Leading and managing an IT service management (ITSM) team can be tough. Not only do you need to think about your own performance, how you feel about your job, and your motivation, there are also the perspectives on the team as a whole and of the individual team members.
Team dynamics are an interesting thing – I guess that anything that involves people and the unpredictability of human behavior always is. Even if you’ve handpicked each team member from the crème de la crème of the ITSM industry there will still be times when day-to-day operations are adversely impacted by personality clashes, personal issues spilling over into work, and general slumps in performance. Sadly, it can be even more difficult in the real world, where your ITSM team might be an “inherited” mixed bag of great people – some brimming with potential but have yet to deliver on it, and maybe the odd one or two who think that they are paid to attend work rather than to actively embrace and participate in work.
So what can you do to make your ITSM team, and its members, work together better and reach their full potential?
How you encourage, react to, and deal with all feedback makes a big difference to team dynamics, team performance, team motivation, and your standing as the team leader.
Suggestion schemes, especially those that offer rewards for useful suggestions, are a good example. They are often set up to not only seek out the best ideas and improvement opportunities but also to help make team members feel more included in team and business decisions. And they can be great provided they have a transparent and fruitful “backend.”
So if a team member goes to the trouble of putting together a suggestion for how something could be improved, then the least they should expect is a reasoned response, and I don’t mean an auto-reply that the suggestion has been received. Even if the suggestion is completely hair-brained, feedback should be given as to what, if anything, will be done with the suggestion.
In terms of comments and complaints, if they are about how the team is being managed then you really do need to encourage openness and frankness. Regular one-on-one performance review sessions can be a great opportunity to go beyond the team member’s performance to ask questions such as:
Such questions and how you respond (including how you act) can have a big impact on your relationship with the team member and the overall team dynamics.
There’s a fair chance that as a team leader you are busy most of the time. And the issue with being the leader of an ITSM team is that it’s likely that the only time you “connect” with your team is when something is wrong.
If you dread seeing a team member at your office door or hovering at the end of your desk, then you are probably not making, and taking, the time to connect with them on the day-to-day things that make them tick. Unfortunately, you have created an environment where the only time you spend time together is when something has “hit the fan”.
This can cause you to feel resentment – because you associate the approach of team members with bad news – which your team may be able to detect, hence making things worse as they will want to approach you only as a last resort. So make time for the individual performance review sessions mentioned earlier, as it’s a great opportunity to learn more about team members and for them to learn about you. Plus, you can better understand what your team enjoys and dislikes about their work. Of course you can always have less formal conversations around the office as, and when, opportunities arise.
Personality types dictate that you are likely to have (at least) one person in your ITSM team who thinks they’re the star player, and that everyone else is just there to pass the ball so they can score.
However, work is often best done by teams, groups, and collectives; and letting the “team superstar” take the limelight can be extremely damaging to other individuals and the team as a whole. Recognizing and rewarding those who snatch the spotlight can demean the efforts of those who work tirelessly in the background, harmoniously with other team members; this may dissuade these “hidden” stars from continuing on the right path in the future. If you are only seen to recognize and reward the star player, then you’ll most likely end up with a disengaged team. Or, even worse, multiple team members competing for superstar status – which is neither good for team dynamics or achieving team goals.
So make sure that everyone knows that, although each team member might have their individual areas of expertise, there is no one person responsible for the team’s successes, or failures for that matter.
You might have noticed that these three tips all have one thing in common: communication. Open communication can help to build transparency within the team and to create feelings of value and trust between team members. It helps individuals to feel able to express their ideas and to voice their concerns – both of which are vital for a smooth-running and cohesive team.
You don’t want anyone sitting on an idea that could transform the way you do things for the better. Nor do you want festering issues that are likely to get worse in the long run and threaten team stability.
So there you have my three quick tips. What do you do to keep your ITSM team working together?