There are three key terms in the title of this article. The first is team, the second is high performance, and the third is lead. We are going to be talking about each one of these terms.
Whenever I need to look-up something, I usually go to my old trusty Oxford New World dictionary. It defines team, as a group of people working together in a coordinated effort.
Today we are talking about leading a team under the guise that you are forming a brand new team. But the principle still applies, whether you are forming a new team, or you are inheriting an old team that has been in place, and you are now the new leader.
Types of teams
There are several types of teams. For example, there are basketball teams, baseball teams – all of which are permanent type teams, just as your test team, which will be a permanent team. A temporary team, is one that is brought together to solve a specific problem, and it usually has a fixed duration. It comes together, solves the problem and then disbands. Then you’ve got a virtual team. A virtual team can be either temporary or permanent. What this means, is that participants on a virtual team are not all located in the same place. This creates all kinds of problems, which we will discuss.
So we have sports teams, work teams (which is what we are talking about on this paper), and informal and formal teams. A formal team has been brought together under the auspices of someone, while an informal team is a group of people who band together to solve a problem or do something that is not on their day to day task. There are also committees, which most persons have at some time been on, and they can be temporary or permanent. There are also problem-solving teams which are usually temporary. Self-directed or self-managed teams also exists, but they often do not work very well. This is because a leader is needed to guide a team. Most self directed or self-managed teams just do not get the job done, because they spend a lot of time trying to figure out what they want to do, who is going to lead them, and how they are going to accomplish the task. They just don’t work that well.
A little more on virtual teams, which is a set-up with persons in different locations. This creates problems, especially with communications, and virtual team members are often concerned about how they are going to get together, and who is on the team, among other concerns. Virtual teams are very popular now, but you would discover that there are inherent problems. In such cases, collaborative tools such as ORCANOS | ALM are effective in reducing those problems, and make for a controlled working environment.
Ideal team members
A mix of people is important to your team composition, and should include the following:
- People who consistently prove themselves as reliable and consistently, are needed.
- People who have not had the opportunity to prove themselves. I like these people on a team, because they come in with lots of potential.You should bring them in and give them the opportunity to prove themselves on this team. They usually want to prove themselves, so they really will give you a 110% on what you are doing.
- You need the grinders! The grinders are the people who work day to day, they get the job done. When you give them a task, they do it.
- You also need creators. While you need grinders, you can’t have a team made up of all grinders, because you will then lack innovation. Similarly, you can’t have a team made up of all creators, because then you will spend so much time trying to create, that you will not get the job done. So what is needed is a team made up of both grinders and creators.
You will need to figure out the best persons to bring onto this team, to do the job that you have created this team for.
Team building vs. Team development
There is team building and team development. Team building is putting the team together, while team development comes after, and involves developing team members, defining what they are to do, and how they are to go about it in a structured way, exactly how would have tasks done.
So in team development you are developing members’ skills, and you are developing the processes that you are going to be using. We often think of team building as going off site and participating in team building exercises, but really, team building is developing team components. As you are developing your team, it is you would find it beneficial to utilize measurements, which will allow you to quantify how knowledge is being gained, and how approaches are being utilized. ORCANOS | ALM dashboards and reports are proactively methods which allow you to create 360 degrees appraisals on each team member, with continuous improvement feedbacking system.
12 ‘C’s of team building
Now there are twelve ‘C’s of of team building.
- First of all the team needs CLEAR EXPECTATIONS. The team needs to know what is expected of them, and how they agreo to get it done.
- Then you need to be able to give the team members the CONTEXT, or why the team was formed, or why the team is together.
- COMMITMENT is the next ‘C’. All team members must be committed to the team, and to the expectations of the team, and to carrying out their particular part of the process.
- Then there is COMPETENCE – That’s where you come in as the team leader. You need to look at the competence of the team members that are there if you are inheriting the team, or team members you are hiring. You need to know what their competences are, and how they are going to be able to handle the work they are expected to do.
- You need to develop a CHARTER for this team. If you are inheriting the team and they do not have a charter, then you need to write one. The team needs to know what the expectations are, why they are together, and how you expect them to work together, and that they are chartered to do a specific job, based on what that charter entails.
- Now CONTROL is the next ‘C’. This is developed by you the leader. If you are inheriting a team, the previous team leader would have had their own approach to controlling the team. That approach may not match your style. You need to determine if what exists, fits your style, or if you need to develop your own way of doing modus operandi .
- COLLABORATION – You want your team members to collaborate, to be able to work together. Collaboration is going to be your biggest asset, as you develop a high performance team. For that there is strong control and governance dashboard and proactive notifications using tools such ORCANOS | ALM.
- COMMUNICATION is something you need to understand. It takes many forms. If you are all together in the same location, you can have team meetings, you can have day to day interactions to collaborate and communicate. Emails can be used to communicate back and forth, or with other areas, but more advanced approach is to use instant messaging tools like chats rooms available in ORCANOS| ALM that log such discussions.
If you have a virtual team, you have now entered into another form of communication, and that usually is a video teleconference or Skype conference. You utilize these platforms, so members can see each other, and know who each other is. Being able to put a face to a name enables better communication. Communication is very important in a high performance test team.
- CREATIVE INNOVATION- You want creative innovation, but you have to keep it in control, because you do not want people just going off, doing their own thing. What this means is that creative innovation, has to be creative innovation for the whole team, that which benefits the team as a whole, and not what an individual thinks is going to best for the team.
- CONSEQUENCES – Everyone has to be responsible for his or her actions. They have to understand that certain actions have consequences. As the leader, you need to explain what those actions and consequences are, and you must enforce sanctions.
- COORDINATION – You need to have coordination between team members, between you as the leaders and the team members, between development, end users if they need to, and stakeholders in this system you are testing. They have to understand what the coordination is going to be, whether they can coordinate directly, or whether they have to go through you (which I would not recommend). But if they coordinate directly, they have to let you know they have done this. If they are sending an email, you better be ‘CC’ed on that email. Or better use Smart ORCANOS | ALM daily summary report that can be sent to you.
- CULTURE CHANGE – Just by bringing the team together, you as a new leader, are going to be changing the culture. Therefore it is key to understand that the culture of the team will change through different interactions. Going back to team building, there are certain things that must be in place to build this team.
More on team development
Well let’s go a little further to look at team development. You need to decide the skills that are needed for this team. You must find the best person/s to fill that need. So if you are developing a brand new team, the first thing you need to do, is figure out what mix of skills you need for this team. Then you have to go out and find the best people to fill that need. If you are inheriting a team, then you are going to lose members. This is going to lead you to consider what their skills were, and consider whether you still need those skills; and if you do, how do you go about finding the best person/s to fit your needs.
Then you have to bring the team together. Let us say you are forming a brand new team. Once you have got all the team members hired, then you should bring them together, and decide on each team member’s role. While you now have team members who have the skills you need, you will have to express to each person how you expect them to carry out their job… and to define their roles. If they disagree with you, if they see their role differently from how you do, let them express that disagreement, and hear them out. Do not be defensive, because you want this two-way dialogue to take place. Let them know that you hear them, and as needed reiterate what you would like them to do. Let them know what you think they will do really well, and plan to revisit their scope of work in a month or two or even three. In any case, you define each team member’s role.
Stages of team development
I would say there are five different stages of team development, regardless of whether it is a permanent team temporary team or a committee. When you bring a group of people together, there are five stages they are going to go through, all the time.
- Forming: This is when they come together, they are excited, they have been chosen to be on that team and they are ready to go, then they come together. Once they come together, then reality starts to set in, and they find that other people’s personalities begin to grate on them. Or, they thought things were going to be done a certain way, and now learn they will take shape rather differently.
- Storming: Then you will have what they call storming. Your team members are going to argue, they are going to disagree. Just know it’s going to happen. You as the team leader, will have to keep this storming under control. You can’t let it escalate or it is going to destroy your team. You want to get through the storming stage as quickly as possible, so you have to make sure that you know it’s gonna happen, plan for it. You don’t know how it is going to happen, but you know what’s going to happen. So help them to get through this storming phrase as quickly as possible.
- Norming: Once you get through storming, then you are going to get to the norming phrase. Norming is nothing more than your team starting to come together as a cohesive body. Members have their specific roles, so they know what the are to do, and they are starting to settle into those roles. They are starting to get acquainted with their team members; they have learnt the personalities, they have learnt how to work together.
- Performing: That brings you to performing. Once you have gotten to this stage, it means your team members are performing at a high-level. You have laid out everything, they know what their roles are and they are doing it.
- Mourning: Now this last stage is not one that you will see often in this list. Mourning takes place more often when there is a temporary team, and when you have disbanded, team members will miss each other. They will go through the stages of mourning. If they lose a team member because that team member got another job or whatever, they are going to miss that team member. Members mourn because they would have been performing at a high level, and so when they lose a team member, they have lost an integral component of the team, and a hole has been created. Your team will mourn, knowing that they are missing something.
You are going to go out, and hire somebody new. Well, when you hire a new team member, you are going to go through the four previous stages all over again. This time however, it will be much quicker, because the core members of that team are still there and it is the new member who has got to fit, and has got to become part of this team. So therefore, you are going to go through the forming, the storming, norming and performing phases all over again when you interject any new member into this team. If you are coming in as the new leader, the team is going through mourning because they have lost their old team leader, that they felt comfortable with. Since you are new, you are coming in excited (that’s performing), the members will go through storming, because they are not going to be liking some of the things you are going to be telling them you want them to do.
High performance teams
High performance teams do not just complete projects, they complete them efficiently. Rather than work hard, they works smart. There’s a difference between working hard and working smart. When you work hard, you also work smart, but you also work with a purpose, and you figure out how to get the job done the best way possible. The high performance team improves the efficiency and overall value of the company and the team. So when I say you work smart, you really improve the efficiency and overall value of the team. Such efficiencies can be measured over Key Performance Indicators (KPI) on almost every aspect of the testing process. For example test efficiency that over time shows new discoveries rather then rerun them over and over again.
Another example can be tests that analysis against their historical results and see if failure ever occurred then better to run them first over those one that never failed, especially when we talk about regression tests. Identifying show stopper defects as highest priority by their impact on test execution and many more.
All that can be achieved while using also SMART tool and not just SMART people such as ORCANOS | ALM.
A high performance team has defined what success looks like. They know success when they see it. They know where they are going, they know where they are heading. Their actions are guided by specific values. You and the team have developed these values together. You may have come up with them on your own, but the team had to agree to them to make this a high-performance team.
- It’s made up of the right people. Remember we said, you have to figure out what skills you need and go out and find the right people, the best person/s available to fit those needs.
- The people are in the right places. There’s a difference between right people and being in the right place. You can have the right person but have them doing the wrong jobs based on their skills. You must figure out whether you got the right person, and whether you’ve got them in the right place.
Barriers to success
You need to identify barriers to success. As we know what success looks like, so must we be guided by specific values. Now what are the barriers to success? You have to know them, you have to identify them ahead of time. You are not going to get them all, but you want most of them. You want to identify the barriers to success, and what you are going to do to overcome those barriers. Plan to eliminate or minimize the barriers. If you have identified them, you need to plan how you will eliminate them as they pop up. Know it, own it, and plan for it. Conduct periodic progress evaluations of how things are going using collaborative dashboards that everyone can look at the same information as they were sitting at your position. Are you on the right track? Are our actions right? Do we have the right people in the right places? These periodic evaluations are vital, and must be performed by the leader.
High-performance team characteristics
These 8 characteristics are consistent with any high-performance team. Every high performance team shares these characteristics:
- Participative leadership.
- The team is aligned on the purpose.
- They are focused on the task
- Shared responsibility – In other words, while as the leader you have the responsibility for that team, but everybody shares in that responsibility. They have a part in doing the right job at the right time.
- They are innovative, you are innovative.
- You solve problems, because problems are going to come up.
- You communicate very well within the group and with outside elements to that group. You are communicating, you have good communication skills, you have lines of communications setup and open, and you work in them.
- You are responsive to what people ask you, and what they want you to do.
Keys to a high performance team:
- Top management must commit (You cannot succeed without the commitment of top management)
- Accountability (The accountability is your accountability to top management, your accountability to the team, and the team’s accountability to you).
- Common goals
- Member interaction and involvement
- Maintain self-esteem
- That is your job, to help them maintain their self-esteem. If you belittle your team member, you are destroying their self-esteem and you are going to have problems. You need to understand that part of your job is to help them maintain self esteem, and if they have low self esteem to start out with, help them build better self-esteem.
- Open communications
- You cannot succeed without open communications.
- Group power
- Remember, this is a team working together for a common goal, so there is power within this group.
- Attention to the process
- Mutual trust
- Respect of differences within the team.
- Each person on the team is a human being, and therefore different. They have to understand how to work with the differences and respect each person’s differences.
- Constructive conflict resolution.
- You are going to have conflict, but you need to resolve them in a constructive way.
We talked about bringing the team together. In other words, you can’t go to one location and find all the members you need for your team. You have to go out and gather them one at a time.
Difference between leadership and management
We said leadership was another word in the title of this article. Leadership according to Wikipedia is a process of social influence in which one person can listen, aid and support others in the accomplishment of a common task. One of the best examples of leadership is the military, because the military believes in leadership and they don’t manage. I agree with what my commander said to me once. While admitting that he went overboard on management, and forgot about leadership, he said, “you don’t manage people, you manage things”. The military harps on leadership, but they believe you lead people, you don’t manage them.
Every one of us has a preferred style, and my preferred style is leadership, your’s might be management. When I was going through college, I was told that a manager plans, organizes, directs and controls. That was it! That’s what I was taught. Well guess what, I figured out there are more things to a manager than just those. A manager staffs, coordinate, the budget, they strategize, they make decisions, they solve problems, they have logistics and supply management, they manage both time and resources.
The four things that I was taught in college have expanded. If you think about it, these are all the things that a good manager has to do on a daily basis:
- Managers have subordinates
- Wield authority or power
- Work focused
- They seek comfort
- They seek uniformity (They don’t like the person who beats to a different drum – let me tell you!)
- They see problems
- They formulate policies to solve those problems
- They take charge
- They perform duties
- They like formality
- They plan around something (They don’t work at solving the problem, they plan around it. )
- They are skeptical ( If you bring them something, their first reaction is skepticism, they will require you to explain it in-depth, and they will want proof)
- Managers perpetrate hierarchies, they like nothing more than hierarchies. (If you walk into our organization that is top-heavy on senior management, just know that you have got a manager and not a leader.)
- They have a transactional style of management.
Types of leaders
There are two types of leaders.
- There is a formal leader who has been identified and has been named to be the leader of this team. Lets look at a sports team. The formal leader of a sports team is the manager, and the coaches.
- But you also have informal leaders. who you will want to cultivate. You want them to be there.
Authoritarian – These are the ones who are not really leaders. They dictate what you are going to do, they are very controlling. They will clearly let you know that they are the leader, you must follow them.
Facilitating leadership style – This is where you want to get. You want to get to where you are facilitating the people to do their job, and to do it well. If you do that well, if something happens to you, there is someone on the team, who can step into that leadership role, and fill in for you temporarily or permanently.
Democratic style – This is the one where the team votes and the team makes the decisions. That’s not leadership!
Laissez Faire style – There is no urgency, or structure to tasks.
I am sure you have seen all of these “styles of leadership”.
Leadership focus involves:
- Influencing people
- Visionaries – They see ahead, they plan ahead.
- Inspiration – They inspire their team members to do their job and to go above and beyond what the team members think they can do.
- Persuasion – They can persuade the team members to do things and not force it down their throat
- They form relationships – I have found that a good team leader forms relationships with the team members both with the team as a whole, and as individuals. But you can’t be the best buddies of what you got there’s
- Listening – You listen. Don’t start talking before they are finished.
- Has followers
- They apply influence
- They focus on people
- They seek risks, they don’t avoid them, and figure out how to work around them and mitigate those risks
- They pursue unity within the team, they want the team to work together
- They see opportunities for the change take on and to shine
- They set examples
- Encouraged obligation
- They pursue dreams
- They prefer informality over formality day had
- They confront, they don’t go around something they confronted.
- They are optimistic. They know if they put this team together, they know they can do anything
- They strive for equality within the team
- They have a transformational of style of leadership
Where are you on a leadership scale?
- First of all, the lowest level is people follow you because they have to
- The next rung up that ladder is that people for you because they want to (you have proved yourself trustworthy you have shown that you’re a good leader, that you listen to them that you have the team’s best interest have my so their folly you because they want).
- The middle wrong is that people follow you, because of what you have done for the organization. In other words, you have stood up to outside forces, you have taken the team’s side, you you’ve proved yourself with this organization, so they follow you because what you done for them.
- This next one is what you have done for them and for them personally. They respect you, you have mentored them, you have helped them, you counsel them, so they trust you.
- The highest level on the leadership scale is people who follow you, because of who you are, and what you represent. That’s where you want to get, and it takes some work!
So to conclude, let’s recall key points:
- High-performance teams are multifaceted.
- Teams are comprised of individuals, teams are multi-faceted.
- Team building is different from team development.
- Leadership is also different from management Each of us has our own preferred style. Learn what your style is and what you have to do to cultivate the other because you need both.
- Leading a high performance team takes courage.