Tag Archive | "team building"

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Leadership Strategies to Address Today’s Most Common Team Building Problems

Posted on 12 May 2016 by cradmin

By Gayle Lantz

Despite best team building efforts, many organizations are still operating on low power when it comes to producing desired results. They’ve invested time and dollars in events that supposedly help team members bond and function coherently, yet results are short term at best.

So what’s the problem? Every situation is unique, but here are a few possibilities:

  • Some or all members don’t want to function as a team. They’ve become accustomed to operating independently and don’t see the value of operating as a whole.
  • Team building isn’t linked to business results. Instead, the team experienced artificial feel good exercises. Although the team has learned about each other’s behavioral styles, motivational profiles, individual strengths, etc., they have failed to connect their efforts to desired business outcomes.
  • There’s no follow-up beyond a one-time event. A successful team building process should be approached strategically, not as a one-time event hoping for the best. It should result in actionable ideas to help the team and organization achieve their goals. Continued learning, action and reinforcement are critical.

Of all of the potential issues that can negatively affect team building, here are some of the most common impediments to team success, in my experience, and ways to overcome them.

Team Building Impediment #1: Fuzzy focus

In this situation, the team doesn’t really know how to function. Either the team has lost focus on results or members have never been clear of their goals in the first place. Instead, they’ve become too internally fixated on other team members – judging what they’re doing, making assumptions, speculating, backstabbing, finger pointing, etc. Without a clear focus, team members frequently react to events in their immediate environment. They become distracted by other team members or simply respond to whatever issue lands in their lap. There’s no strategic team focus or energy to move forward.

Suggestion: As the leader, you must step in and clarify big picture goals and expectations. In order to complete this task effectively, you must communicate the goals in a number ways that appeal to a variety of team members. Some may need a visual representation (e.g., a roadmap); others may need to know the “why” behind the goals to buy in. Check for clarity. Ask the team to articulate their understanding of the overall goals in their own words. Then, clarify or correct as needed.

Team Building Impediment #2: Lack of leadership

Leadership is critical to help the team succeed. Without it, team members will resort to their own methods. Some will run as far and fast as they can to prove themselves, pushing boundaries and taking on too much risk. Others will sit idle for as long as they can, performing as little as possible, yet complaining about how much work needs to get done. Some leaders are too busy concentrating on their own political or career agenda. Other leaders just don’t understand their role or possess good leadership skills.

Suggestion: Conduct regular strategic focus sessions. Strong leaders will help the team focus on the goal (the what) and key strategies (the how). Hold consistent informal one-on-one development meetings with direct reports to gain feedback, uncover trouble spots and leverage opportunities. If you need to build leadership skills yourself, make that a priority. If you value your career, find a coach or mentor to help you. Remember, in order to develop others – you must first develop yourself.

Team Building Impediment #3: Stuck in sameness

The team is stuck in practices that may have been established years ago. They’ve gotten lazy or stopped trying new approaches. New team members may be frustrated by the apparent lack of openness to new ideas or ways of operating. Experienced team members defend the way things have always been done.

Suggestion: Identify one aspect of the team that you would be excited to see change. Talk with your team to make sure everyone agrees it would be worth it to affect change in that area. Determine what the best possible outcome could be if the team made the change, adopted a new procedure, tried a new approach or do whatever it is you’re suggesting. Then, call for ideas from the team on how to make it happen. Generating excitement about new possibilities makes it easier for the team to get unstuck.

The most effective teams can maintain best practices while adapting to new environments or organizational changes. They are not content with sameness or status quo. Their best practices include constantly seeking new and better ways to perform their jobs. They are not content with going through the motions or frivolous exercises that may help increase awareness but stop there.

Final Thoughts:

It doesn’t matter if Bob is a blue, green or yellow if he can’t connect his self-awareness to results. The same applies at the team level. Team members may find it interesting to learn more about team members, but be sure to help translate learning into results.

Great team leaders spend time clarifying goals, cultivating their own leadership skills and identifying new ways to achieve great results. Not to be confused with micromanaging, an effective leader will check in from time to time to make sure the organization’s goals and strategies remain clear. At the same time, they help build capability of individual team members versus taking on the work of the team themselves.

Simply opening productive and constructive communication to a greater degree will help leaders increase their effectiveness and their team’s functioning most effectively. Leaders often feel unnecessary pressure to tell everyone on the team what to do. Focus on influencing versus doing.

Team building is a means to an end and not an end in itself. What do you want your team to achieve?

About the Author

As an organizational development consultant, executive coach and founder of WorkMatters®, Gayle Lantz can help your team achieve substantial results. Clients include organizations such as NASA, Southern Company and Compass Bank.

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Your Team Is Your Most Important Asset

Posted on 16 September 2014 by cradmin

by Ellen O. Brownell

“You can dream, create, design and build the most wonderful place in the world … but it requires people to make the dream a reality.”

–Walt Disney

A friend recently required a half-million-dollar liability insurance policy before he could execute a contract for an important kitchen renovation job, and time was of the essence. Based on a recommendation, I contacted Joni Ginno of State Farm, and she instantly moved into overdrive.

Within an hour, she had located a policy that would fulfill his specific needs. Within what seemed like only moments, her staff had completed all the necessary paperwork and by days end, he had verification of the required coverage. Impressive? Yes! The staff was friendly, eager to respond to questions and genuinely concerned with his needs and issues. It was also apparent they worked well as a unified team. After the dust cleared, he had a long talk with Ginno over the phone about how she had developed her business and staff in order to provide such exceptional service.

Through the years, Ginno found that in order to succeed, she would need to create a positive team and customer service approach to business. She realized early that the quality of her organization’s customer service must match exactly her vision for the business. Ginno would only succeed at accomplishing her business vision and mission if all of her staff members were in the loop and working well together. To accomplish that, her staff became her number one priority.

When she discussed the various steps and techniques she used to develop her cohesive team, she shared the following:

Create an action plan together. Every business must have a mission, a vision for the future and an action plan to make it happen. It is important that everyone be involved in the development process. People want to know their opinion matters. When staff is involved in the decision making process, they buy-in to making it happen.

Modify your plan regularly. Action plans will not do a business any good unless they are constantly reviewed and updated. What may be applicable today, very well could be outdated six months from now. Be willing to make your action plan an ever-changing working draft that is reviewed by everyone each week.

Create a positive work environment. Let the staff provide input and make choices that directly affect them. It can be as simple as letting them select the radio station or music you listen to. Request their input when selecting office furniture, equipment for a job or a software system. They will probably be using it more often than you will, and it is important they feel comfortable in the environment they spend more waking time in than their home. Creativity and positive customer focus are all by products of a positive work environment.

Hold staff meetings off-site. Take a break. Meet for breakfast at a local coffee house. Go out to lunch together. Don’t allow staff meetings to become mundane. New surroundings stimulate creativity and out of the box thinking.

Communicate regularly. More often than not, organizations fail to complete their vision because communication between the owner or administration and the frontline staff is poor. As issues or items come up, address them. Don’t wait for staff meetings. Keep your door open and always be ready to listen.

Remind the staff how important they are and express your appreciation. A verbal pat on the back is always welcome and much appreciated. Reinforce your appreciation with a few extras now and then, such as pocket flashlights, donuts or pizza for lunch.

Create mutual trust and respect. If you expect the staff to have respect for your customers, then you must provide an environment that will help them develop this skill. Respect is created and developed when you are supportive, honest and accountable for your actions, decisions and mistakes.

Provide incentives. Establish monthly goals as a team. If team members complete and accomplish their goals, then give them something special. It can be a gift certificate, a round of golf or concert tickets. Make it something they want so they become excited about completing their monthly goals.

Support their professional growth and development. Staff development is just as important for the frontline as it is for management. An investment in your staff’s professional growth is an investment in your organization. Establish training needs with the staff on a regular basis. Make completion of training programs an important part of their annual evaluation.

Honor individual strengths. One staff member may be particularly skilled at dealing with irate customers while another has exceptional telephone skills or skills performing a difficult fabrication task. Realize that each employee has special natural abilities and strengths they bring to the job. Capitalize on those strengths by shifting leadership for projects or to handle specific client needs.

Solve problems together. For the most part, people want to be challenged. Employees want to be part of the solution process. By involving staff in the problem-solving process, you indicate you trust their judgment and respect their opinion.

Develop shared accountability. High-performance teams establish high standards and goals and hold themselves accountable. People are willing to set those standards if they feel everyone is working together and toward the same vision in a supportive environment. People are more willing to help each other when goals are shared and the environment is supportive.

Ask questions often. As a manager or business owner, it should be your objective to constantly ask questions in order to improve the working conditions and the chances of your team to accomplish your vision.  Some of the questions you need to ask include the following:

  • What can I do to make your work life better?
  • What if…?
  • Have we considered…?
  • What are your suggestions regarding…?
  • How can we change to better serve the customer?

Set an example. A team is only as good as its leader. An owner, executive or manager must constantly set the example of how business is to be conducted. How you treat your staff is how the staff will treat the customer. Be positive, upbeat and care about your staff. After all, they are your most valuable assets.

Have fun every day. People want to work in an environment that is not only challenging but fun as well. Add humor to situations when it is appropriate. Encourage the circulation of comic strips that emphasize a point. Be willing to laugh at yourself. It indicates to the staff you also make mistakes and establishes an environment that encourages staff to risk without fear.

Often, businesses and organizations fail to develop and invest in their most important asset, their employees. If you hire well and spend time developing your staff and creating an environment that encourages creativity, risk taking, trust and respect, then your customers will ultimately benefit. Your employees are your most valuable assets. Remember to respond to their needs just like you would a client in order to develop a climate that resonates with customer care.


About the Author

Eileen O. Brownell is president of Training Solutions, a Chico, Calif.-based firm. For more than 25 years, Brownell continues to be noted as the ‘high-energy’ speaker and trainer who captivates her audiences and makes learning a lasting experience. Her expertise is in the areas of customer service, conflict resolution, communication and team development. She is licensed to use the Carlson Learning Products that enhance the learning process. Cable television stations have shown Brownell’s educational programs. She can be found in Who’s Who in California, American Women, Professional Speaking and Outstanding Young American Women. “We cannot choose the challenges that confront us. Nevertheless, we can pick our attitude and how we react,” is her philosophy.

Copyright© 2002, Eileen O. Brownell. All right reserved. For information, contact FrogPond at email [email protected]

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