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“A team is a group of people with different abilities, talents, experience, and backgrounds who have come together for a shared purpose. Despite their individual differences, that common goal provides the thread that defines them as a team.”
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“Consider how incredibly difficult it would be to think of a new product idea or design changes to a process and then implement those ideas and changes all by yourself. No matter how smart you are, the different expertise, experience, energy, and perspectives of others make things happen. A smart team knows how to make differences work.”
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Making Teams Work 24 Lessons for Working Together Successfully
M C G RAW -H ILL New York Chicago San Francisco Lisbon London Madrid Mexico City Milan New Delhi San Juan Seoul Singapore Sydney Toronto
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Contents Making teams work Forge a clear, common goal Clarify member skills and responsibilities Take time for rules Avoid predictable problems Use the team consitution Tell the new folks Collaborate, collaborate, collaborate Bring ideas to life Leap to creativity Make solid decisions Don’t compromise Discover consensus Seek a shared view Practice consensus decision making Use disagreement Squash conflict viruses Actively manage differences Trust each other Run good meetings Reward each other Regularly size up your team Lead without dominating Ask for help Don’t give up vii
viii 1 3 5 7 9 11 13 15 17 19 21 23 25 27 29 31 33 35 37 39 41 43 45 47
Finally, when a team goal is achieved, there is a payoff for all the team members. Achievement is shared, rewards are distributed, everyone wins. Why teams? Studies have repeatedly shown that the quality of decisions and level of creativity emerging from teams are substantially better than from average individuals working alone. A great team produces fast, creative, wise, decisive, consistent results. The point is no one can go it alone. People need to get together to share ideas for achieving a common goal. ■
Part of making a team work is to have all team members pay close attention to how ideas are expressed, whether team members are listened to and included, whether the team is working. Being attentive to the team process is a critical ingredient to success.
A team that wants to be world-class also needs to stop and ponder how it is doing as a team every once in a while. Improvement comes through reflection.
Remember, there are skills that sharpen the effectiveness of teams. These skills can be learned and practiced by the team. That’s what this book is all about.
“Individual commitment to group effort—that is what makes a team work, a company work, a society work, a civilization work.” —Vince Lombardi
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Move in the same general direction
✓Forge a clear, common
A team without a goal is like a ship without a destination. There’s plenty of ocean out there for the team to figuratively float around on and yet never get anywhere—endless meetings, unsatisfying discussions, half-hearted decisions. What every team needs is a solid, clear, and achievable goal. A goal states what the team has to accomplish. A goal is motivating; a goal demands action and decisiveness. Typically, a team goal statement is short and pungent: Keep the lines short in our retail store. Produce a breakthrough product by the third quarter. Speed up our budgeting process. Provide maximum value and service to our best distributors. Reduce waste and delay from the customer experience. Introduce our services to a new market area. Of course, President John F. Kennedy gave us one of the most famous team goal statements of all time. Back in 1962, he said, “I believe that this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to the earth.” No question about where that team was going and how long they had to get there. Remember, in a team setting, the goal is always an outcome that individuals can’t possibly achieve by themselves. That’s why it’s a team goal. Because we are dealing with a number of people, there is
a chance that individuals might not really understand what the team goal actually means. That’s a problem. Imagine working on a team whose goal is to “Create better customer-vendor relationships.” The intention is laudable, but do you think this goal means the same thing to each team member? A better goal would be to “Reduce customer complaints” or “ Shorten reaction time” or “ Increase satisfaction scores.” A team has to face an even more subtle challenge. Team members have to believe the goal is possible to achieve and that it is the right thing to do. If people feel they are being dealt an impossible or arduous task, then the team experience will be difficult at best. And, what about the team member who doesn’t think the team goal is right? What if the clear team goal is “Cross sell additional products to existing customers” and one team member thinks the customers have been sold enough products, that further selling attempts would undermine the relationship? Better to find out and deal with these goal issues before the team embarks on its voyage. Make sure goals work for the team:
Be concise: Make goals short, clear, action-oriented and definite. If the team can’t “see” it, the team can’t do it. Ask what the goal is: Their answers will reveal if they have understood what the team outcome is supposed to be. Check feasibility: A team capable of the goal—skills, resources, and commitment—will stretch itself to achieve it.
“Our goals can only be reached through a vehicle of a plan, in which we must fervently believe, and upon which we must vigorously act. There is no other route to success. “ —Pablo Picasso
Expect that everyone knows what to do
✓Clarify member skills
Every team member has to be a team player. That means the team counts on each member to do his or her part, and the team member lives up to that responsibility. To do that, team members have to know what the team is trying to accomplish as well as some basic team skills that are above and beyond their technical job skills. Knowing these team player skills can make the difference in the team experience. Team members have to help the team develop, follow, and enforce the team’s own policies and procedures—the team’s constitution. A team constitution defines team rules—from simple things like how often the team meets and meeting agendas to more complex issues like how the team will handle conflict. Each team member needs to know and understand these basic rules. Team members also need to understand how to collaborate. That means fluently contributing ideas, generating alternatives, discussing creative approaches and expressing what is on their mind without feeling intimidated or without being ridiculed. Collaborative ideas are the real work product of teams. A team has to develop these ideas through open and frank discussion. Team members have to encourage everyone on the team and make sure every member gets a chance to contribute.
Once ideas are on the table, team members have to know how to reach decisions. On a team, decisions are best reached through consensus. That means sticking with discussions that unravel all the issues, develop a common view of the problems and obstacles, and move to the best possible course of action, given the circumstances. Finally, team members have to be able to deal with the natural conflict and disagreements that occur in team settings. Instead of turning a disagreement into an argument, team members should view conflict as a chance to explore differences and to think about problems from a number of diverse points of view. On a team, no one “wins” an argument. Constitution, collaboration, consensus, and conflict management are unique team skills every member should know and practice. Get team members up to speed on these:
Teach team skills: Everyone on the team knows how to do their technical job; they will need guidance and practice in developing team player skills. Give feedback: Skills aren’t learned overnight. Each team member can support the others by watching for how well skills are applied and suggesting alternatives. Seek expertise: Some of these skills are not easy to learn without the advice of trainers or teachers. Ask an expert to observe your team meeting and offer suggestions to individual team members.
“Coming together is a beginning, staying together is progress, and working together is success.” —Henry Ford
Plunge right into the work
meeting. Or, the team can decide to have an agenda sent before meetings and a report of outcomes sent at the end to all team members. And a team can nominate a note-taker or a secretary to keep track of discussions on a flip chart. Besides procedures, a team can decide on how to handle more complex matters before they become problems. For example, it would be useful for a team to have an idea of how it intends to handle conflict that comes up during a team meeting. Or, a team may decide to form committees to explore and make fact-based recommendations on business decisions rather than having members share opinions at a team meeting. A team can establish a clear expectation that decisions made by the team are supported by individual team members, even if they disagree with them. The team can invent any kind of rule it needs to be productive: A team can require a contribution from every member at a meeting, a certain amount of time per week devoted to team business, a special place to meet, a menu of finger food for faster team lunches, whatever. But, without those rules, progress can be chancy.
Write a “constitution”: Countries have them, why not your team? A constitution establishes operating ground rules, policies and operating principles and values. Create rules at the beginning of the team’s life: Think first about how you want the team to run. Narrow down your ideas to a few simple rules. Start with values: Ask team members what they want and expect the team experience to be like. Those are values you can use to create the team’s rules.
“Each problem that I solved became a rule which served afterwards to solve other problems.” —Rene Descartes
Discount the past
bling, dominated by a few “talkers,” these discussions can break the spirit of a team. The answer is to adopt a format and an agenda. A format might be old business, new business, other business or start with a problem statement and examine alternatives in a more systematic way. After all, decisions are made by examining the future and foreseeable consequences of an action. If you can focus the team on that concept, the discussion can be more orderly. The dominators. One or two members talk all the time, provide clear opinions, and, despite the best efforts of the team moderator, the discussion always comes back to them. Encourage a chance for others to participate by simple rules like going around the table to gather ideas or asking people to form small groups to frame up answers to questions or problems. Deal with these typical and predictable problems before they become surprises to your team.
Anticipate common problems: If there is any good news in this, it is that these problems are familiar and, as such, foreseeable. Expect them to happen and don’t think your team is unique if they do. Take action: Dealing with these process problems sends a message about how the team wants to run: efficiently, inclusively, and productively. Don’t let these situations go unanswered. Stay alert: Every team member has the responsibility to ensure these kinds of process problems don’t inhibit or impede team progress. If the team process starts going wrong, team members should be encouraged to apply process solutions.
“A problem well-stated is a problem half-solved.” —John Dewey
Patiently let the team process take care of itself
✓Use the team
Revisit the concept of team expectations after you’ve made some progress and done some work on your team goal. You may discover that there are new areas that are ripe for addressing with rules or clear expectations. For example, a team may not be aware that attendance would be a problem at the first few meeting. But, by the time the team is in the middle of a project, that problem might have emerged. Deal with it. Make the team constitution a living document:
Take time to talk about it: A constitution defines how the team wants to work. The more the team reviews its expectations—constitution—against actual experience, the more process efficient the team will become. Change it when it isn’t working: Remember, new and less predictable problems will arise as the team does its work. That is an indicator that it is time to update and revisit the constitution. Document it: When the constitution is on paper, the team will take it more seriously. A team constitution can become a wallet card, poster or sticker on the back of employee id cards.
“Success is nothing more than a few simple disciplines practiced every day.” —Jim Rohn
Expect new members to catch on
The challenge for the team is to actually remember to orient new members to the team’s culture and not take for granted that new members will understand what is going on. For example, imagine an enthusiastic new team member who isn’t aware of the team rule of presenting recent facts and data to make important decisions. It might take a while for it to dawn on the new member that that is an important aspect of the team’s operations. Meanwhile, the team may slip into unforeseen conflicts and delays when the new member attempts to persuade others based on opinions and speculation. To keep the team running effectively:
Be aware that new members need an orientation: Each team is unique and has its own method of operating. New members need to know that. Focus on the basics first: Tell new members what the typical meeting agendas are, how meetings work, what is expected of members, what the cycle of work is over a quarter or a year. Spend time debriefing the new member after the first meeting: The team leader or a veteran of the team can review how and why things happen they way they did after a team meeting. The new member can not only be made aware of the rules but can be advised about whatever team politics are at play.
“All things be ready if our minds be so.” —William Shakespeare
Figure it out for yourself
The key to collaboration is to open the door to ideas from other people. The team has a responsibility to create an environment where the ideas people have—their knowledge, interpretations and even wild and crazy notions—are welcome without threat of embarrassment or disapproval. When collaboration is really working well, team members listen closely to each other, build on each other’s ideas, modify them, drop them, pick them up again, come up with new ones. Team collaboration is a volleyball game of thoughts. Create value for collaboration on your team.
Point out team member differences in background and interests: If everyone on a team were cut from the same cloth, it would be a boring team indeed. If people knew those differences, it might allow the team to call on those with specific skills or knowledge strengths when these are needed. Practice collaboration skills: Ask your team to name as many uses for a paperclip as it can in two minutes. Invent a new logo for your company. Relax and have fun: Collaboration, done well, isn’t a competitive exercise. Instead, people should feel comfortable offering halfformed ideas that might go nowhere, but which also might ignite a brainstorm.
“None of us is as smart as all of us.” —Pogo
Be careful about what you say
challenge. People will be more creative and likely to generate interesting ideas if you simply ask them to. It is as if people need permission to be creative. Go for a quantity of ideas rather than quality of those ideas. Generating a volume of thoughts gets people talking about options. Don’t be discouraged if ideas come slowly; people do need time to think. Once expressed, ideas can be refined. Avoid criticism of ideas as they are being formed. Focus instead on how ideas can be improved or used. Hold up ideas and try to examine them from every aspect and angle. Ask lots of what-if questions. What if we didn’t have constraints? What if we had a limitless budget? What if a disadvantage were considered as an advantage? All of these kinds of questions encourage more ideas. To get ideas flowing think about:
Ask team members to be creative: People will respond to problems with creative ideas if they know unusual thoughts and unique solutions are acceptable. Have fun: Collaboration on a team and creative ideas engenders laughter, jokes and high spirits. Let it flow. Be patient: Collaboration means forming and molding ideas. That process may take some time. If the team seems stuck, take a break and come back another time.
“Numerous studies demonstrate that people can be motivated to creativity simply with the addition of an instruction to ‘be creative.’” —Richard Saul Wurman
Don’t expect your team to come up with great ideas
improve customer satisfaction or product quality without having to ask permission from higher management. Ask the team to tell the “real” story behind the smiling face of Mona Lisa, the famous painting by Leonardo Da Vinci. Brainstorm all the possible explanations you can think of and give a joke prize to the story that is most plausible as well as outrageous. Gather some old magazines, randomly cut out a bunch of pictures and put them in a pile. Ask the team to sort through the pictures and put them in a sequence that tells a story that somehow ends with your team in your organization. If you really want to have fun, put on a skit that tells the story and use the pictures as props. Get your team to practice creativity when they collaborate together:
Practice collaboration like an athlete practices a sport: Work at it by doing exercises that challenge your team’s creative abilities. Change the ambiance to foster collaboration: Make sure people are relaxed when the team is trying to collaborate to generate new ideas. Taking members out of the usual meeting setting can make a big difference. Watch the behavior: Although creative collaboration should be fun, some members might dominate discussions or put-down emerging ideas.
“Dig within. Within is the wellspring of good; and it is always ready to bubble up, if you just dig.” —Marcus Aurelius
Dance around the issue
sion. There are three sources of information that can help here. One includes facts, data, trends, any solid information derived from reliable sources that can be counted on to provide some insight into what might happen. Note that this data comes from the past in the broadest sense. Another source of data is the result of trials and the use of prototypes—the data derived from “experiments”, if you will. The third source of data is intuition, that “sixth sense” that some people have, a sense that is based on experience and acute perception. So, the best way a team can grapple with decisions to generate alternatives is to use data and intuition to identify the risks, create ways to minimize the unwanted consequences of different alternatives, and select the best choice. Ideas to crystallize how decision-making works on a team include:
Look at decisions as a series of projections about the future: The key question your team should ask itself in making decisions is, “What will happen if we do this?” Use data to help the team determine what the consequences of different actions might be: Relying on opinions may be helpful, but consider using current data from history or “experiments” to reduce the chance of risk. If data is not available, use the intuition of the team: Keep asking, “What if” questions until the team understands the possible outcomes of different choices.
“Once you make a decision, the universe conspires to make it happen.” —Ralph Waldo Emerson
Go with the majority
More important, this type of decision creates a commitment problem. When people are involved in a decision they aren’t 100 percent committed to, they will most likely feel less than enthusiastic about supporting the decision. Implementing the decision might become a problem. While compromise decisions on a team might occasionally be useful, consider this:
Spot the compromise: When making a decision, the team should ask its members of anyone feels short-changed or half-hearted about the decision. If they are, a compromise might still be all right if the members acknowledge they can live with the outcome. If they can’t, there is an opportunity to revisit the decision. Watch the implementation: Ensure that decisions reached through compromise are implemented as effectively and efficiently as possible. This is where compromise decisions are vulnerable. Do it better: Don’t make compromise decisions a habit in your team. Members are eventually going to feel left out or unable to influence the team; enthusiasm will drop off and so will commitment. In certain situations, try for consensus, a much stronger form of group decision making.
“Compromise makes a good umbrella, but a poor roof; it is temporary expedient, often wise in party politics, almost sure to be unwise in statesmanship.” —James Russell Lowell
Continue to compromise
✓Discover consensus There are many decisions a team makes that require the group’s commitment. Imagine a team is given the opportunity to design a flexible work schedule for the employees of a company. Should it be four-ten hour days, four seven-hour days and a twelve-hour day or alternating weeks of 35 hours and 45 hours? Each choice has advantages and disadvantages; none are perfect. When this decision is implemented, it will require the total backing and support of your team. This kind of decision calls for a consensus of your group. A consensus is simply a decision made in a group that everyone agrees is the best decision to make given the circumstances. There is a clear understanding of why this decision was made, and everyone on the team stands behind it. The process of arriving at a consensus involves getting members with different points of view to start seeing the problem in a similar way or at least narrowing their differences. In a consensus, the various points of view of each member of the team are revealed, considered, probed, compared and discussed again until members begin to see—and understand—all aspects of the problem or decision. The outcome of a consensus goes well beyond a compromise— what people can go along with. Instead, it is a decision that the team believes is the best way to go after having sorted out all the facts, risks and implications.
Granted, the decision itself might not be ideal, and everyone on the team might not be totally happy with the decision, but, again, everyone will understand why the decision was made. Because the issue has been examined from many different perspectives, consensus building is a learning experience. Members see how others stand on different aspects of the problem and what is important to them. The team moves from a group of people with differing views to a more common understanding of the issues they are facing. Two important caveats: consensus takes time. Team members need to honestly share and discuss their perspectives, people have to be willing to listen and be flexible. Individuals need to change their minds or adjust their positions when confronted with facts and compelling arguments. That doesn’t happen fast. And, consensus is not for every decision. Consensus is meant for decisions that the group has to stand behind and live with—a decision that has to be implemented effectively. The team has to identify what decisions need the consensus approach.
Recognize consensus decisions are never going to be perfect: Consensus yields decisions that are right for the time and place. Given other conditions, better choices might be much more preferable. Work at it: Consensus requires real effort on the part of the team. This is where a good facilitator or team leader comes in handy. If in doubt, just keep going around the table to get people’s opinions. Learn consensus skills: Team members should know how to exchange ideas, probe why people feel the way they do and remain flexible and non-defensive. These are skills that can be learned and practiced.
“Again and again, the impossible problem is solved when we see that the problem is only a tough decision waiting to be made.” —Robert H. Schuller 24
Fight it out
at the problem or approach using their rationale and perspective. Although it might be different from yours, you may recognize why they feel the way they do. You may even change your mind. When being questioned why they feel the way they do, some people may feel attacked or put into a position of having to defend themselves. Every team member should understand that consensus depends on discussing these positions non-defensively. No question, members will be challenged; they need to remain calm and work on clarifying their points when that happens. Consensus may be a new concept to some team members. To help them become successful at it:
Explain how consensus works: Everyone should know consensus involves systematically revealing each team member’s point of view and reasons for it. Involve everyone: No one can opt out of a consensus decision. This is the time for the team to recognize the power of 100 percent participation. Have a lot of patience: Consensus is a thoughtful process. It may require more than one meeting. People may need to reflect on what to do. Give consensus time to happen.
“Patience is a bitter plant, but it has a sweet fruit.” —German Proverb
Consensus is easy
Here’s another decision. Should vehicular traffic in the large city near you be limited to emergency vehicles, trucks, buses and taxis during the hours of 10 to 3 every work day? What would make this acceptable? Finally, here’s a really controversial decision. Should salary increases of team members be based on their team performance or their individual performance? What would make that work? See if you can find consensus on that! Remember, no voting allowed. Consensus comes through discussion, not elections. To get your team consensus-conscious:
Explain how consensus works: This may be a new skill to some team members. They need to understand what to expect. Check the consensus decisions that the team makes: These exercises should reveal that the team can come to strong agreement on an outcome, one that everyone can stand behind. See if that is true. Reward consensus behaviors when you see them: Let the team know when it is being open, revealing, listening and cooperative. Bear in mind, when the team faces real business problems, these behaviors may need to be dusted off.
“It is not hard to make decisions when you know what your values are.” —Roy Disney
✓Use disagreement People don’t like to confront disagreement. Disagreement and conflict to most means an uncomfortable emotional encounter, something to be avoided. So, why is embracing and using disagreement an important team attitude? A team is a group of people working together toward a common goal. The fact is that people are different; everyone on the team is starting from a different place, different education, jobs, experience, likes and dislikes. What is important to someone may be unimportant to you. What is clear to you might be vague for someone else. However, it is the differences between people that make the life of a team vibrant, interesting and ultimately rewarding. The trick is to deal with the differences without becoming emotional. An efficient team harnesses the power of differences and focuses them on solving a problem or making a decision in a deliberative, supportive and respectful manner. Through the healthy process of listening to other perspectives and clarifying why people hold opinions as strongly as they do, team members start to see ideas emerge. By exchanging ideas, we have insights and new perspectives of what will work and what won’t. Imagine trying to make a decision in a team that doesn’t involved some disagreement and conflict. You’ll see differences minimized or overlooked. Creative and unusual ideas get brushed aside. People who you know have something to say keep quiet. When ideas are asked for,
not many are offered. What is happening here is that differences are being avoided. On the other hand, on a team where conflict is mismanaged, expect to see lots of yelling, accusations and wounded egos with not a lot to show for it. Here are some ideas for beginning to use disagreement conflict:
Recognize that disagreement is expected: Teams thrive on people’s ideas. Get used to people questioning what other people say. Expect members to probe why others have a certain viewpoint. Be prepared to backup your opinions with facts and logic. Put the emotion away and listen: Your team needs to see that having a different idea doesn’t diminish other people’s ideas. Confronting differences is not a personal attack; it is an attempt to open up thinking. If you are getting hot under the collar, walk around the block and come back ready to open your ears. When you see a conflict, label it: If you can calmly state that there is a difference of opinion around the table, it helps alert the team that everyone has to be on their best, most adult and professional behavior. It helps avoid the slide to arguing as well as encourages quiet members to contribute.
“Truth springs from arguments among friends.” —David Hume
Let conflict fester
Finally, some members are perceived as annoying when they constantly ask questions or challenge opinions. After a meeting or two, other members tune them out. This is the gadfly phenomenon, and the potential for conflict here is high. Remember, on a team, contrarian views are extremely valuable; they force the team to closely examine its process and its decisions. Instead of discounting those who ask penetrating and even embarrassing questions, they should be brought into the heart of the discussion. Instead of getting frustrated, the team should practice some careful listening. Here are some tips for avoiding predictable problems:
Ensure that everyone accepts the team goal and their role on the team: The common goal is literally the glue that holds the team together. Team members need to believe as well as the fact that they are going to be on a team working towards that goal, which will take time and commitment. Ask members to forget the past and focus on the future: Past rivalries and politics should be parked at the door. Practice listening: When all is said and done, excellent listening skills go a long way in managing potential conflict. Listen closely to what people are really saying and make an effort to see things from their perspective.
“A good manager doesn’t try to eliminate conflict; he tries to keep it from wasting the energies of his people.” —Robert Townsend
Let it slide
are many forms of research—survey, focus group, interviews, review of historical documents. Pick the best that fits the problem. The team has be fairly skilled at interpreting the results. Third party mediation is the last resort for those involved in a conflict. Both parties plead their case before a neutral and unbiased observer who makes the decisions. It may be the only way to go if team members have become inflexible. A good mediator will try to engage the parties in problem solving as opposed to making a judgment one way or the other. Regardless of what method you choose, pay attention to these principles:
Deal with facts and data: Opinions have a limited utility in resolving differences. In fact, different opinions are behind lots of conflict. Get down to numbers and analysis if you can. Ask probing questions: Both parties in a conflict should be asked to disclose what is behind their positions. What are they really concerned about? If this is discovered, the parties can decide how to address the concern. Leave emotion out of it: Once conflict becomes emotional, resolution becomes more difficult. Make it a team rule to handle conflict without the heat.
“Where all think alike, no one thinks very much.” —Walter Lippman
Be wary and protective
✓Trust each other As most people are aware, when trust between people is lost, it becomes difficult to work together. When that happens, team members tend to hold each other at a distance, not readily sharing information, closely scrutinizing each other’s comments and generally avoiding honest and frank interaction. This is not a good situation on a team. Before team members can effectively manage conflict, they need a basic level of trust. Without that, life on the team can be pretty unproductive and grim. Team members can do things to build trust—activities and actions that will lead people to be inclined to trust them. Some of these ideas may contribute to rebuilding trust once it has been eroded. How can a team build trust among its members? Here are some ideas: ■
Do what you commit to do. Deliver on your promises without hesitation or wavering. Don’t let the team down by not doing your part. Missing a commitment can be a sure-fire way to break the chain of trust. Make sure what you say—the information you bring—is accurate and up-to-date. People can begin to distrust others because the quality of their information is suspect. If this becomes a pattern, then members of the team will discount what another member is saying. Do what you do skillfully. People tend to trust people who are 35
competent and self-disciplined. Tasks and projects are delivered with quality and accuracy; presentations are complete and compelling; meetings are conducted efficiently. Demonstrate care and proficiency in what you do, and people will notice. Show an interest in others. Would you trust someone who tends to be self-interested, who doesn’t care about creating relationships with team members, who doesn’t seem to relate to individuals? Reach out, make friends. Work with people in making decisions. Demonstrate flexibility and creativity. People trust members who do their best to make wise and balanced decisions. Drop the extreme viewpoints when circumstances seem to indicate that’s not productive.
Remember, trust is a make-or-break factor on a team:
Work on trust: If there is a hint of trust issues on the team, address it—find the source and manage it. Trust can be regained if, and only if, all parties work on it. Resolve conflict: Unresolved conflict breeds distrust. One way to quickly erode trust on a team is to let unresolved conflict go on and on. The team has a responsibility to deal with this. Recognize trust when you see and feel it: Telling team members that it seems everyone has reached a level of mutual trust can feel rewarding and gratifying to a team. Celebrate the trust you have.
“Few things help an individual more than to place responsibility upon him, and to let him know that you trust him.” —Booker T. Washington
Let meetings ramble
progress report consists of results, problems, assistance needed, ideas to consider, and the next milestone. Other agenda item are problems the team as a whole has to consider. If there are overall results that are falling short, what can the team do? If the team is not working effectively with another team, what ideas can close the gap? Problem solving often leads to making decisions. The team has to decide whether to do one thing or another. Should we implement a new customer contact system or not? Should we bring out the new manual online as well as providing hard copy? Finally, the team has to plan and revisit the tasks to be accomplished before the next meeting. Remember, when it comes to team meetings,
Think good meetings: Meetings are where the work of the team takes place. If they are efficiently run, it indicates the team is working well. Use the agenda as the engine of the meeting: With an agenda, the team knows where it is and where it is going. No agenda, no focus, no progress. Ensure participation: What really makes team meetings work is inclusion and contribution. The more team members speak up at meetings and offer their opinions, the higher the quality of decisions made.
“Meetings should be short and to the point.” —Mao Tze-Dung
Assume people feel valued
The leader of the team can read these “Love Bombs” and present them to the team members. When this is followed up with a lunch on the company or a trip to the ballpark, then the feeling of being part of a community which values each member is reinforced. How to recognize team members? There are many additional ideas that don’t cost anything:
Give team members a choice of assignment for the next project: Additional responsibility is a sign of trust and confidence. Post pictures of the team in a public setting: Include their families in the picture. The result is a more personal view of the team member. Say “thank you” for the work: As simple as this sounds, saying thank you is a powerful motivator, especially when it comes from a senior member of the team or organization.
“A sobering thought: what if, at this very moment, I am living up to my full potential?” —Jane Wagner
Keep moving ahead
✓Regularly size up your
What if the team doesn’t wholeheartedly implement the decisions of the team? What if work goes on unchanged, if decisions aren’t put into practice? Perhaps team decisions aren’t clear or specific enough. Perhaps members need to revisit the goals of the team. And finally perhaps members should ask themselves if they can continue to support and contribute to the team. Effective teams will set aside time to see if they are experiencing these kinds of problems. If they are, then the team can revisit its team constitution and create new ways of managing itself. Here are some things to do to keep your team well oiled:
Size-up the team: Self-assessment is a team’s secret weapon. Occasionally, the team should add an agenda item that asks each member to reflect on how the team is doing as a team. Revisit the team’s goals and team constitution: The process can be revitalizing. If the constitution needs an update, add amendments, create new ground rules, inject reality into the team process. Celebrate progress and improvement: If your team has become more effective, signal out the change, point out how it has made a positive impact on the team and encourage the team to keep it up.
“The voyage of discovery is not looking for new landscapes, but looking with new eyes.” —Anonymous
Closely control the team
and seeking to create coalitions. The facilitator leader might be found on any kind of team that chooses to be leader-less. The caveat is that the facilitator leader has to be good at encouraging consensus and getting the team to move ahead. A lot of discussion takes place on leaderless teams. One thing is for sure, if a team leader tries to be a “boss” by giving directions, demanding performance and getting in team members’ faces, then that’s the end of contribution and input. A work team is not a football team, and a team leader is not a hard-nosed coach. Here are more ideas for being an effective team leader:
Share power: If you are the team leader, decide how comfortable you are in delegating decisions and responsibilities to the team. There are probably some decisions, at first, that you will be reluctant to share, and others that the team can grow into. Develop individual team players: Make your team members effective at being team members. Teach them team skills, encourage their participation, and remove whatever obstacles there might be for them to do that. Learn how to control without directing: Suggest, steer, ask probing questions, summarize points of view, point out consequences, let things happen.
“The key to successful leadership today is influence, not authority.” —Ken Blanchard
Tough it out
What if the team itself is stumped on how to do a task or execute a project? What if no one on the team had ever done anything quite like what was being asked for now? The answer is finding another team that has been successful at a similar task or which has an expert on-board who can provide coaching and examples. Many teams even go outside their own organizations to study how another team or group in a different organization has accomplished a task. This process, called “benchmarking,” is an effective way of asking for help. Obviously, not every organization is going to be willing to share their hard-earned methods and techniques, but, if the team approaches a non-competitor, chances are information will be willingly shared. Here are some more ideas for solving problems and improving:
Run simulations: Walk through steps in a process or how a report is going to be generated. Put an emphasis on describing how something will be done before the team actually does it. Find experts: A team that expects to do everything on its own, is simply going to reinvent the wheel. Surely, someone, somewhere out there has done it already. Learn from them. Give permission to not know all the answers: Team members should feel comfortable saying they need help. The team should consider making asking for help a ground rule.
“People seldom improve when they have no other model but themselves to copy.” —Oliver Goldsmith
Give it a couple of honest tries
Creativity is the most powerful tool of the team. When resources are constrained or there is pressure to achieve a goal, creative ideas can quickly lead to new approaches and elegant solutions. Consider using brainstorming and being truly audacious in developing completely novel approaches to problems. The answer to what seems like an impossible dilemma might suddenly emerge from nowhere. Courage is the final ingredient to teams facing challenging goals. Whether the team is contemplating a new business venture or fighting for a non-profit cause, being committed to achieving the goal sometimes takes courage. That means not letting setbacks shut the team down, learning from failures and persistently moving ahead. Remember these ideas:
Refocus on the goal: What does achieving the goal really mean? What will change when the goal is finally achieved? Assess how and what the team has tried: Is the team using old ideas and outdated methods to tackle new and more challenging situations? Time to shift gears and do things differently. Creativity and courage are strong medicine for difficult team problems: Remember, ideas are free, they just take time being born.
“Never give up, never give up, never give up.” —Winston Churchill
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“Differences in team effectiveness can be traced to how team members take responsibility for the work of the team. An effective team has members who are skillful at being team players.”
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“Team players have to become comfortable with conflict. Oddly enough, if teams are working well, conflict will be part of many discussions. The trick is to view conflict as a by-product of having diverse thoughts around the table. The trap is to see conflict through an emotional lens.”
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