Why did Fletcher’s first attempt to build an effective research team not work out as intended? Fletcher’s primary mistake was not communicating a clear vision for what he expected of his team and what contributions they needed from him in order to flourish. In her article, “Managing a Team Vs. Managing the Individuals on a Team”, Loren Gary points out the importance of sending the appropriate signals during the initial stages of a team’s creation so that everyone is on the same page (pg. 3). At the time, Fletcher had an opportunity to set the tone and establish cohesion, but by failing to do so he ultimately let the situation get away from him. Fletcher had unknowingly established a single-leader unit (SLU) during his first attempt, as opposed to an effective team. He hired team members to perform certain functions within the group that didn’t necessarily connect to the work being done by other individuals, which meant that there was very little need for members to work collectively.
As the sole leader in the team, this also meant that Fletcher was left with the duty of integrating of all of their individual pieces once the work was complete. He ultimately created more work for himself because he was managing the individuals that made up the team, as opposed to managing the team as a whole and allowing them to take mutual accountability for the work being done. Fletcher also made the common mistake of ignoring the importance of compatibility when he formed the team. He didn’t investigate each individual’s career goals to consider whether or not they “fit” into a team environment, nor did he consider how compatible each individual was with the other team members. Had he done that then he likely would have seen some of the red flags earlier on; specifically in Whitney and Doyle’s relationship. What should he do this time around?
To begin, Fletcher should ask himself if a team is the best organizational structure for what he’s trying to accomplish. If he still feels that it is, then he needs to carve out time in his busy schedule to meet regularly with the team and establish a structure that’s conducive to the working styles and personalities within the group. Next, he should establish collective goals that motivate members to feel accountable for all team deliverables, not just their own. By doing so, leadership will begin to shift organically between team members, and eventually reduce some of his oversight responsibility as the primary lead. Another key practice that Fletcher should employ is regular performance reviews.
Working with each member to set personal goals that support the overarching team goal(s), and then checking-in to evaluate progress and provide feedback will not only create a stronger team but it will also give Fletcher an opportunity to gauge how each individual is feeling. Ultimately, Fletcher needs to ensure that he continually steers clear of supporting “factional teams” (Field pg. 3). His greatest challenge in doing so will be establishing trust and productive conflict management techniques among new and old team members. What advice would you give Mary Robinson?
I would encourage Mary Robinson to be very upfront with David Fletcher about her short-term and long-term expectations within the company. She needs to make sure that he has the time to share his expertise with her and support her growth within the company and the team. Robinson also needs to ask herself if she’s willing to commit the time and energy into establishing professional and personal relationships with a team, as opposed to a single manager. In Whitney and Doyle’s case, we saw how quickly a deteriorated relationship can lead to job dissatisfaction. She needs to understand that her longevity and satisfaction is hugely dependent on the team dynamic she helps to establish, and then ask herself if she’s okay with that.