Working in healthcare is never dull, and there are many barriers to building and executing a consistent team development strategy. Many of us feel like someone or something needs our attention every minute of every shift of every day. Then, there are the emergencies and decisions that need to be tended to “right now.” There is a continuous stream of competing priorities we must encounter every day. Work-life balance? Who has the time!
Does any of this sound familiar? Pause for a moment to think about your workplace and team.
If you want to lead a team that works well together, feels challenged (in good ways), completes their work, and achieves goals, then building a team development strategy is essential. When your team is undeveloped, it’s obvious—and painful for everyone.
So what makes a team development strategy so important? Team members need to know that their leader and peers are reliable and have their backs. Without intentional work at teambuilding, trust and reliability will take longer to develop and stabilize. Strengthening your team will also help to prevent the formation of alternative alliances or cliques. When this occurs, it creates another barrier within the existing barriers, making it even more difficult to break down.
Fostering feelings of trust and reliability is particularly important in times of change. Without it, team members may struggle with change, be slow to adopt it, or simply ignore the change completely. Some team members might verbally challenge what is happening or others in authority, making the whole team look bad.
An intentional team development strategy is important for achieving a place of open and honest dialogue, which won’t happen if the level of trust needed isn’t there. Think about performance input and coaching sessions. These are difficult enough to get through whether the session is needed to work through a performance challenge or simply a required performance planning session (such as an annual review). Without a sense of trust, these conversations become even harder.
In the healthcare setting, your team members are used to continually operating at peak efficiency. Over time, this takes a toll, both physically and emotionally. When the team doesn’t get a break from the day-to-day routine and have an opportunity for reframing, reforming, and reprioritizing, levels of stress-related behaviors—such as more absenteeism and illness, interest in job change, higher rate of team member turnover, and loss of purpose—will increase.
Healthcare is largely directive—much of the work relies on a person’s ability to give and receive orders with little-to-no discussion, which is necessary when dealing with emergent situations in which the ability to react will save a person’s life. However, these behaviors don’t nurture a team or its members. Developing a team into a cohesive unit takes intention and a whole other set of skills, which need to be developed through practice and intention.
Let’s explore some ways you might transcend the barriers and achieve success in developing your team:
- Routine “stand up” and staff meetings are the venue for those topics. They are also a great way to foster relationships, build consensus, and share needed information. However, don’t use them to replace your intentional team development strategy. That needs its own designated time, resources, and planning.
- Do more of what has worked. For example, if the bi-weekly lunch & learn sessions you did last year worked and made sense to the team, do more of them. If monthly off-site events were scheduled ahead of time and well attended, then do more of them.
- Find alternative facilitators if your team responds best when the team development events are led by someone other than you.
- Build a schedule of one-on-one sessions with each member of your team. Keep the meetings. Be on time. Talk about what they want to talk about. Thank them every time.
- Ask the team what they want to do to build a more cohesive team. Take notes and acknowledge every contribution without qualification or judgment. Revisit this information often.
- Ask the team to determine how they will hold each other accountable. It is important that they formulate this strategy.
- Ask each member of the team how they plan to contribute, as well as how they want to be held accountable, and by whom. We aren’t all motivated by the same things or in the same ways.
- Make sure any assignments handed out will enrich the team. When individuals work together, the team also benefits from the work and the knowledge sharing. Note: Assignments don’t always have to be purely work related. You can include whatever is of interest to them all.
- Start developing deeper levels of team development by:
- being consistent—as their leader you always need to stay on message
- coaching and managing individuals, but leading the team as a whole
- crafting a plan that works for your team
- being patient, at all costs (doing this well takes time).
Want to learn more? Join me at ATD 2017 International Conference & Exposition for the session: Team Care for Healthcare.