Managers of professional sports teams are well paid to achieve exceptional teamwork. Estate agency managers may not earn quite so well, but their responsibility is much the same.
A team can been defined as “a small number of people with complementary skills who are committed to a common purpose, performance goals and approach for which they hold themselves mutually accountable”.
Managers who wish to get the best possible level of sustained performance from their teams must first recognise that this is unlikely to be achieved overnight. It is widely accepted that teams go through various evolutionary stages before reaching peak performance.
Firstly, the “forming” stage is when the team initially comes together and everyone is very polite and reserved. There is an initial lack of understanding of roles and responsibilities. Conflict can exist beneath the surface but remains unspoken in these early days. Discussion is limited since no one wishes to be seen as foolish. Watch the early days of the reality show “Big Brother” to see this stage in evidence!
Then, typically, “storming” within the team occurs: alliances form and difficulties arise through differences of opinion and “muscle-flexing”. The team is ineffective and results are unsatisfactory. This is a stage which sees conflict and problems arise. Oneupmanship and point-scoring at the expense of colleagues is typical.
Slowly, as confidence and trust begin to grow, the team enters the “norming” stage in which working processes, team and individual objectives are agreed and understanding of all members’ roles is clarified. Co-operation and the valuing of each other’s opinions and contributions begin to be seen. The effectiveness of the team begins to increase. Discussions and contributions are more open and honest.
Eventually, the team enters the “performing” stage where they are firing on all cylinders. There is recognition and allowance of each other’s weaknesses and identification of how to employ the individual team members’ strengths to achieve optimum results. There is a high degree of flexibility, compromise and support. As a “performing” team, they become far more effective than the sum of their individual efforts.
Many estate agency managers are team-orientated leaders who recognise the importance of maintaining team spirit and blending individuals with the appropriate mix of strengths and skills. However, on occasions, this team ethos can go too far, whereby a blurring of relationships between manager and team members can lead to a relaxed, enjoyable atmosphere without defined leadership. This situation is particularly prevalent where a manager has been promoted from within the team. These environments often fail to deliver results because there is more focus on fun than on the tasks that need to be fulfilled to drive out results. What the manager says is no longer respected. In football, it is often known as “losing the dressing room”.
An effective manager will be one who identifies the above principles and works hard to accelerate his or her team through the four team development stages to reach “perform” as quickly and smoothly as possible.
The following managerial functions will assist in achieving this goal:
- Planning – Define clear team and individual objectives, targets and behavioural standards. Identify specific roles and responsibilities for all individuals. Ensure that all team members are clear on all these factors (for both themselves and their colleagues) through effective communication in team briefings supported by unambiguous (preferably written) guidelines.
- Monitoring – Pay particular attention to early activity and results. Reinforce any of the principles covered in the “planning” stage which appear to have been misinterpreted or ignored. Seek ongoing feedback from team members on how they feel their own and the team’s performance are progressing. Spot and record examples of good and poor teamwork. Encourage and support the team and individuals, recognise and reconcile disagreements. Create opportunities for the team to meet away from the workplace to build relationships and team spirit.
- Checking – After a predetermined period of time, review all team-related results, particularly considering the four stages of team development. Revisit the planning stage to assess success or failure of objectives – revise any elements within the initial planning stage as necessary.
The life of an estate agency manager is a challenging one – however, with an effective team, the rewards can be fantastic. Let us hope that whoever is England Rugby Head Coach at the next World Cup applies all the key teambuilding principles, gets England to “perform” and leads them to glory!