NO people are not steel parts, rigid and disposable, but I believe we can learn a lot from looking at the inner workings of a clock or watch and apply some of these basic principals in order to grow or manage high functioning, healthy and productive teams in both small businesses or large organisations. The principals are the same, the application is variable based on size and level of dysfunction.
If we all thought and behaved the same, the world would not only be boring but almost unable to function.
We are all meant to be different, be able to see things differently, to have different natural talents, skills and abilities. This is the necessity of a functioning or even semi functioning world.
Think of an old-fashioned watch or clock, with all its bits and pieces, different sizes, different purposes. Each piece relying on another piece to function.
When I am working with clients who have small or medium business’s or even larger teams, most of the internal struggles they have with the people resource factor, is about people getting frustrated with another person, personality clashes, poor communication, differing opinions and views, un-fulfilled expectations. These are the core issues in most cases, the initial verbalised frustration will be something more minor, but if you dig deeper any or all of these things are usually at the core.
Sometimes driven by motives based on power, control, greed, pride or ego, lack of trust, or by someone lacking the skills to be in a particular role.
Even though a manager or a leader may be frustrated with a team’s inability to function in a healthy and productive manner, it is essential that the solutions begin at the top and filter down.
Liken a leader or manager to a watch maker – To become a watch maker is a skill, it takes a certain kind of patience, thinking, planning, skill set and practice.
I believe excellent management and leadership is a similar skill and some of the same principals apply when putting together a high functioning, healthy and productive team
Lets look at why the wrist watch functions the way it does:
Every part has its place:
It stays there, I can’t move except in the direction it is supposed to (unless it breaks). It is placed in there by a machine or human hand that knows exactly where that part needs to be in order to support its neighboring parts.
KEY POINT for human teams: Each person has a primary focus or function in a team, when a role is vacant and another person is trying to ‘juggle’ roles, you may see signs of overload, overwhelm and poor productivity. While this is sometimes necessary in transition, it should never be left un-attended or be seen as a long term solution, it is not sustainable.
Every part has its purpose:
Some parts are large and obvious, some are small. Some are support parts like screws and stays, others are functioning parts like wheels that rely on other wheels. Many parts are needed to make the watch work. Even the casing, that protects and keeps everything in place.
KEY POINT for human teams: Each person in a team is important to the overall purpose of the business or organisation, no matter how ‘front line’ or ‘back of house’ that role is, everything effects everything when it comes to a well-oiled and high functioning team. From the tiniest role to the leaders and managers.
Every part is needed:
In this illustration when one part breaks the whole watch stops, in an organisation or team this isn’t always the case with a human absence or malfunction, but there is no doubt that, depending on what that person’s function is in the team, there are ripple effects for others.
KEY POINT for human teams: The ripple effect, although variable, is real. When one person in an organisation is unhappy, under-skilled, under equipped, or over worked, there will be a negative ripple effect, it cannot be avoided, and the longer this is allowed to carry on, the bigger the impact will be.
Every part must work:
Each part of the watch must work, or it will have to be repaired or replaced, the watchmaker knows that if something is not working the watch stops working. With teams this can happen over time, and in subtle ways, slowly eroding a culture, relationships, productivity and ‘bottom lines’.
KEY POINT: Dealing with small issues early will prevent large more costly issues arising. Having a healthy transparent process for conflict resolution will avoid bigger issues. Creating a high trust, environment backed by clear processes for issues will empower and enable people to deal with situations as and when they arise.
Notes for existing teams:
- There is always a solution and a path through
- The time needed to clean up a dysfunctional team will depend on how long it has been left un attended
Back to the watch for a moment: If you have ever owned one this will make sense, if a bit of water gets in a watch that is not dive resistant, the watch is taken apart or dried somehow quickly the watch will most likely get working again without a further hitch.
IF the water is left in the watch and NOT cleaned up, the watch will rust, part by part, until the whole thing just stops working and becomes beyond repair.
- Always be prepared to start at the top down, with management, leadership. If that is you then be prepared and open to some self-awareness and learning. Don’t spend money ‘fixing’ your team if you are not prepared to get your hands dirty too.
- If the roles are clear, defined, filled with the right people working in their strengths, there is a clear, transparent process for dealing with conflicts as they arise, and healthy communication internally and externally – teams can become a high performing, high producing machines.
Notes for creating a new team in a growing organisation or business:
- Think like the watch maker, plan the roles ahead of time, know what you need each part to do, what skills they need, get the right people in from the start. If this is not your skill set INVEST in help, it doesn’t have to cost a fortune but it will be a great investment long term
- Outline and plan the culture you want to create by looking at your core values, company direction and long-term goals.
Final note for all, where there are people there will be conflict even in a healthy team, there is such a thing as HEALTHY conflict, and processes for dealing with it in a healthy way.
A conflict free zone is not possible in a high functioning team. The difference is made in how the conflicts arise and are faced, NOT avoided.
Avoiding or trying to avoid conflict almost never works. Its time to make friends with it, shake hands with it, and find out how to have a healthy relationship with it for the sake of the relationships in your world.
Go the watch maker!