Tomorrow is the first day of March, and I hereby designate March as National Teamwork Month. Yes, I have randomly declared 31 days as my own unofficial holiday. No, I won’t change my mind. Why? Because we all need a good reminder of what the power of teams can accomplish. And what better way to kick that off than with an amazing tool from noted organizational psychologist, Dr. Daniel Crosby.

teamtypeMy TeamType is an assessment that you can administer for teams in your organization to determine where they fall in terms of overall performance. And for the month of March, I have a special bonus for anyone who orders an assessment for their team(s). Read on for more details.

My experience

When I was testing this tool recently, we had a new manager join our organization. I saw that as a prime opportunity to help them understand where their team currently was on the scale as well as some ideas for how to move them even farther down the road toward an ascending team. That is a good option for any team, but for one with a new manager, I knew that it would be a great way to help get a grasp on how the team saw itself as the new person took the reins as the leader of the group. Continue reading

I’ve talked here before about teams and what makes them work (or not). Have you ever stopped to think about why it’s so difficult to get teams working in the right direction?

    1. Different people want different things from their work.
    2. Different personal styles/personalities.
    3. Interpersonal communication preferences.
    4. Power struggles and competing agendas.
    5. Politics.
    6. Lack of participation.
    7. Members who reject new ideas because “we’ve never done it that way before.”
    8. People with a constant sense of negativity.
    9. Team that agrees on everything too quickly just to avoid conflict. Continue reading

    I have been studying the performance of several teams both within and outside our organization, and over time I have seen one key predictor of success or failure for team performance: community. When community is lacking, or in more common terms, when the team members don’t have care and concern for each other, failure will soon result.

    Yes, having the right skills is important, but we’ve probably all worked on highly skilled, yet highly dysfunctional, teams in the past.

    Video: Building Team Community

    Check out the video below for how community ties into teamwork and 5 ways to develop a stronger sense of community for a team:

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    Video Notes

    5 tips to build community

    1. Get away from the office.
    2. Take time in meetings to talk about personal things, even if for a few minutes.
    3. Have inside jokes. If they don’t exist, create them.
    4. Create recurring opportunities for people to air grievances and get on the same page. And DO NOT let this become a “checklist” item. It must be meaningful or it’s not worth the effort.
    5. Individual success is team success. Individual failure is team failure. If it ever gets to “well, at least it wasn’t MY project that tanked,” then you’re in trouble. Because when your focus area is in need, the rest of the team will be able to reply, “well, at least it isn’t MY job…”

    Teams don’t become great by accident or just by being lucky. Consider which of the methods you could use to inject some community into your team, then make it happen.

    For more info and team-related goodness, check out The Orange Revolution book review.

    Great teams can propel organizations to new levels of success. Today we’re looking at how to improve team performance with an approach that has proven results across a spectrum of cultural, geographic, and generational challenges. A few years ago The Orange Revolution was written by Adrian Gostick and Chester Elton. The book focuses on great teams and where they come from. According to the authors, there are four things that skilled leaders do in order to develop great teams.

    1. Ensure the right people join
    2. Translate corporate goals into team goals
    3. Facilitate great team conduct
    4. Promote a culture of appreciation

    great team blue angelsWhen looking at teambuilding through that list of requirements, it’s easy to see how each of these elements can tie into the plan. Let’s break it down to each individual component and discuss each in turn.

    Ensure the right people join

    This is the crucial first step. Especially when looking at cross-cultural teams that might involve language barriers, geographical distance, or other difficult pieces, it’s important to select the correct individuals that will “mesh” with each other and be able to collaborate effectively.

    Translate corporate goals into team goals

    This is often one of the more difficult pieces for team members to understand. Many are familiar with individual goals, but translating those up into top level team goals and overarching corporate goals can be more challenging. The essential power of a good team comes when each member understands the unified purpose and works toward a common goal.

    Facilitate great team conduct

    The majority of people have worked with a team that didn’t get along well. The variety of attitudes, beliefs, and behaviors in the workplace virtually guarantees that there will be occasional friction; however, a good team lead will help to reduce that friction and enable each person to contribute to their fullest abilities.

    Want to learn more about leading a team? Check out How to Manage a Team.

    Promote a culture of appreciation

    Sometimes, a difficult piece of working with a team could be a lack of individual appreciation for a job well done. Helping each team member understand how they can provide appreciation and recognition to their peers will increase overall satisfaction within and among the group.

    These four key elements to building great teams are a great reminder that there is substantial potential for great performance in a well-built team.

    I’ve struggled with this for a long time, but knowing when to hire an employee is a key skill to have. We’ve been growing steadily in recent months, and the pressure has continued to increase. In just a few short weeks, I’ll have my first employee (part time, but better than nothing!) to help keep things moving in the right direction. I can’t wait! Today I want to talk a little about when to make the decision to hire someone else.

    I’m going to assume that your company, like mine, is trying to stay lean and competitive, so adding people on a whim is not going to fly in this case. Here are a few of the pieces of the puzzle that had to be in place for me to support the need for more help in building a new HR department.

    3 tips for when to hire an employee

    1. You have to be working hard. It might seem silly or simplistic so say that out loud, but many people are just going through the motions and not giving it everything they have. Your manager needs to see you giving it everything you’ve got or there will be no leverage or data to back up your claim for more people. Here’s how that worked for me-In the past two months I’ve been recruiting pretty much nonstop. I’ve been taking care of a minimum amount of HR duties to keep things moving, but some things are just having to fall through the cracks. I’m keeping my manager in the loop to make sure we are targeting the same priorities, and he is very aware of what is and is not getting done. As that list of “not done” items starts reaching critical mass, it becomes an imperative statement on when to hire an employee.
    2. You have to know what you want. This was (and still is) the hardest for me. Do you want a seasoned professional to come in and take over a piece of the HR workload? Do you want an admin to come in, help with the data and paper shuffle, and grow into a specialty area over time? What specific tasks are you willing to give up?For a few weeks now I have been building a profile for the “perfect” candidate. I wanted them to be entry-level, have few preconceived notions about HR, and be a solid culture fit hire. I want them to take over some specific areas of the HR function so I can focus on some other key areas.
    3. Hire what you need and don’t get sidetracked. This one is tough for many people, and the hiring team definitely fell into this trap until we pulled ourselves back out. If you’re hiring for someone to handle benefits, don’t disqualify someone because they aren’t chatty and personable. If you’re hiring someone to take over your recruiting, pay more attention to their physical and verbal cues than you do to their college degree. You’re selecting someone for a specific role, and you will never find the person with 100% of the qualifications, experience, etc. that you want. That’s why you make up a fake profile for the perfect candidate and start bouncing applicants off that standard. It helps you to see which areas are critical and which are just “nice to have.” Hire for what you need, and don’t get sidetracked halfway through the process by a flashy candidate who might be a great hire but a poor fit for the tasks, team, or culture.

    You’ll notice I didn’t talk about an HR to employee ratio at all within the context of this article. I know those ratios are all over the map and don’t necessarily measure the right thing anyway. I wanted to focus on what to look for if you are trying to decide when to hire an employee.

    For those of you who have had to determine when to hire an employee, what

    Many of us think we know how to build a new team, but it isn’t as easy as many of us might think. This process happens every day in organizations, whether people realize it or not. Let’s look at what I normally tell managers when they consider adding a new staff member:

    Manager: I’d like to open a req and add someone to my team.

    Me: Let me talk with you about how to build a new team. When you add a person to a team, you’re not just making it a larger team. You’re creating an entirely new group with new dynamics, roles, and responsibilities.

    Manager: Yeah, but we just need to add a person. We already have a good team.

    Me: Don’t look at it as adding a Lego to the top of the stack; look at it as if you’re taking the existing structure, tearing it down, and rebuilding it with the new piece added in.

    how to build a new teamTips for how to build a new team

    This topic hit me the other day when I read a post on the Ask a Manager blog. A reader was asking if it would be acceptable to meet and talk with some of the future coworkers before accepting a job with the company. Here was the initial response from Alison:

    It’s actually surprising to me how uncommon of a request this is. Considering how much of an impact your coworkers will have on your quality of life, you’d think more people would want to do this.

    That said, it is a fairly unusual request, particularly outside of senior level positions. That doesn’t mean you can’t ask it, though — you can. But because it’s unusual, you want to pay attention to how you word it. I’d say something like, “I’m really excited about this position. Before I formally accept, would it be possible to talk with others in the department to get a sense of how everyone works together? I’d love to have coffee with the people I’d be working closest with, or even just come in to talk with them, if possible.”

    I think that’s a great idea, and I’m also surprised how many people don’t do this. I think a part of the reason we don’t get many of these requests is in the way we structure our interviews.

    Our interviews focus on how to build a new team

    Our interview process normally goes like this for positions at our Huntsville office:

    1. We interview 5-6 people in the first round. This is normally with me (HR) and the hiring manager.
    2. We bring back 2-4 people in the second round. This is normally with 2-3 coworkers of the potential new hire.
    3. We bring back 1-2 people in the third round. This is to meet with the hiring manager and our President.

    In case you missed it, the second step above is key to this discussion. We let the coworkers interview the candidates, and their votes contribute to who we bring back for the final round. This has helped us to avoid two hires in the past year who looked great on paper but totally flunked the “team” interview because the candidates were dismissive and uninterested in talking with the people who would be their teammates.

    Plus the team is also highly engaged in the process and is more likely to be accepting of the candidate that is eventually chosen. The groundwork for communication and trust has been laid before the new team member even starts working. No team building session required to get started on the right foot.

    If you’re trying to learn how to build a new team, you should consider these angles or risk missing a critical step in the process. What are your tips for how to build a new team?

    The Secret of Teams: What Great Teams Know and Do by Mark Miller

    the-secret-of-teamsI recently finished reading the secret of teams, and my head is reeling. Every one of us work on a number of teams, and the concepts in this book can help us to achieve greater success within each of those team environments.

    What I liked

    Normally I throw in a bunch of text here, but today I thought I would drop in a video review. Enjoy! Continue reading