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When Your Team Isn’t Acting Like a Team

Internal Communication
Motivation
Building a Team

11 June, 2020

Stefan Gruber, VP of Engineering at Bitmovin, shares his experience joining a team that was not working well together, and the steps he took to build trustful and social relationships that would ultimately lead to increased engagement and productivity.

Problem

When I joined my last company the group that was directly reporting to me didn’t feel like a team. It was something observable, but also I had 1:1s with individuals where I found out that people weren’t talking to each other even though there were operational level dependencies between the teams that these individuals were leading. Furthermore, I learned that they were never treated nor led as a cohesive group and instead simply regarded as individuals working at the same level and reporting to the same person.
 

It was a strange situation for me because these leaders seemed to be having similar issues, they all had great ideas, plus their teams were dependent on one another, yet they weren’t talking or sharing amongst themselves. Of course, this was a problem that I needed to address immediately to ensure the health and proper function of the team.
 

Actions taken

I tackled this challenge on two fronts. First, I wanted the team to be trustful of each other and second I wanted them to have a social relationship in the workplace.
 

Therefore, I began by gathering all the leaders together and setting the expectation that they would need to communicate with each other in order to deliver our software. I proposed being open and honest with information, rather than hiding it (intentionally or unintentionally) from one another. This meant that during meetings openly discussing topics that may only matter to a couple of individuals but having the whole team be present so that they were aware of circumstances happening.
 

On a social level, we started going out biweekly for breakfast. This gave individuals the opportunity to chat and learn about each other outisde of the office setting. It was really about having fun conversations that weren’t necessarily related to work.
 

The success of the team building trustful and social relationships was proved in the results. Team members profited from each other’s experiences. If one of them had an issue to tackle/handle/solve they were comfortable bringing it forward and asking the others for help. They were then able to bounce ideas off of each other and arrive at new conclusions. This also meant, as their leader, that I didn’t have to solve all their problems for them. So a secondary effect was that it helped me as well!
 

Lessons learned

  • Setting expectations and bringing people together are the best ways to have your team start to feel like a team again. Create an open and relaxed atmosphere for people to share and actively talk about points that each individual is working on, even if they don’t pertain to the whole group. This builds a sense of trust and comradeship.
  • Teams who work together solve problems together.
  • It’s important that teams are encouraged to get to know one another outside of the workplace setting. Make time for the team to have conversations that are non-work related.

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