotes vulnerability in the team and you begin to understand how best to use each other’s strengths.

Decision-making: Teams should gradually develop their own decision-making strategies. A team must be able to make solid decisions fast and the more a team and its members are able to do this on their own, the more agile the team becomes. Agile teams can adapt faster to change because they’re not waiting on their manager or leader to make the decisions for them.

Expert representation: Realize that it’s impossible to always reach full consensus. The absence of a compelling objection is often sufficient ground for cutting knots and it prevents endless discussions about the nitty-gritty details. It’s also important to acknowledge that not everyone has all the knowledge needed to make the right decisions. So, let the experts in the team make decisions on issues that are related to their expertise. Or, let them do the research and feed the team with information and expert advice in order to empower the team to make a solid decision.

Minority and feedback matter: Be careful with the notion that the “most number of votes wins”. The decision that bags the most votes does not always have to be the right one. A well-informed minority may have a more serious argument for not doing or doing something. Which is why it’s important to realize that giving feedback is not just a manager’s job. Teams can become stronger when people give each other feedback. Therefore, regularly organize low-threshold feedback sessions.

Rotate the leader: To develop leadership across the board in teams, it’s a good idea to rotate the team leader/ spokesperson periodically. Once teams are responsible for the choices they make, it’s important to make all necessary information transparent, understandable and available. The personal development of employees also deserves attention – when there is no room for personal growth, the team cannot grow beyond a point.

This article is written by:

Daphne van Beek

Daphne van Beek

SSI Global | Marketing & Country Partners

Daphne has an extensive background in marketing and brand positioning. Over the last 10 years, she developed and successfully executed internal- and external marketing campaigns for companies including Microsoft, HP, Rabobank, and KPN. She strongly believes that work should and can be done differently. Within Semco Style Institute, it’s her main purpose to spread this mission on a global level. To grow the worldwide community, and to reshape the way work is done. Daphne takes care of the global brand positioning, and international expansion and she supports Country Partners with successful go-to-market strategies.


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