What load-shedding, politics and sport tell us about failures in team leadership

…ego stifles growth

South Africa is in full whinge-mode the balance of political power is shifting, electricity cuts are frequent, business confidence is low and Bafana Bafana isn’t making us proud in Ghana.

We’re all blaming the politicians, businessmen and sportspeople we most dislike – but what does this tell us about Team South Africa? It tells us that whingeing is a national past-time more beloved than braaing, “but it also tells us that we are a nation of individuals and our loss of the abilities that brought us world acclaim; consulting, negotiating, finding imaginative ways to overcome significant obstacles, as with the end of apartheid and working as a team are eluding us: as they do the economy and political fabric takes strain,” Liza van Wyk, CEO of training organisation, BizTech says.

BizTech facilitator Bev Reimer, who runs a course, The Total Team Leader, concurs. “As a nation we are not team players, it shows in government, in some political parties and in companies. It is about everyone looking at ‘what is in it for me’ and not thinking long term and realising that if the team does well, then over the long term, they will do well. A team that does badly is either ignored or rejected, it doesn’t matter whether it is in business, politics, sports or the community of nations.

“Let’s look at Bafana Bafana, in one game they dominated possession of the ball and yet lost 3:nil, that shows they are not working with each other. In businesses if top management does not support teams, performance is not consistent. You will find individuals trying to attain personal glory and often to do that they sabotage co-workers – it is not in the best interests of any organisation. Shared ownership of duties and responsibilities always sees better performance.”

Accountability is also essential. Reimer observes: “one of the things that the public have had the biggest reaction to with power outages is that leaders from government and Eskom were slow to stand up and say this is what we are facing. It is not a task that their PR’s should handle, the CEO of Eskom and government ministers need to be at the fore.”

The upside of that, however, is that citizens have started taking control, “Radio 702 had the foresight to say we will try and tell you when power outages occur, some websites run by individuals have emerged that are very helpful.”

Here is the checklist politicians, business leaders and we should work off to ensure success. BizTech’s The Total Team Leader course advises s that the skills needed for teamwork are:

· Listening – allowing the free exchange of ideas encourages innovation
· Questioning – interrogate suggestions and old methodologies
· Persuading – individuals are encouraged to exchange, defence and to rethink ideas
· Respect – it is important to treat others with respect and to support their ideas
· Help – mutual co-operation and assistance is vital
· Participating – work shared is work completed more efficiently, faster

Van Wyk says it is important to understand how to manage those with different personality types when managing a team. “A great deal of psychology and insight is necessary – what are the motivators for different individuals in the team to achieve. It is not always money or results, sometimes personal acknowledgement is really important or the bonding found in an effective group.
“While some people are inspirational and good ideas people, they may be less skilled at administration or organisation but in any team it will be possible to assess which members do better in certain areas.” Often it is better to let people select tasks they are interested in, than delegating, “people will tend to opt for what they are best at doing.”

Reimer warns though of ensuring that the team is clear on its objective – “getting the job done. It is not a good idea for people to regularly go for drinks after work or socialise too often, it begins changing the group dynamic. It is important that social activities and work only very rarely cross each other.”

She says, however, that sometimes a team will fail because the team leader is given a team and is not able to select those he or she believes will be most competent at completing a task. It can allow others to develop new competencies, but it can sometimes delay the completion of a project because of personality clashes or some members of a team lacking appropriate skills.

BizTech manager, Debby Bosch notes that it is important for a team leader or manager to lead by example: “Understanding and respecting your peers improves relationships and leads to increased productivity. When disagreements occur it is important to ensure it does not disintegrate into a contest about who is right or wrong, if you give constructive feedback you are more likely to receive it in return.”

She advises: “Be solutions focussed, think problems through seeking constructive outcomes. Know when to be assertive and never aggressive in addressing challenges. Be dependable and truthful.

“Know yourself; be aware of prejudice that may make you respond in an unfair manner toward someone. Have empathy, listen and read non-verbal cues.

“A can-do attitude inspires confidence. Take reasonable risks, be goal-directed, admit mistakes and move on. If you know how to cope with stress, you will work better in a team and be more adept at controlling moods and be adaptable and thoughtful.”

And know too that success can carry its own perils, the greatest of which is arrogance – a trait people in the rest of Africa constantly accuse the little giant at the tip of the continent of. Van Wyk warns, “Even if you team keeps winning competitions, don’t believe that yours is the only one that counts. That old saying, pride comes before a fall is important to remember. Ultimately each team is part of a greater team, a bigger enterprise – so the excellence of your team in marketing, as an example, helps those who produce and sell the product do better, everything is interconnected. The better your product sells, the more jobs it can create, the more people are employed the more stable the economy and the less crime.

“Nelson Mandela showed us the importance of team when he put on a rugby jersey and cap when South Africa won the 1995 rugby world cup. His act wasn’t just emotional symbolism at the time, it carried an important message. It’s worth reflecting on how easy it easy to be a critic, but how challenging and ultimately more rewarding it is to be a team player – someone who delivers the solutions.”

LIZA VAN WYK, CEO BIZTECH 0861 249 832 or liza@biztech.co.za www.biztech.co.za

Issued by MediaOnLine mediaonline@global.co.za 011 646 7637