AFTER THOUGHT : Why teams don’t gel


The team I manage isn’t cohesive enough. I spend lot of my time on issues between team members rather than with what we are really here for. It’s not helping anyone.

A There are many reasons why teams don’t gel. Firstly – and I know you may not want to hear this – look at your own management skills and experience. Put bluntly, are you up to the challenge? If you reckon you could improve some areas, set yourself up with an experienced mentor or an appropriate management course.
There are number of underpinning initiatives that can help build an effective team. The starting point is having good strategic and business plans and getting the people in your team involved in developing them. This creates effective leadership and engagement: leadership in the sense that people can see what the goals are and can work out how they can contribute; and engagement through people being involved and deciding for themselves how they can achieve the goals.
Make sure you provide clear and straightforward job descriptions linked to the organisation’s goals. This gives people sporting chance of understanding how they fit in and what is expected of them. It also allows management to be hands off and helps team members take on increased accountability which, again, leads to increased engagement.
Next, give people regular feedback on how their team and the organisation as whole is progressing against these plans and discuss how they personally are progressing against their own targets.
You can also introduce specific interventions to help build your team, such as involving the team in meetings to focus on the development or measurement of strategy. Or try encouraging them to brainstorm ways to improve their work environment or processes.
Some managers use team building programmes or experiences. These often involve an external facilitator and working, often outside, on various team challenges and puzzles that enable team members to understand each other’s strengths and weaknesses and how to collaborate effectively. This type of shared experience can be fun and, done well, can build shared team mindset.
You should be able to find something that will make difference if you adopt some of these ideas.



Recently I was appointed to the board of small company in Whangarei. I haven’t had much experience with boards either as manager or as director. What is the main role of board member and what should I focus on?

A The role of board involves governance which literally means ‘control’. Having said that, the governance needs to focus at the strategic level and not interfere with the operation of the organisation. As many senior managers know only too well, it can be nightmare working in an organisation where board members do not understand this.
Board directors should focus on five basic areas. First up, board members are there to contribute to the development of the organisation’s overall vision and strategy. The board, for example, will usually play key role in the development of the strategic plan.
The second area of focus is policy: defining the broad boundaries within which the organisation and its management can freely operate.
Thirdly, it is your role to clarify the organisation’s ethical values. When some years ago, for example, someone deliberately injected poison into one Johnson & Johnson product, the company immediately withdrew this entire product range from all stores. This, not surprisingly, had an enormously negative short-term financial impact but did not harm the company in the long run. This decision was made quickly due to the company’s clear ethical policy that it would never risk harm to its customers.
The fourth area is the role of monitoring outcomes: both strategic and business plans.
Finally – and this one is often misunderstood – the board provides support for the CEO. It helps when needed and gives effective performance feedback and coaching as appropriate.
I’d also recommend you talk to experienced board members. Ask them how they handle these key areas of governance and you will be able to gain practical insights from their experience.

Kevin Gaunt, FNZIM, FAIM, is CEO of NZIM Auckland and has been senior executive with, and consultant to, some of New Zealand’s largest companies.

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