The accounts payable department is a diverse set of individuals with a common goal: to issue payments in a timely and accurate manner. As an AP leader, it’s your job to help your department become an exemplary team. Part of your success is dependent upon the success of your team.
Groups versus teams
A group and a team are not always the same thing. In a group, members often feel responsible only for the tasks delegated to them. In a team, each member accepts responsibility for the overall quality of the team results—not just his or her assigned portion of the work. Real teamwork is achieved when members work together to utilize their skills to accomplish a common purpose.
What is an effective team?
- Works together to accomplish the same objective.
- Executes tasks thoroughly and quickly.
- Looks for process improvements.
- Meets or exceeds a defined standard of performance.
- Thrives on demanding challenges.
- Utilizes the experiences and knowledge of all members.
- Learns from experience.
- Takes pride in accomplishments.
- Looks forward to the next challenge and opportunity.
In 1965, American psychologist Bruce W. Tuckman introduced his theory on the stages of group development. Tuckman’s framework includes the concepts of forming, storming, norming, performing, and adjourning.
- Within the forming stage, group members spend time getting to know each other. They also agree upon the team’s purpose and set goals to be achieved.
- The storming stage is all about team development. Although there might be tension and emotions can run high during this stage, the dynamics are critical to clarify expectations, help team members understand each other’s style, and ensure that individual needs are met.
- The norming stage brings about initial integration, resulting in positive and harmonious behavior. This is not the final maturity stage but is a stepping-stone to the next stage.
In the book Organizational Behavior, Schermerhorn, Hunt, and Osborn define seven steps to achieving positive norms:
- Act as a positive role model.
- Hold meetings to agree upon goals.
- Select members who can and will perform.
- Provide support and training for members.
- Reinforce and reward desired behavior.
- Hold meetings for feedback and performance reviews.
- Hold meetings to plan for improvements.
The performing stage ideally brings about total integration of the team and high levels of team performance. The challenges within this stage include maintaining high levels of performance and continuing to improve relationships.
The adjourning stage applies to temporary teams. It involves recognizing and celebrating a job well done, and then disbanding.
What is effective team leadership?
- Leaders take responsibility for team members and establish a culture of accountability and are open and approachable.
- Leaders exhibit a perspective that is as objective as possible.
- Leaders provide the resources, tools, and support needed to get the job done.
- Leaders furnish updated and clear job descriptions and detailed work instructions and hold weekly staff meetings and project-focused work sessions.
- Leaders maintain an open-door environment that allows for one-on-one meetings and communicate about situation changes, providing as much information as possible.
- Lastly, leaders adhere to confidentiality at all times.
Henry Ford said it well, “Coming together is a beginning. Keeping together is progress. Working together is success.”