How to Build a Team Like the NBA

building teamsIf you know me, you know I’m not a sports person. I don’t watch. I don’t follow.

It’s not that I have some strong dislike for sports. It’s just that when I stopped doing them in high school, I lost all interest. I can watch them, if I am at a live event or if I don’t have an alternative. But when I’m listing things I look forward to each week, that isn’t at the top of my list. If you’re like me, then this post is still going to be valuable for you!

That’s because despite my indifference to sports, at the same time it’s hard as a leader and as an HR pro not to think about some of the innate elements of building a high-performance team that stir my attention.

For several months out of the year, sports fans are focused on the NBA season and its teams and players. Yet one concept that isn’t often considered is the talent management strategy behind these teams. As the New York Post notes, dozens of team changes can happen on the first day of trading. How does the free agent model of employment affect teams and performance? What might enable or prevent new talent from connecting with team members?

The Core Element of Teambuilding

One of the core principles of building a team is this: a team’s existing dynamics change when you add someone new to the mix. In other words, you don’t just add one or more people to an existing team — you create an entirely new team any time you make a new hire. It’s like a recipe. While you might have separate elements, once you integrate them you create something new and different each time.

This concept is important to grasp, both for those leading a team and for those on it. It can be common for hiring managers to believe that adding a new hire to a team will change everything. However, it’s often a surprise to later find out that despite careful planning, things are just not the same after new talent is hired.

If you’re enjoying this post and want to learn more about how to match team fit and stability with a diverse set of individual strengths, click here to read the rest of my article on the ADP Spark blog

Teamwork Lessons from Dragon Boat Racing

So this weekend I participated in something I’ve never done before. Dragon boat racing.

dragon slayersYeah, I had never heard of it before, either.

The gist of it is this:

  • Each team has 16-20 paddlers in the boat at once, plus a drummer
  • You’re racing a straight course against other teams
  • First boat to cross the finish line wins

And that’s actually pretty much the whole thing. We had a great time, and we actually missed out on placing in our division by less than one second. I think our best/final time was around 1 minute, 16 seconds. Neat stuff!

A reminder for the workplace

As we ran through our practice run last week, we were all pretty clueless at the beginning. We were all splashing and paddling as hard as we could to try to get the boat moving. However, it wasn’t until we slowed down and got in sync that we really started moving. Continue reading

Preventing Conflict in the Workplace

If asked, many HR professionals would say that preventing conflict in the workplace is one of their key job duties. However, I’d like to step back from that well-known requirement and re-examine the need for civility at all costs. Let’s kick off with a quote:

It means caring a lot about not offending someone. Let’s be clear, to be civil is good. Civil behavior is a useful part of a healthy team. However, it can’t be the defining characteristic of the team. Great performance means tough conversations, which is why candor should always trump civility. Candor refers to interactions defined by honest, frank and, forthright exchanges. No sugar-coating, just professional and somewhat blunt conversation. Credit: Lynda.com

Recently I was evaluating some training for some of our supervisors, and I ran across this comment. I think within the realm of human resources management, this type of thinking is more critical than almost any other area of the business. Think about it: we’re supposed to facilitate civility in the workplace. We’re supposed to help eliminate friction, prevent hurt feelings, and ensure a sense of “peace in the family.”

Preventing conflict in the workplace? That’s our job

In fact, if you’re an in-the-trenches HR kind of person, you probably thought of an ongoing situation where you’re trying to facilitate civility as you read that last paragraph. It’s just what we do, right?

But maybe we shouldn’t?

Recently I wrote about the relationship between the Chief Executive Officer of an organization and the key HR leader. The thing that CEOs want most out of HR? Candor.

[Related: Here’s what 76% of CEOs appreciate about HR]

Not only do CEOs want to share candidly with HR without fear of the information being used against them; they also want HR to speak candidly with them about problems and opportunities. The relationship is too critical to allow it to be hampered by the desire to pursue civility at all costs.

The next time you’re looking at a situation that requires you to choose between being open and honest (and possibly causing conflict at work) or trying to smooth things over to prevent any negative response, make sure you are not diminishing the message so much that it loses all value.

Introducing My TeamType

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

Team Difficulties-Why is this so hard?

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

The Biggest Killer of Teams Is…

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.

4 Necessities for High Performing Teams

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.