"It's time for the human race to enter the solar system."
--Dan Quayle, former U.S. Vice President
That has nothing to do with anything here. I just hated to see it go to waste.
After spending the past week immersed in a team building project, I decided that re-visiting this article might just be helpful to our ATW readers. Also: please check out the note at the bottom of the page.
OK, it's clear: based on the comments from We Need Team Spirit (So I've Set Aside Thursday), we've all had some strange experiences with team building. (Some stranger than others).
Organizational success depends on people working together to get "it" done. So the whole working together thing is--well, huge. In an era where we deify leaders, none of them can get anywhere without everyone else. If you're one of those people "in charge" of something, here's a tip:
Every team meeting is team building
It is. The dynamics are like dinner at home with the family.
Ever time you come together, the interactions lead to some degree of increased satisfaction and performance or a sense of disarray and dysfunction.
The effectiveness of regularly-scheduled meetings is likely to impact the health of the group more than a "one-off" to get things back on track. (Although if you need to get back on track, do it).
Here's a shopping list of what people are looking for:
1. Clear sense of direction.
In an era of misunderstood "participative management," people are seeking direction and clarity. That's the only way a group can understand and rally around a shared sense of purpose.
This is a leadership issue. If you are the leader, continually check your own clarity compass. If people are running in ten different directions that means that you are, too. Focus.
2. Talented colleagues.
I don't know how you operate, but my own commitment and performance is either lifted up or dragged down by the people around me. When I join a team I quickly check out two things:
- Do we have depth and breadth of talent to accomplish what we want to do?
- Are these the kind of people I want to do it with?
Note: "I have found the enemy and it is me." There are times when I'm the one that doesn't fit. When that happens, it's important to acknowledge it and either:
- Make a physical change and move elsewhere
- Make a personal change, if possible, and suck it up if the goal is important enough to me.
3. Clear, alluring responsibilities.
Who is supposed to be doing what, are they in their "talented" zone, and how do we make sure we pass the baton to each other at the right moment in the right way?
4. Procedures that work.
It's enticing to point fingers when something goes wrong. But the question to ask first is, "Do we have a systematic approach that works for everything from designing effective meetings to manufacturing our product?"
Good systems can allow talented people to use their talents. Bad systems cause award-winning landscape architects to spend their time fixing lawnmowers.
5. Healthy interactions.
Back to the dinner table. People want to know they can have a dissenting point of view that gets heard without getting stomped on. Likewise, when something really good happens, we want some kind of acknowledgment or celebration to follow.
Über-note: I've experienced much less willingness among some team leaders to "spend valuable time" celebrating than on arguing opposing viewpoints. It's ok to debate, because "that's work." It's not ok to celebrate: "They're already getting paid to do what they're supposed to do."
Maybe I travel in the wrong circles, but I can't begin to tell you how often I have this conversation with some clients. I can also tell you unequivocally that their upward mobility has been stunted (read, "halted") as a result of that attitude.
6. Noticeable accountability and related rewards.
This is different than #5.
You and I notice when someone who doesn't do their fair share ends up with the same goodies as everyone else at the end of the year. And if teamwork is so important, then it's important for team contribution to somehow be factored in to the organization's "reward" equation.
There's somewhat of a conundrum, too, when it comes to team performance. On the one hand, things get done by people working together. On the other, each person has a well-defined role to play in that. If the manager doesn't pay attention to the individual accountabilities involved, the genuine performance issues can be lumped inappropriately under the banner of "we've got a team problem."
Well, you do. And it's called Larry.
7. Good relationships outside of the team.
Ah, back to the whole "organizations as systems" thing.
It's tough to get things done when IT hates the Customer Call Center or if another department is using a software program that's incompatible with yours. It's a really good idea to ask the diagnostic question, "Where is the organization itself getting in the way of our success?"
That gives the manager one more thing to deal with when the meeting is over:-)
Did I say manager?
If you look closely at #1 and #7, these are areas where the team leader really has the most "juice" when it comes to addressing the item.
Thought for today: When it comes to effective teams, the leader has both the responsibility and position power to pull it all together. Groups get things done in organizations. It's just as important for a manager to know how to orchestrate and respond to group dynamics as it is to interpret the quarterly financials.
I contend that anything with such an impact on performance isn't a "soft" skill if it's so directly related to generating "hard" currency.
Note: Deepest thanks those of you who have sent comments and emails of support for my father. Update: He was diagnosed last month with cancer of the larynx and has completed two weeks of radiation therapy. At the age of 89 he is a pretty tough dude. However, beginning last Thursday, the impact of the treatments began to take their toll on other parts of his system. He is now taking oxygen, his heart is weakened, and he has developed an infection. As I write this, he is undergoing an exam to determine whether or not to continue or suspend the treatments for some period of time.
He is in good spirits and insisting that I head out to California to speak at the Naval Leadership Symposium later this week. (Dad is a Navy vet).
Although I will post as often as possible, I may not comment as quickly as I should and ask for your understanding. The discussions often take on a life of their own without me and I really think that's part of what this medium is all about.
Thank you all again for your continued good wishes.