Managers are in charge for ensuring that their group has the skills to do current work to the required standards. Manager will also plan for any variations in the team's performance and any new skills that is necessary. They therefore have responsibility for oversight of the progress of the team and its members.
Managers also should sustain and guide development to achieve team objectives, while individuals take obligation for their own development. Discussions about skills development can happen at any time, but typically the annual Performance Appraisal Objective Setting process is a good occasion. Beyond the immediate skills required to perform in a role, managers also offer support, within the constraints of time and other resources, to help people develop their careers.
Longer-term career goals can be supported by managers through helping individuals think what skills and experience may be needed to meet expected goals. A manager may advise ways to find out more about a career path, provide some coaching in specific areas, or propose ways to gain new skills within the work place such as job shadowing and project work. Setting SMARTER stretching objectives is a one of the ways to achieve both team and individual development objectives.
From the experienced practices, support of the longer term development and growth of individuals, performance and engagement is enhanced. Theories of motivation often emphasise the importance of the chance to acquire mastery, to learn and grow, as powerful motivators in the workplace. For many people, opportunities to learn and develop are some of the strongest rewards that an organisation can provide - and these start with managers taking the time to support staff development. Managers should therefore seek "win win" solutions that meet both team skill requirements and the longer term career aspirations of individuals.
The starting point when developing individuals is to understand the requirements of the person's role both in terms of the standard of work expected and the skills, knowledge and experience required. An understanding of the individual's strengths and areas for development will help to identify any gaps.
If you have been managing a team for a while, you will know the expected standards and the requirements of the roles. You may also have an understanding of the strengths and weaknesses of members of the team. You can gain this understanding about individuals by:
• listening and observing - watching how people work and what they deliver, how people work as a team
• discussion and reflection - with the individual on what has worked well and less well
• seeking feedback - from "customers" or other feedback to the team
• sampling - looking at particular outputs or the outcomes of work
If you are new to managing a team, it will take time to understand the strengths and weaknesess of indiviudals, their different working styles, who needs more supervision and who is ready to take on more stretching objectives or projects. You will also know from regular contact with individuals how things are going. However, there are two key mechanisms that help managers identify the development needds of the people they manage:
• regular one-to-ones
• Personal Development Review
Regular one-to-ones are the lifeblood of people management. One-to-ones ensure that you are up to date with progress, that priorities are clear and that there are regular opportunities for feedback and review. They also provide time and space to discuss development needs.
Some people hold one-to-ones weekly, others monthly. You may decide to vary the frequency according to deadlines and the importance of the work currently being done. Sometimes five minutes' coaching is enough to address a development need during a regular one-to-one. Or there may be things that need to be developed over time such as drafting skills or communication, and progress on these can be touched on at one-to-one sessions.
Personal Development Review (PDR)
PDR at Oxford is based on an annual meeting to review progress over the past year and agree objectives for the coming year. It is also a time set aside for individuals to discuss their career and professional development with their manager and to make a development plan for the year ahead. It is important to be clear if you, as manager, agree with the individual's perceived development needs or not, and discuss your own observations and perceptions. The conversation should result in jointly agreed development objectives and mechanisms for the year ahead. It is also important that longer term career goals are discussed in PDR conversations, and managers can give support to help think these through and offer advice.
PDR should not simply result in a list of training courses wanted. The planned development should integrate with the needs of the role, the team and the department. Resources and time will not always be available to support individual development that is not required in the near future, or requires significant funding, so it is important to consider alternative ways to develop needed skills, knowledge and experience.
DEVELOPING A TEAM
Do you lead a team? If so, how are you going to develop and build the team to perform more powerfully as a whole than as individuals?
Developing a high-performing team
Development of a team might include specific skills and behaviours, or focus on aspects of the way the team works together - which in turn influences their ability to work effectively. Katzenbach and Smith (1983), in The Wisdom of Teams, suggest that high-performing teams share these characteristics:
• Meaningful common purpose
• Specific performance goals
• Complementary and well understood strengths and skills
• Commitment of all members
• Open communication
• Appropriate autonomy for decision making matched with appropriate accountability
• Attention to process and results
• Mutual trust
• Emotional intelligence/respect for difference
• Constructive conflict resolution
Try to find time in team meetings or at awaydays to, for example, discuss how the team thinks they are performing, how objectives are set and communicated, and how team members communicate with each other.
Identifying team development needs
You can identify team development needs through:
• Having a clear strategy and plan for the team's work so that development of the team flows from team goals
• Feedback from those who benefit from or commission your team’s work
• Holding a team event where you discuss strengths and weaknesses
• Observation - seeing what is working well and when something is not quite right
• Talking to team members
• The Professional Development Review (PDR) process and career conversations
Some ways to develop teams
Developing a team can take many forms, here are some examples:
• Set clear goals and key performance indicators for the team and communicate these clearly to everyone - not just the more senior people. Everyone needs to be clear about how they fit into the team's overall delivery of objectives in order to feel fully motivated and engaged
• Encourage staff to reflect on both strategic goals and everyday activities and suggest improvements - this can be in regular team meetings or occasional events such as away days
• Create opportunities for team communications and to build positive working relationships within the team - for example team meetings, the occasional social event or lunch together, or team away-days
• Give feedback both to individuals and the team - celebrate success and thank people for their effort during busy or difficult periods to make people feel valued and to build team cohesion
• Set a project or challenge to team members so that they work together to develop specific skills and learn to work more closely for a common goal
• Speak to the Oxford Learning Institute about running some bespoke training for your team or to support you in devising or facilitating a team event (contact the PD Administrator).