Balance your team with five principles

The blog ‘In the flow’ discusses the first step to developing responsive teams: creating the circumstances which help every employee to come into their own. Here it is also discussed how you can practically map out to what extent people are in the right place in their team:

Example of mapping of team members

Coherence
Once this is done, you want the team to start moving together. What is needed for that? Numerous books have been written on team performance and leadership. In that regard, there are many roads that lead to Rome.

But at the basis of all teams are five systemic principles. When these are met, a team can perform in balance. Systemic principles directly contain the root causes of the behavior, the results and symptoms of (im)balance in any team. And these you can observe like the tip of an iceberg: the systemic principles lie beneath the surface of the water.

  1. Clear goals
    Just as a vision & mission give direction and energy to an organization, clear goals give direction and inspiration to a team. This seems to speak for itself. Yet there appear to be many teams for which it is not clear what exactly they want to achieve with each other. What they do every day may be clear, but a lack of inspiring goals leads to a lack of energy and inspiration.
  2. Complete team
    Every team in an organization needs to fulfill a certain number of roles. Just like any sports team has a certain number of players, each with their own position and role. In the blog ‘In the flow’, we discuss how important focus is for employees to come into their own. When the necessary roles in teams are not properly filled, employees rarely succeed in achieving their full potential, simply because there is insufficient time and space to focus properly. This also applies in the event of overcrowding the different roles in a team.
  3. Division of roles
    When the roles are not clearly divided and there is no proper order of responsibilities, an imbalance arises. For example, people “sit in each other’s seats” and take on tasks that actually do not belong to them. Think of the manager who is too actively involved in the execution. Or vice versa: an employee who makes decisions for which she is actually not authorized. The demarcation of roles, tasks and responsibilities provides clarity and overview. An important task for facilitating leaders is to help people make them clear and help team members adhere to them.
  4. Recognition of history
    Everything that happens in an organization has a cause and an effect. This applies to successes and setbacks. Organizations generally have little difficulty in acknowledging their successes. This is different with setbacks. And when these are “shoved under the carpet”, it drains good energy from the employees involved. Example: a manager of a team is suddenly fired. No clarity is given to the team about the reason. Chances are then that no successive manager will have a good chance of being successful. Simply because, systemically, there is still something in the way. Only when clarity is given to the team about the causes of the dismissal, and both the team and the dismissed manager receive the recognition they deserve, can the team move on.
  5. Balance of give and take
    In every team people come to get and bring something. In energetic, well-functioning teams this ‘ give and take’ is in balance. Ideally, people go home with just as much energy at the end of the day as at the beginning. When people give too much (energy) and do not get enough in return, symptoms such as fatigue or stress kick in. People who have trouble staying in their role (see principle #3) and hardly dare to say “no” often suffer from this. But there can also be an imbalance in people who can say ‘no’ very well – for example because they are structurally dissatisfied with their role. When one of the other systemic principles is not properly adhered to, it often shows first in the balance of give and take.

Systems seek balance – if necessary with unpleasant symptoms
Building responsive organizations is a bottom up process. It starts with seeing to it that employees take the right place in their teams. Subsequently, justice to the (universal) systemic principles of team effectiveness must be done. When a team is not in balance, all kinds of symptoms arise. For example, a high turnover rate of people. Often, management tends to address these symptoms. For example with an employee satisfaction survey. Or an “employer branding” campaign. However, as long as the systemic cause of the symptom in question is not resolved, the imbalance will remain. Such symptoms are what fever is in the flu: a reaction of the system to find its balance. Because systems seek their own “balance”. If necessary with unpleasant symptoms.

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