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TEAMING: Team-Building 3.0 – The Road To Top-Notch Teaming

lisa 1.1webSuccessful teams don’t leave success to chance. They plan for success. They are set up to succeed from the beginning. They spend 2/3 of their time planning what they will do and 1/3 of their time actually doing it. That includes spending time on process and relationship before task. Teaming 3.0 doesn’t involve some new fad or gimmick; more it relies on getting the essential elements right the first time around. The best and brightest teams recognize that laying a well paved road with clear directions leads you easily to your destination and involves avoiding these common problems:

PROBLEM #1 Teams are a last ditch effort for a broken process or when the organization is in crisis and management doesn’t have the time to invest in proper mentoring or coaching.

The BRIGHT Idea: organizations choose teams as a method to get the best solution possible with buy-in and ownership of the results. They make a long-term commitment to teams as a tool. They give all teams a “Sponsor” who is committed to teamwork and has the time, skills and ability to mentor the team in the successful attainment of its goals.

PROBLEM #2 Organizations often get a group of people together and call them a “team.”

The BRIGHT Idea: Successful teams follow the parameters in the tried and true definition of a workplace team for size, goal development and accountability.

PROBLEM #3 Teams begin meeting and jump right into working on the task. Problems crop up when team members are confused about why they are meeting, what they are supposed to be doing, what decisions can be made, what needs to be reported to others, etc.  One worst case scenario is where the team spends countless hours developing a solution only to find out that they didn’t have the authority to tackle that problem in the first place. It leaves team members angry, frustrated and disillusioned about the team process.  Other times, teams are formed and leave out key individuals who are expected to implement what the team determines or who have information that never gets shared.

The BRIGHT Idea: Successful teams either are given or ask for a completed team charter that outlines the team’s purpose, goals, expected activities, resources, expected communication, key skills and abilities, membership, authority level, non-negotiables, other significant relationships and key measurements.

PROBLEM #4 Teams go through stages: Forming, Storming, Norming and Performing. Senior leadership mistakes the “Forming” Stage for a well-functioning team and gives them a task to do that they aren’t mature enough to undertake.  Or a team hits the “Storming” phase and management says, “Forget this team idea; these employees are at each others’ throats. Teams must not work.”

The BRIGHT Idea: Successful teams spend the first meetings in their Forming Phase developing a help-hinder list that encourages good teaming behaviors and binds negative behaviors before there is a problem. They also introduce other protocols such as a team meeting protocol, decision making protocol and conflict resolution protocol to set guidelines on handling the situations that are coming down the road.

PROBLEM #5 Teams are expected to make decisions without being trained on how to make decisions so they fall back to the “majority rule” or misread a few positive head shakes for consensus.

 The BRIGHT Idea: Successful teams follow the true nature of teaming and are trained on how to make decisions by consensus.

PROBLEM #6 As you’ve read in previous blogs, data on meetings suggest that typically 50% are considered a waste of time; 90% of people admit to daydreaming; only 60% know the purpose of their meeting; 25% use agendas distributed in advance and less than 30% say decisions are properly recorded and distributed. Yet, in any given day there are 17 million meetings going on, with the average professional person spending 1.7 hours per day in meetings, and the average executive spending 4-6 hours/day in meetings. The playing field for teams is meetings!

 The BRIGHT Idea: Successful teams adopt a defined team meeting structure which includes agendas, focus on planning and problem solving, rotated team meeting roles, scribe notes and action item lists. They periodically review and evaluate the effectiveness of their meetings and make improvements. They rely on and give meaning to the “Process Observer” role. Guidelines are included in a team meeting protocol which are agreed to by all team members and give parameters and eliminate confusion.

PROBLEM #7 Teams sometimes fall short of meeting their goals.  Hours are spent in meetings and teams get no closer to a solution or solving a problem. Co-workers get frustrated because of the extra workload and leadership gets short on patience waiting for the results.

The BRIGHT Idea: Successful teams are launched with achievable goals, use work breakdown plans to implement their objectives with clear deadlines and follow a problem solving process.

PROBLEM #8 Teams are the flavor of the CEO or another champion in senior leadership and once he or she leaves, teams are disbanded. Employees are left disheartened and de-motivated.  Suggestions for improvement fall by the wayside. Sometimes teamwork is isolated to one problem and the hard work of the team is never transferred to other processes or areas within the organization.

The BRIGHT Idea: Successful teams use an evaluation process to measure success and recommend the establishment of standards and guidelines when improvements are made. The elements that lead to success are replicated throughout the organization. Teams are used as a means to an end with a lasting role in the organization. They celebrate their successes.

With so many opportunities to take a wrong turn, it’s no wonder that a team-based culture has had its share of naysayers over the years.  More than a mystery, building effective teams takes purposeful planning and dedication. What one thing do you think is necessary to build successful teams?

We have spent much of the month of May talking about teams and team-building.  If our recent content has interested you or has you rethinking teaming within your organization or perhaps you have a team and it’s needing some rescue – please feel free to contact the ‘MacGyvers’ of team-building, the coaches at New Directions Consulting to start an assessment today.


Lisa Dunbar will be presenting her best and brightest ideas around Teaming 3.0 at this year’s Bright Ideas Conference at Siena College in Loudonville, NY on May 21.  For more information visit: 2010 Bright Ideas Conference

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