Leading a team is a challenging task, but have you led a cross-functional team? The challenges of leading a team of individuals from a cross-section of your company are manifold. But so are the advantages. Since cross-functional teams are, by definition, made up of individuals with different skill sets working toward a common goal, in order to effectively lead such a team, a leader must exercise superb organizational and leadership qualities. Keeping some strategies in mind will help you avoid some common pitfalls of cross-functional teams.
Keep the Lines of Communication Open
When working with a cross-functional team, make a concerted effort to keep all lines of communication open between team members and between leadership and the team. Set up short meetings to get project status reports and resolve any issues that are holding up the project. Team members should feel comfortable communicating with each other throughout the project timeline as well as reporting any issues that arise. Encouraging effective use of project management software can help mitigate a lack of communication that can happen when team members are working on a wide variety of tasks.
Evaluate and Reevaluate
Cross-functional teams require flexibility to run smoothly. When several people with expertise in different disciplines come together, creative solutions to existing problems can arise. Embrace this unpredictability – it truly is the beauty and benefit of organizing a team of people from diverse professional backgrounds. This unpredictability, however, can sometimes present a challenge to leaders.
When such a moment arises, the entire project timeline may have to be reevaluated. Take the time to think through new ideas and decide whether they are valuable to the project. If they are, rethink the project timeline and individual team member tasks. Then, once the new plan has been in effect for a sufficient amount of time, reevaluate.
If you are leading a cross-functional team, chances are team members will not be familiar with each other. Making sure your team members are aware of what other team members’ tasks are can help keep things on track. Team building exercises can help team members get to know one another’s work and help them form bonds that make work more effective. Social events and in office happenings can help to strengthen your team by creating a more harmonious workplace.
Take the time to meet with your team members one on one. This is a great way to ensure that any potential challenges of the cross-functional team are nipped in the bud. Speaking to a team member one-on-one can also reveal any internal dysfunction occurring within the team. Identifying these challenges can help you set new goals and tasks that can help mitigate some of the difficulties found within cross-functional teams.
It is important not to let technology replace face to face communication. Not only will your team members feel appreciated and heard, the team will run more smoothly if leaders get the opportunity to speak in person with every member of the team.
Cross-functional teams are an ideal organizational structure for creative projects and innovative work. Being an effective leader of a cross-functional team can be a challenge that allows you to reap many rewards. Well-led, cross-functional teams can provide a great benefit to the company.