Last post

June 3, 2007

After a most enjoyable year of learning and writing about teams, teamwork and collaboration, I have decided to make this my last post to the blog. Taking on some new responsibilities professionally, I want to protect as much time for family as possible.

I am grateful for the support and readership you all have shown. The thoughtful discussion and feedback from those commenting has allowed my learning to exceed expectations. The sense of community among bloggers who are focused on personal and professional development is welcoming and inspiring. While I won’t be posting here, I will still be reading and joining the conversation whenever possible.

Thanks for reading and good teaming!


How to identify what makes your team happy, and what doesn’t?

April 24, 2007

Jochen is at it again. This time, he describes a simple, two-part exercise known as the Happiness Reality Check.

Part 1

In the first part, the team identifies the multiple sources of their happiness at work. Jochen’s team’s list included such things as challenging tasks, like-minded colleagues, and an open atmosphere – things that might show up on the lists of many teams – as well as a few items that are more team-specific.

This part of the exercise is valuable for two reasons:

  1. By naming what team members like about the work and work environment, it helps the team to recognize what is working; what is going right! Too often, the “squeaky wheels” (problems) get all the attention while the well-functioning, joyful aspects of daily activities get overshadowed. Naming the good stuff reminds us of what we like.
  2. Naming what makes us happy also provides an opportunity to find ways to spend more time and energy on those “happiness” activities, and to spread the environmental factors that lead to happiness. For most people, greater happiness brings greater productivity and energy, so it makes sense to maximize happiness.

Part 2

The second part of the exercise is to identify those things that make team members unhappy. I was pleasantly surprised to see the team’s list shorter for this aspect than in part 1. It included such items as office noise, repetitive task and interruptions. (The last may be on everyone’s list!)

The critical aspect of Part 2 is for the team to also develop a strategy for minimizing the “unhappiness” factors. For example, to reduce the negative effect of repetitive tasks, the team resolved to better “use technology to automate them as much as possible.”

I have not yet conducted the exercise with any of my teams, but I hope to soon. Take a look at Jochen’s post and give the Happiness Reality Check a whirl. It might just make you happy!


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Six keys to a new team member’s success

April 23, 2007

Work teams often face situations in which new team members join the team. Teams can smooth the transition by providing a thorough orientation for these new members. When they gain knowledge about such things as process, procedures, and available tools, new team members can quickly begin applying their talents and skills to the team’s purpose.

While taking steps to orient new team members seems like common sense, orientation often gets pushed to the back burner, overshadowed by what may seem to be higher priorities. However, because there are always new members, it is never to late to plan for your next new team member orientation!

Here are six keys to a thorough orientation designed to ensure a new team member’s success.

  1. Partnering with a ‘buddy’. Current team members who will work side-by-side with a new member can do a great job with orientation because they have the knowledge to function in the same environment as the new member. A buddy system also reinforces a culture of interdependence among team members.
  2. Understanding the culture. Teams often develop their own culture, which is a combination of the over-arching organizational culture and a more localized aspect based on the people and the purpose of the team. Culture includes: the core values acknowledged by the team; how members conduct the themselves in work-related and personal matters; and the language, vocabulary and communication styles used in the team’s environment.
  3. Navigating the organization. This is critical if the new team member is coming from outside the organization, but it is also good to review with members who may be transferring internally. You want to ensure they are comfortable with the names, faces, titles, roles, and reporting relationships that effect the team.
  4. Utilizing the procedures. To get things accomplished in any organization, teams deal with a number of procedures that have been adopted and adapted over time. New team members were likely pros at utilizing procedures on their last team, but they may become stalled at every turn without structured guidance. Procedures are designed to facilitate work, not hamper it. Don’t let them become traps for new team members.
  5. Accessing the tools. A new team member may be a whiz at the team’s primary software programs, but they have to know how to access the shared drive to be able to collaborate. Tools can include technology, supplies, administrative support, and other resources.
  6. Committing to the mission. The basis of any business team is that the members share a common purpose – to achieve the team’s mission. New team members can be at a disadvantage if they join a team that has a well defined purpose, yet their commitment is necessary to their success and that of the team. In addition to ensuring that they understand the mission, the team may need to reengage in discussion of its purpose so that new members can be heard and become fully committed.

Teams can probably draft the key contents of their new member orientation during a single meeting, then set about refining it as needed. The process of developing the orientation is often instructional itself because differences in understandings or opinion among current team members may arise, or nuances in individual approaches will be revealed.

A thorough orientation is not the only factor in determining the success of a new team member (but it is an important one). For example, I discussed before how the existing team structure influences how quickly new members can begin to significantly contribute to the team. All else equal, teams with an established structure and culture can more easily integrate new members than teams that are only loosely organized, especially when the new members are good fits for the previous structure.

How does your team integrate new members? Have you identified other key components of a thorough orientation?


Credit to Leader’s Edge and Dr. Seymour Adler for inspiration.


Related posts: A metaphor for teamworking
Using short-hand communication within teams


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Teamwork, trust and kept promises

April 17, 2007

NvestNtech founder Peter Kusterer offers a simple, well-told story illustrating that trust is a key component in teamwork.

As the early morning of a new day unfolded, the quiet procession of trucks, men, and equipment were nearly silent; you could barely make out their silhouettes in the low light of dawn. They were getting ready to take care of a large tree at my neighbor’s home that was beginning to lose its footing.

Credit bacigalupeQuietly in the dark they went about their prep work. Words were exchanged quietly with many actions being taken without speaking to each other.I was struck by the professionalism of this team.

Although it wasn’t clear to me, they seemed to understand what each other needed and how they worked together. It didn’t take long to see that each member had a specific role and duty to carry out.

This is dangerous work and you could see the trust each man placed in the other.

The story caught my attention, in part, because my father used to tell me stories of the tree removal crew he worked on as a young man. Perhaps because of that experience, Dad taught my brothers and me how to look out for the safety of each other when handling tools and equipment during group work such as hay baling or trout line rigging. Even more, we learned to accomplish our tasks in ways that helped add to the efficiency and effectiveness of the other person.

As with the tree crew in Peter’s story or my own youthful experiences, teams in professional organizations require a high level of trust among team members to meet their performance objectives.

How is a high level of trust achieved? Through kept promises!

Here is how Jon R. Katzenbach and Douglas K. Smith explain it in The Wisdom of Teams.

At its core, team accountability is about the sincere promises we make to ourselves and others, promises that underpin two critical aspects of effective teams: commitment and trust. By promising to hold our selves accountable to the team’s goals, we each earn the right to express our own views about all aspects of the team’s effort and to have our views receive a fair and constructive hearing. By following through on such a promise we preserve and extend the trust upon which any team must be built.

Whether the team’s goal is the safe felling of a large tree or the on-time, within-budget production of a project deliverable, success rests upon the team members’ trust of one another; trust to keep promises.

Find Peter’s entire post here.


Related posts:
Rebuilding shattered trust
8 essential elements for trusting teams
Trust is a two-way street
Three steps for building trust in teams and organizations

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Become curious about resistance

April 11, 2007

Talk to the HandHaving trouble convincing team mates to adopt your suggestions? Feeling that your ideas are meeting resistance more so than collaboration? Maybe it’s time to take another look at what you can learn from resistance.

Dale H. Emery explores “resistance” in this rich article, Resistance as a Resource. (via Mishkin)

…the key to resolving resistance — is to become curious. Before trying to convince someone, learn at least one more thing about the person’s point of view. A great way to learn is to explore people’s responses — especially the responses that strike you as resistance. Every response carries valuable information, clues about the person, about the environment around you, about your request, or about yourself. Treat each response as a precious resource.

Emery provides an in-depth examination of 4 factors that may lead to resistance when one person makes a request of others:

  • expectations about the request
  • communication about the request
  • the relationship with the person making the request
  • influences from the environment

One take-away: Resistance is a natural reaction that should be anticipated when working with others. By learning what is behind the resistance, we can ferret out weaknesses in our own strategy and make adjustments. The result will lead to overcoming resistance and improving the plan overall.

Be curious; take a look at the article here.


Related post:
Asking the right questions to facilitate teamwork

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Team linking

March 31, 2007

Three for 3/31.

The Practice of Leadership
It’s only in the practice of leadership that we influence our world…

[Regarding Patrick Lencioni’s “The Five Dysfunctions of a Team”] The book is a small and easy to read and the model provided is simple to understand making it a powerful tool for helping teams improve. I highly recommend this book to anyone, who leads a team. This book will help you understand what a successful team looks and feels like.

Michael’s Thoughts
Think (research, analyze) Write (articles, blog) Engage (consult, speak)

One of the problems in the way we use email is that it creates unnecessary communication missives that all have apparent equal importance when viewed in an individual’s inbox. If we were in a face-to-face (very traditional team model) environment and I was expecting something from you, I’d amble over to your desk and ask “how’s it going with your document?”. You’d answer, and get back to work. In an email-facilitated environment, I send you a message to request an update. Now let’s think through the difference…

All Things Workplace
Real-life Stories, Tips, and Techniques for creating top notch workplaces, performance, and work life. . . for executives, leaders, employees, and their coaches/consultants.

Whenever one person leaves or one person enters a group, the dynamics change. Why? We learn how to function in our groups based on the roles people play, how they play them, and the balance of power and influence that results.That means that each time the group composition changes, it’s a signal to sit down and talk.


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Ready; Set; GO!

March 30, 2007

I have the privilege of posting the final review in the month-long A Love Affair with Books at Joyful Jubilant Learning. It’s been a tremendous month of learning about books regarding every possible aspect of life and the world we live in!

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If you’ve been reading this blog lately, you can guess which book I reviewed; Go Put Your Strengths to Work by Marcus Buckingham.

Please click over, check out the review, and join the conversation!


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