Insights For Success

Strategy, Innovation, Leadership and Security

Build an efficient self managing team

BusinessEdward KiledjianComment
Image by  Uitleg & tekst  used under creative commons license

Image by Uitleg & tekst used under creative commons license

Take chances, make mistakes. That’s how you grow. Pain nourishes your courage. You have to fail in order to practice being brave.
— Mary Tyler Moore
In theory there is no difference between theory and practice. In practice there is.
— Yogi Berra
Live as if you were to die tomorrow. Learn as if you were to live forever.
— Mahatma Gandhi


What do these 3 quotes mean? Thinks take practice and every new skill has a learning curve. You don't pick up the violin and instantly become a virtuoso. You don't throw a 3 point shot the very first time you pickup a basketball. 

Like a person developing new skills, a team needs to work on developing its own productivity, Too many managers or executives are upset when a newly formed team of highly skilled and motivated individuals isn't performing immediately at a high performance level. 

You should read a 2010 article I wrote called How to build a top performing team. Remember that a team is made up of people and people  need to figure out their societal role in order to become productive contributors. What is each persons job, what are the responsibilities (individual and shared). Who is the untitled spiritual team leader? 

As a manager you should let the team work through 3 stages of team development until they get to the performing level. But this doesn't mean you just wait on the sidelines and hope. As a leader, you can guide the process to speed up the blossoming of your group.


In the storming stage, teams learn how to resolve internal conflicts amongst themselves. This chaos control mechanism is a must if the team is to become a high performing team. Disagreements amongst group members should be encouraged (to prevent group think) but it should be done with mutual respect and for the benefit of the organization.

When you are brought into an existing team, these standards and conflict resolution agreements are already in place. The tribe elders will socialize you in the ways of the tribe. 


If the team leader doesn't initialize the creation of the tribes conflict resolution process then you may have to step in as an elder statesman (or woman) and gently guide the team towards developing one. 

Although you can digitally create this list and print it, I recommend it becomes a more information generally accepted set of principles that are allowed to live and evolve with the team. 


Spend time when creating the team to discuss the roles of each person, how people should interact, how people should treat each other and how the group will work through different opinions or conflicts.

Respect should be at the top of the list. Respecting someone means you allow them to fully express their opinions without fear of attack or reprimand. It means even if opinions are geometrically opposed, members of the team will always be civil and remember that (as a team) they are working towards a common goal.

There should be an agreement that if you disagree with an idea or proposal then you can only publicly state your position if you have a valid workable alternative to propose. Disagreement with someone just to disagree should be frowned upon. 

Nothing burns bridges faster than when someone takes credit for your work. If a colleagues shares an idea with you as a sounding board, he/she should be able to do it without fear that you will rush to take credit for it. Again, respect goes a long way.

Do to others as you would have them do to you.

Regardless of religious beliefs, the above quote is a powerful one that ensures everyone is moving in the right direction.

Define an arbiter of last resort. This is typically a role played by a senior leader and it is a process called upon only when all other avenues have been unsuccessful. 

Of course this is not an exhaustive list but some general ideas to get you started. 

The leader must step up

The leader must must must ensure these tribe principles are understood by everyone and followed. Controlled conflict can be healthy but like an uncontrolled explosion can get out of hand if not handled with care. 

As a team leader, your communication must be frank, open and fair. 

Down the river we go as a team

The core belief every member of the team must believe in is that the team either succeeds together or fails together. People should understand that this is not a way to advance their personal agendas.

If everyone in the team truly understands this mantra then your life just got a lot easier. If someone can't accept this then they should be replaced. I don't care how "good" they are at their job, if their attitude is not aligned with the tribe, they have to go. 


Reward as a team

Understand what your reward model will be and ensure it is team based and fair. If people are feel their personal performance will not impact their (or the teams) reward structure then you may encourage laziness. Explain how each team members work contributes to the teams success and thus results in everyone getting rewarded.