In today's episode, we look at strengthening and reviewing our team practice by using John Adair's Action Centred Leadership model to break down teamwork.
I had a bit of trouble knowing quite what to order today. I wasn’t sure if I wanted team identity, which is so difficult to define and shape some times; or did I want team dynamics, but they’re really about the intrapersonal interactions in the team, so I felt I’d be too vague if I addressed them (teams are all so different, well, individuals are all so different that I wasn’t sure I could speak directly to you and your people) – and I would have loved to use the term “team building” but unfortunately this now often is associated with a one-off activity to help with team spirit instead of the long, process that building a team really is. So, I thought Team Development would be vague enough but could give us enough of a hook to start our coffee.
When I talk of team development, I’m referring to looking at the processes or activities that can help our team get better every day. And for that, I quite like looking at a classical model, which I rarely hear anything about nowadays. And that is John Adair’s Action Centred Leadership.
I’m not much of a model and theories person when it comes to looking at something as complex as working in a team, but it does help to frame our thinking and, when used with other people, it gives us a language. And of course, in looking through a model we start asking ourselves questions and we might even discover a solution that doesn’t involve using the model at all.
Having said that, this particular model helped me a lot when I was running a small theatre company many years ago. My main aim was to build an ensemble, a group of freelance professionals who worked regularly together – looking back, building this team was probably more of a driving force through my time at the company than creating theatre itself, but that’s a story for a different coffee.. – We didn’t have the resources to put on more than one show a year, a smaller experimental event also only once a year and we also had an ongoing education programme – but this rarely saw more than a few of us working together and this was usually for a few hours, two days max.
Around the time that I was looking at formalizing a bit more the Ensemble and building some sense of identity within it and around it, I took a Leadership course, a ten day course, which was a wonderful introduction into the world of theories and models I’d never come across. One model turned on my lightbulb, action centred leadership.
In essence, Adair suggests that leadership in a team happens at the intersection of looking after the task, the individual and the team. It makes complete sense, doesn’t it. And, looking at it, this simple devision of our work process can helps us as much to plan and look forwards as it does to review how we’re doing.
Think about reviewing how we’re doing in our team.
We usually focus on the task. Well, I’m generalizing, but from what I come across, that’s usually the case. Mainly we look at where we’re at with the work.
How about looking at how we’re doing as individuals? Not just in our work but in our sense of development, productivity, fulfillment and dare I say, happiness at work?
Then we can move on to the team – are we aligned? What’s communication like – amongst ourselves and other parts of the organisation? What’s getting in our way?
When you look at it, it’s not leadership that is at the intersection of task/individual/team, it’s teamwork that lies there. How we’re getting on with the task affects the individual, which affects their relationship with others in the team.
This model is useful at all levels, whether you’re managing a team, or building one, or if you’re part of one, as it can help to decide which area to focus on when you feel that maybe something is not quite right. For example, the feel