Blog post,  Communications professional

What makes a great communications team?

When I worked in government I had a great team. I’m not shy about saying it. We worked well together, we achieved some amazing things and we were recognised as being pretty good at what we did. So I wanted to share with you some of the elements that I think create a great team.

When you spend more hours in the day at work than with family or friends it is important to have a team that you feel supported by, who get on well and achieves outcomes.

As a Manager, I was always so impressed by my team and enjoyed working with them. Sure there were ups and downs, fights and drama at times but generally everyone got on pretty well. We had a core number of staff that had been in the team for 4, 5, 6 years and a number that had come and gone but remained one of our “family”.

So, what made our team great? Here is what I think worked from a managers perspective. I would love to hear your tips or ideas as well.

The right mix of skills, experience and attitude

You need to right mix of people. This seems really obvious, but it is actually really hard to get right. You need some great skilled, experienced people that can be your leadership team, who are able to hold a common management philosophy and lead the behaviour and attitude on the floor every day. You need some more junior staff that you can mentor and train to move up the ranks. For these staff you are looking for the right attitude. Do they want to learn? Do they want to work hard?

I wrote about recruitment a few weeks ago, picking the right people who are the right fit for your culture, environment and team is so important. It is not about picking clones of yourself but getting the right people who will complement each other.

Create a team culture

Building cohesiveness and a sense of “team” is a vital ingredient. Making everyone feel like they are contributing, they are a part of the team and have a role to play in the bigger picture is really important. As the manager, this is on you. Setting clear direction, demonstrating the quality of work you expect and the right attitude is your job. Then you need to bring everyone along with you. If you expect your people to work long hours then you need to be right there with them, you need to say thank you and congratulations regularly, you need to ask for help when you need it. If this is what you want your team to do, then live the culture you want to see.

Invest in your people

Regardless of the level, you need to invest in your people. This doesn’t always have to mean formal training, it could mean time. Training, conferences and post-grad studies are great but I found what was more important was giving my staff time. Giving staff a day to work from home, a week to work on a strategy or permission to try something new was just as important in my busy team as going away to a conference.

Even more important is giving people your time. An hour to talk something through, a brainstorming session or just an ear  to listen. Regardless of how busy I was, I met with all of my direct reports once a week, and my other staff every few months. They knew (I hope) that if they needed me I would make the time. They were as important to me as any Executive. This can be a big investment, but the results are worth it.

Create a collaborative environment, not a competitive one

I have worked in teams where we were encouraged to compete against each other. I guess that is one leadership strategy. Making people want to be better by beating someone else but it was never my approach. I wanted my team to work together, pitch in when someone else needed help, be a team not individuals. I think this meant we worked well together and everyone had each other’s back. No matter what was happening I think we all knew the rest of the team would be there to support us.

Always keep focused on the outcome

Quite often when we had something big to deliver we would have a “war room” first thing in the morning, an old school version of an agile scrum. We would get together around a whiteboard and talk about the project or event, who was doing what, by when. We were all on the same page, we knew who needed help and kept reflecting back on the outcome we were seeking to achieve. Knowing that we were all working towards a common goal helped bring us together, even when we were still there at midnight.

Take time out to celebrate success and spend time together as a team

I think the best thing we did each year was a team trip to Floriade. It wasn’t about everyone getting an early mark but about being able to spend time together in the sun, over a picnic regardless of what was happening in the office. We stepped away and just enjoyed each other’s company. We did this often, when we delivered something big or had a major milestone. We stopped and had a cake, or wine, or lunch (basically something food related). This allowed the team to relax and get to know each other on a personal level, it meant we were friends not just colleagues and it created a comradery that lasted back into office. Regardless of how busy we were we celebrated life milestones, birthdays and successes. It was an important part of who we were.

Some of my ex-colleagues will be reading this and know what I am talking about. They may even have other reasons why we were a great together (share below!). Regardless, it was our ability to function as a team that allowed us to deliver over and over and over again. I think it was the best team I have ever worked in (if I do say so myself) and I will forever be proud to have been a part of it. Building a great team takes time, it takes energy and patience, but it can also be the most rewarding part of being a manager.

Did you read this article wistfully? Has your team lost its groove? Need to find your purpose and direction? Give Elm Communications a call. I can help you to get a fresh perspective on how you are implementing communications in your organisation and how your team can work better together.

One Comment

  • Jo

    As one of the family members Mel’s talking about, I can attest to everything she’s advocating. Mel’s success as a manager is the very reason I’ve contracted her to help the team I’m now managing to find a better rhythm. I also learned almost everything I know about managing a team from my apprenticeship under Mel.

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