Book Review – Leading Teams by Anne Donnellon

Leading teamsLeading Teams by Anne Donnellon is another of the books from the HBS Press Pocket Mentor series. This particular one focuses on some of the necessary things we need to do to build successful and effective teams. As is the custom with these series of books, it is separated into two parts. The first part, titled, ‘Team Management: The Basics, contains the main contents of the books, while the second part called, ‘Tips and Tools’, has some extra information. Following is quick review of both parts of the book.

 

TEAM MANAGEMENT: THE BASICS

This part of the book has six chapters.

What is a Team?

In this chapter Anne discusses what a team is by describing the different types of teams, the benefits of teams and also helps us understand what the problems with teams may be.

How to plan for a productive team

This chapter is all about understanding what is necessary to develop productive teams. Key information discussed includes:

  • Understand what teams do, which explains the key purpose of teams.
  • The characteristics of productive teams which outlines features for effective teams such as, team members agreeing and participating in setting realistic team goals, team goals taken more important than individual goals and members of the team being open to new ideas.
  • How to plan for a productive team.
  • Things that signal the failure of a team.

How to form a productive team

Two main points are discussed in this chapter about how to form a productive team and they are, identifying team roles and selecting the right kind of team members. Some of the points touched on under these two topics are:

  • The importance of hiring for attitude and training for skills
  • Appropriate team size
  • Being sensitive about people’s motivation
  • Being clear about contributions and rewards

How to lead a team

This chapter summarises some of the key principles necessary to lead a team effectively. The principles discussed include:

  • Recognising that teams develop in four stages which are, are, team formation, conflict, normalization and performance.
  • Organising a start-up meeting to set the scene for the team, discuss the team’s purpose and establishing how the team will work together.
  • Clarify team goals to everyone.
  • Establish ground rules.
  • Assume your role as team leader.
  • Improve team communication.
  • Develop a high performing team.
  • Take a periodic time-out.

How to handle team problems

Teams will run into problems from time to time. Here, tips for handling team problems are discussed. Some of the key problems that can occur in teams are identified and how to resolve with discussed. These problems may be:

  • The team getting off target or not aligned to what they should be achieving.
  • Problems with the team leader’s leadership style.
  • Performance problems.
  • Conflict in the team.
  • Factions developing in the team.
  • One-to-one conflict.
  • Dropping team commitment.

How to evaluate performance

This is the last chapter which focuses on a very important aspect of teams, evaluating their performance. The three points discussed are:

  • Using appropriate performance measures.
  • Selecting evaluation methods.
  • Reviewing performance of individual team members.

There is also a brief mention of the importance of rewarding team members.

TIPS AND TOOLS

This is the second part of the book and it provides some extra resources to reinforce the lessons in the book. There are three main tools. The first one is a collection of all the templates in the first part of the book. These templates are

  • A worksheet for forming a team.
  • Checklist for assessing your team’s goals.
  • Team contact information.
  • Role clarification worksheet.
  • Promoting team interdependence checklist.
  • Team time-out rating sheet.
  • Checklist for evaluating yourself as a leader.
  • Working through a disagreement template.

The second tool is a 10-question quiz with their answers. The quiz is to review some of the knowledge gained from reading the book.

The final tool are references to resources to learn more about the topic of leading teams.

Summarily, this 100-pages book presents lots of information about leading teams. No matter how experienced you are, there is something you can learn from reading it.

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