Why “Hidden Teams” Can Transform Your Aged Care Service

This great article in Harvard Business Review discusses the positive impact of teams in organisations – and how teams are hidden from organisation charts and hierarchies, even though 83% of workers surveyed said most work is done as part of a team.

While the traditional focus is usually on improving collective company culture or individual staff performance and engagement, the authors suggest great teams and teamwork aren’t a nice-to-have – they’re a must-have. A great team determines how productive and happy staff are at work; how creative, innovative, and resilient staff are; and how long they choose to stay with your company.

Being part of a great team is dependent on whether your team leader and your teammates show up every day, talk to you, lean in to you, and support you.  It does not require a particular training course or development initiative.  Teams do not show up on an org chart and HR may be blind to them.

Real work is achieved through apps such as Slack, Jira, Trello, rather than traditional goal-setting, performance-rating, form-filling tools.  Critical innovative, diverse initiatives and performance measurement are deployed through the actual teams where work is being done.

Are you a leader? Here’s how to improve your teams:

  1. Trust. The authors write that team members who strongly agree that they trust their team leader are eight times as likely to be fully engaged as those who don’t. This trust must be deep and without question.    The best team leaders can help each team member feel both understood what is expected of them and focused, given the opportunity to use their strengths every day at work.
  2. Personal Attention. Frequency of conversations between the team leader and each team member is critical.  Teams with more frequent check-ins (think weekly rather than monthly or yearly) have dramatically higher levels of engagement.  The research reveals that for people to be engaged, the span of control must allow each team leader to check-in with each team member, one on one,  every week of the year/project.   Use tools such as StandOut to get the attention teams need from their team leaders.  And, staff will likely be involved in more than one team at a time.
  3. Learn Together. Staff are often taught abstract skills such as empathy, active listening or conflict management in a class, workshop or online, completely separate from the teams where they will actually use them. Instead, get team members to know their current teammates through the lens of their strengths. From those ingredients, the team can build new habits and rituals to accelerate its members’ growth together through their work together, on this particular team at this particular moment in time.  Focussing on the work in front of them is more valuable than teaching skills one person at a time.
  4. Team Experience rather than Team Location. Your team may not be colocated or on duty at the same time all the time. Engagement is about who you work with, not where.
  5. Introduce a Gig Work Feel. A benefit of contingency work is the opportunity to do the work you love and want to do.  Introduce this same feeling at work by giving staff the benefit of stability and benefits in their usual role, and a “side hustle” to solve your wicked problems using their particular, wonderful, and weird set of strengths.

How can you benefit from your hidden teams in Aged Care?

Support your teams and those who lead the teams.  See them as a collaborative group of problem solvers who can use their unique skills and talents to not only get on with the daily work efficiently and effectively and also to solve your increasingly complex and wicked problems. Divide tasks at hand according to the strengths on offer.

High-functioning teams are essential to a high-functioning organisation and lead to highly engaged staff.  Teams make weirdness useful.

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