How to get teams engaged and working better together

Maria Vieira
July 2, 2021

Learning how to navigate the COVID crisis made us rethink team performance and how our people can work better together. Transformation expert Julia Steel joined Teamgage in a webinar exploring what can be done to get the most out of our teams and keep them engaged during this period of uncertainty.  

“If we want to shape the future, we need our teams to be engaged every single day"  
Julia Steel

In 1965 psychologist Bruce Tuckman coined “forming, storming, norming and performing.” Chances are you’ve used it to refer to your own team or a project you’ve been part of, especially when things get ugly.

Reality is that the world has changed considerably since then. We still have managers and leaders, but we are no longer part of only one team in most cases. These days teams are more fluid, the rise of matrixed organisations and agile ways of working means that teams can change daily. We bring different people, mindsets and skills together and expect them to be high performing, but often that’s not what happens. Forming and storming seems to be the general gist of how things should run in the corporate world, whereas where organisations actually want us to be is in the performing stage.

Performing can mean lots of different things, depending on the industry you’re in and your company values. Be more innovative, productive, profitable or engaged, have happier customers, conquer better social presence, or even be more sustainable. Regardless of what it is, all companies are in some specific stage of this journey.

1. Evaluate your journey

Research from Teresa Amabile states that the number one thing that motivates people and keeps teams engaged is seeing meaningful progress every day.  

It is important to evaluate your team’s journey comparing outcomes and action as described in the graph below. In the current climate, when we’re living with so many uncertainties, it is important to look for progress, especially if you are in the lower levels of this graph.

How to get teams working better together - Measure Outcomes X Actions

2. Analyse your team

Create the time to analyse the role each person plays in your team.

  • Seekers - people that are out looking around at what's coming. They're driven by purpose and are always looking for problems to solve.
  • Dreamers - people that love coming up with ideas.
  • Realists - they are the ones who turn the great ideas into something that can actually work.
  • Critics – they will ask the logic behind a plan, seeking the “why”.  
  • Controllers - they like reports, analysis and keeping track of projects.
  • Champions – they are the people that are championing the ideas out in the business, getting support and getting buy-in.

3. Improve what’s missing

You should then evaluate how your team is performing in those areas. If your business has been highly affected by the COVID crisis, chances are that your team is performing well as Champions, Controllers and Critics. So it’s time to make improvements on what’s missing: Seekers, Dreamers, Realists.

  • Seekers - If you are lacking seekers in your team or lacking time to find new ideas, find ways to open your team to what is outside the company. Some ideas might be finding a webinar to watch every week, finding someone from across the industry to speak with, picking a book that is worth reading. Share those learnings and understanding what the outcomes of that could be.
  • Dreamers - Get people to generate ideas that have a clear problem to be solved.  As a project person, I've seen many teams go straight from an opportunity to solution mode, missing the chance to engage the team in the brainstorming process. It could be a good opportunity to start a co-creation process, where they contribute and share their opinions.  
  • Realists – The major tip here is: do not build the plan for your team. Give them an opportunity to say what the plan looks like, and then add your real value and leadership insights to it.
  • Criticism – Most people don’t resist change, they resist uncertainty. If you find a critic in your team, my first recommendation is to have a chat with this person and understand what the uncertainty is. Chances are that this person will be able to contribute very positively to the project once this uncertainty is properly addressed.
  • Controller - Accountability is not about telling people what to do or micromanaging your team. It is about giving them a really clear idea on what their individual goals are, as well as what the collective mission is as a group. Also, rather than asking people to be accountable to you as a leader, encourage them be accountable to each other. This works because everyone wants to be part of a team and have healthy relationships with their co-workers.
  • Champion - Once you have a mission, set a tempo that is sustainable. When trying to keep a team engaged, there's nothing worse than giving them a task that they know they're going to fail at.

In summary, have a look at your team and at the way that you're spending time as a team. Start to make some key decisions on what you can do, even remotely, to get people working better together.

Watch our full webinar with Julia Steel on how to get teams working better together

Julia Steel has over 20 years of experience in transformation, projects and change. She has helped dozens of organisations, teams and individuals increase their impact. She is a woman of action, a powerhouse of implementation and all-round expert in getting sh*t done. As a speaker, trainer and coach, she has worked with organisations including Origin, ANZ Bank, the NDIA, Major Road Projects Victoria, L’Oreal, Honda and BlueScope Steel. The author of 2 books, Julia speaks at conferences and corporate events, on 21st-century leadership, transformation, and how to get there.