Team versus Group

The label 'team' is often used interchangeably with 'group' and yet as we understand it, it has a very specific meaning. The difference very largely lies in the direction of action. A group can exist and yet not achieve much. A team, on the other hand, is action-orientated. It has a clear purpose and it is a purpose that is shared by its members.

In an effective team, members share a high level of commitment to achieving the common objective and have a high level of satisfaction from being part of and working with the team.

Effective teams have members who work well together in an integrated way, with high levels of awareness and appreciation of each others' strengths. This gives them a high capability for solving their own problems. The skills exist and there is a willingness to act. Of prime importance, from the business adventurer's point of view, is that an effective team is one producing high-quality results. These, it could be reasonably argued, are the outcome from the other characteristics of the effective team. The qualities of an effective work team are, therefore, identifiable, and are quite specific and measurable.

Although any group can possess any or all of these characteristics, an effective team must display them all.

Leadership versus Management

There is no universally accepted definition of leadership; not least as it is not at all easy to define. But what is clear is that leadership is an essential element of management. There are many definitions of management, but put simply, it is the direction, coordination and control of assets. The exercise of management includes the process by which a manager makes decisions, impresses will on team members, and transmits intentions.

Management can be seen as consisting of three core elements; authority, responsibility and accountability.

Authority involves the legal right to enforce disciplinary measures. A manager may delegate authority, but not ultimate responsibility. This is liability and an obligation to answer to senior management/board members for the use of delegated responsibility, authority and resources. This includes the duty to act. The manager who delegates responsibility should grant sufficient authority to enable the individual to fulfill the role; while the individual remains accountable for his actions. 

If we now look at the roles of managers we can identify three essential components namely decision-making, control and leadership.

For the effective manager the art of effective and timely decision-making is a key role, particularly with regard to major decisions that impact on organisational strategy. Minor decision-making should be delegated as far along the chain as possible, in line with the requisite experience, capability and capacity of the more junior manager.

Managers must also have continuing oversight, direction and coordination of their resources, although the detailed activity is often not undertaken directly and is a province of their team. Most activities within this area of responsibility should be delegated; however the reality is that many managers spend more time than they should undertaking control functions.

Leadership is the art of motivating and directing individuals into action to accomplish outputs. Leadership is ultimately based on interpersonal relations. It is natural and a learned ability, a skill, and a set of personal characteristics that influence people to take desired actions. 

In simpler terms, you lead people; you manage things.


Managing Conflict in Your Team

One of the skills of a leader is the ability to deal with conflict. This may be conflict within a team, conflict between the leader and a team member, or conflict between the leader and several team members! 
Conflict is extremely likely in the early stages of a team's development when team members are establishing themselves, and during periods of change when team members may be experiencing uncertainty at being asked to adapt to new systems or procedures which they find initially difficult. Other occasions include when the team is operating in a high intensity environment - pressure to meet a deadline, dealing with a crisis situation or working to overcome a major setback.
When conflict does occur it needs to be dealt with head on. If it is left unchecked it risks undermining team cohesion and creating divisions. This can result in team members efforts becoming more aligned to 'self preservation' than towards the team goal. In the worst scenario it could cause irreparable damage to a team forcing individual members to leave, or in the worst case the disbandment of the entire team.
Conflict can happen at any time, come from areas least expected and erupt without warning. The effective leader needs to remain alert for signs of conflict and when conflicts arise employ the following tips:
  • Defuse - If a conflict is getting heated, immediately defuse the frustration and anger.
  • Focus - Focus on thinking on the problem/cause at hand.
  • Pick - Pick the problem/cause apart using the salami-slicing tactic to deconstruct the conflict to all of its parts.
  • Compromise - Pushing compromise allows all involved parties to walk away with something rather than nothing.
  • Defer - Some conflicts just won’t get solved at this exact moment - move them out for another day.