We spend so much time focusing on individual competencies — leadership competencies, core competencies and job-related competencies — that the concept of team competencies hardly gets considered. Yet, most important work is done by teams, and without the six core team competencies, the team will under perform. Let’s review these competencies, identify the team behaviors they support point out the best way these competencies can be developed.
- Engagement. — Engaged teams have meaningful, open group discussions, bringing rich diversity of thought to the table. Teams which are not engaged listen to individual presentations and operate in a tightly structured format which stifles meaningful discourse. Leadership teams are notorious for lacking engagement as a core competency. Engagement can be taught in a team-building workshop where it is explained, demonstrated and then practiced in break-out groups.
- Collaboration. — Members of teams that exhibit this core competency work together, both in team meetings and between meetings. They make decisions that are good for the organization, not just for their unit. They do what it takes to put the right people where they can develop and contribute, rather than exhibiting siloed behaviors and hoarding talent in their own groups. While collaboration can be taught, that will not be enough. It needs to be reinforced by how the senior leadership team behaves and rewarded by the performance management process.
- Innovation. — This competency is evident when team members build on each others’ ideas rather than just report on activities. It takes strong team coaching to make teams innovative in a culture that does not broadly support and reward innovation. In the right culture, innovation depends on team selection and the behaviors of the team leader. In this case, leadership training is the preferred intervention.
- Trust. — It takes trust for team members to display a growth mindset and open, authentic styles. Absent trust, a risk-averse mindset will prevail and conversations among team members will be guarded. An activity-based team building program is the best approach for developing trust. The classic example is bringing the team to an outdoor challenge activity where basic safety requires teamwork and trust. Simulated team business challenges are also a good approach.
- Empowerment. — Members of great teams are empowered and empower others. This requires a team leader who believes in really empowering people and knows how to do it. Where this is absent, the focus will be on data rather than people and the team will not perform at a high level. Empowerment can be taught, but it also requires practice, reinforcement and accountability. The best way for a leader to master this competency is by working with an executive coach who has strong acumen in team competencies.
- Awareness. — Members of strong teams are aware of their strengths, weaknesses and personal tendencies. They can also recognize the personal characteristics of their teammates. Awareness creates the ability for team members to optimize their contributions to the team as well as to help others do the same. The best approach for raising an individual’s awareness is through an assessment and feedback process. In the case of newly formed teams, it is very helpful to have a group discussion of individual strengths and personality types facilitated by an experienced group coach.