Is Your Team Up to Scratch?

Frank Newberry

In his first article on how to improve a work team's performance, Pitchcare Trainer and Motivational Speaker Frank Newberry outlined the key differences between team building and team working. In the second, Frank paused to ask if we even need to have work teams sometimes. Now, in the third and final article, Frank explains the eight measures that will tell you if your team is up to scratch.

When the team underperforms it is down to you

By now, if you are a team leader or a manager, you will be only too aware that your performance as a supervisor is measured by how well your work team is performing. When they are doing well, you are seen as a good team leader but, when the team underperforms, it is down to you - not to them.

You may have inherited a group of individuals who work well alone, but do not seem to pull together as a team - that's your problem to sort out. You may have a 'mixed ability' group - some stars, but also some weak links - that's also your problem to fix. You may have a team of 'old fogeys' a team of 'young tearaways', or a toxic mix of the two - again, these are your problems to solve.

I am a great believer in having clear and explicit job descriptions

Many of my clients will tell you that I am a great believer in having clear and explicit job descriptions for all staff. I think it is great when I can look at a job description or a list of duties that shows how individuals are expected to work in the team.

Typical job descriptions contain statements like 'works well in the team'. A concise phrase like this may also be used in the job advertisement when vacancies occur.

What does the phrase 'works well in the team' actually mean?

If recruiters want to get the right person for the job, they will have to be clear on what the phrase actually means. Does it mean pulling together? Being trustworthy? Helping out colleagues? Encouraging colleagues? Setting a good example for new team members to follow? Showing leadership sometimes?

If it means any or all of these things, I think it should be in the job description and these expectations should be communicated to everyone.

The eight measures

A man called Edgar Schein can be of assistance to us with key measurements. He studied teams at work and concluded that there are eight ways to measure good team performance. In no particular order, these are:

1. The teams goals

Your team is up to scratch when daily, weekly, monthly and seasonal goals are clear to everyone in the team; all team members feel committed to them and all staff are fully involved in achieving those work goals.

2. Decision making in the team

Your team is up to scratch when consensus is always sought so that there is full commitment to decisions. The views of people who dissent or disagree are appreciated and decisions, once made, are fully supported by everyone in the team.

3. Participation and communication

Your team is up to scratch when all team members have a say; the quieter ones are encouraged to participate. The more vocal (perhaps extrovert) team members are prepared to let others speak without interrupting them, and everyone's views are listened to and taken seriously.

It is worth remembering that extroverts often think aloud (talk things through) and introverts prefer being given time to think things through in order to feel happy about a considered response. Their views may well be informed by listening to extroverts thinking aloud!

4. Feelings - and the team's reaction to them

Your team is up to scratch when feelings are expressed freely in front of other team members who, in turn, give empathic/understanding responses. Genuine feelings are always validated and, if necessary, actions to resolve concerns are taken.

5. Diagnosis of the team's problems and weaknesses

Your team is up to scratch if, when problems arise, the situation is carefully diagnosed before action is proposed and remedies attack root causes not just symptoms.

6. Creativity and team development

Your team is up to scratch when it is flexible, seeks new and better ways of working, individuals are changing and growing and the team supports individual development.

7. Leadership within the team

Your team is up to scratch when various members are meeting the need for leadership and everyone feels free to volunteer to take charge as the team sees a leadership need not being met.

8. Trust within the team

Your team is up to scratch when members trust one another; they reveal to the work team what they might be reluctant to tell others outside the team. They respect and use the responses they get from each other and can freely express negative reactions without fear of reprisals.

Make the whole greater than the sum of its parts

In addition to ensuring that team members can perform all their duties competently and safely, we have to pay attention to those things that will (to quote Aristotle 384-322BC) make "the whole greater than the sum of its parts".

In summary then, we can get the team to pull together, we can get them to encourage each other and improve if we make these requirements explicit from the outset, or from now on, and if we start now to calibrate and make use of the eight measures listed above.

There may some great courses you can attend in 2015/2016

There may be a course you can attend next winter that will help you to get the best from your work team.

LANTRA accredited Pitchcare workshops (that earn BIGGA CPD points) and are relevant to you as a groundsmen or greenkeeper next winter are:

Supervisory Essentials 1, 2, 3 and 4 - a series of four 'stand alone' workshops:

- Taking Charge - on 12 November 2015

- Getting Better Results - on 10 December 2015

- Enhanced Communication Skills - on 4 February 2016

- Problem Solving & Decision Making - on 25 February 2016

You can take one of the workshops or all of them. You can join the hundreds of other groundsmen and greenkeepers who have been helped by Pitchcare to become key players in their own high performance teams.

For more details, including how to book your place on all Pitchcare workshops, visit the website or contact Chris Johnson, Pitchcare's Training Development Manager on 01902 440263 or via email at