Improved team performance needs skill in handling the relational issues. A plain ol’ team-build just doesn’t cut it anymore.
PEOPLE ARE generally hired because they can do the job. Yet, when team performance suffers, we start to look at individual performance or process issues. Or, we decide to try an activity-based team-build.
More often than not, when team performance is low, it’s not because people don’t know what to do. It’s usually because they are not able to do what they know they should, and probably because somebody or something is standing in their way.
When that something standing in their way is a relational issue that could easily be resolved, then energy gets wasted managing that issue.
The importance of the quality of relationship between team members is vastly underestimated by function-oriented managers and leaders.
Entropy is an engineering term that was originally used to describe the heat that machines and engines gain – and therefore the energy they lose – while performing their main function. We take it for granted that engines will not be able to convert 100% of their input energy into output. We can probably say the same of people.
As people get to know each other, in a work or personal context, they need to spend time reviewing their expectations and making new agreements, for example. This is normal and natural, and when we do it well, we can move forward from one stage of the relationship to the next with minimal energy loss. Think of it as having enough oil in the machine.
However, when this process doesn’t happen smoothly, then we find ourselves spending more time and energy than we should negotiating the minefield of politics, dealing with conflict and misunderstanding, or other similar “soft” issues. Just as the engine overheats without oil, so our energy gets lost, or worse, stuck, in the system.
Entropy and team performance
This is entropy as it applies to team performance, and entropy of this nature causes human capital value to be lost. A team-build is not sufficient to recover that loss.
This impact of the relational factor is vastly underestimated by function-oriented managers and leaders. Often, it gets lip service in the form of a team-building exercise, which involves physical activity and out of which very little understanding develops.
Instead of a rope-climbing team-build, why not select a team process that actually teaches soft skills and gives a chance to practice them in a live learning environment?
We are not taught relational skills at school, and quite possibly our parents were not always the best role models. For the most part, people lack these, and yet we need them more and more.
In a 2013 survey of global CEOs by IBM’s Institute of Business Value (IIBV), the ability to collaborate was seen as the most important competency for future hiring in order to achieve business success in a complex environment.
In other words, becoming skilled in dealing with relational or “soft” issues is becoming critical. Rather than sending people off to business schools and then dumping them back into the system, a better approach is for them to learn these issues in their natural team – the very team in which they will be executing them.
In other words, instead of a rope-climbing team-build, why not select a team process that actually teaches soft skills and gives a chance to practice them in a live learning environment? The team can deal and dispense with real issues at the same time.
Improved relational skills frees up energy that can be spent on moving things forward. Think of it as the oil in the machine that shows up as reduced entropy and improved performance, both team performance and individual.