Practicing Teamwork

We’re trying to build more teams, but finding that it takes a lot of time to get everyone we want involved and working together. Some people want to work on their own, some take charge and don’t inform their teammates, some hang back waiting for teammates to figure things out or do the heavy lifting. The quiet ones are often the best team candidates but they get overruled or ignored by the more vocal ones.

Thoughts of the Day: Set up goals so everyone is clear about what’s to be accomplished. Teach your people to work together productively. Give the team tools to track and analyze data, and access to other performance enhancing tools. Make sure team meets regularly to exchange information.

One of the best ways to get a team off on the road to success is to give them a mission that includes a clear, specific, tangible, measurable set of goals. Point towards the horizon and paint a picture of what the team is supposed to accomplish. Give them a timeframe as well, so there’s no mistaking how long the team will be allowed to work towards the goals you’ve set.

Make it clear that not only do you expect the team to produce results, but that you also expect people on the team to subordinate personal gain in favor of team results. Take people aside who don’t seem to get the message, have be willing to have honest conversations about what you’re observing and what you expect. Tackle problems early, while they’re small, even if it means having an uncomfortable moment.

Demonstrate respect for the team. Once you’ve brought them together and set them on a mission, don’t get in the way of progress. Allow them space and time to learn to work together. Encourage honest, respectful dialog.

Tools for the team could include software, data storage systems, access to information, education and mentoring, and having the right skills to get the job done. When starting out, think carefully about what individual skill sets will be needed, both hard and soft skills. Will you need technicians? How about people who can communicate effectively? What do they need to know about the topic of the projects they’ll be assigned to work on? Anyone on the list who is skilled as a leader?

Require a schedule of regular meetings where team members provide updates to each other. Make sure all team members have the time available in their schedules to meet. Make it a point to ensure that all members show respect for their peers by arriving on time, staying focused during meetings, and sticking through to the end of each meeting. It’s generally better, especially in the beginning, to ask the group to limit the time spend in meetings to ensure that no one gets overwhelmed or discouraged by the amount of time used or material covered in one setting.

Once underway, listen carefully to what team members are saying about how their project is proceeding. Is there anything missing from the team? Are they getting bogged down with problems or just working their way through the normal process of form-storm-norm-perform. If there are clashes of opinions or personalities, take people aside for one-on-one discussions, and remind them of the importance of the team goals. If necessary, consider removing / replacing team members to achieve a better overall result.

Resist the temptation to jump in with suggestions. That can be disruptive to the team dynamic. Ask the group if they need help, but allow team members the time and space they need to figure things out.

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