Building a Great Work Team

By on February 15, 2008
Building a Great Work Team

So they said you should be a team player. What’s so great about that? The Cardinals and the Rams are teams – look what happened to them. Besides, you’re an expert, you know what’s what. Working with others would only slow you down and cramp your style. Maybe we ought to rethink this teamwork stuff.

On the other hand, what if something happens that keeps you from putting your expertise into action. You could get reassigned, you might have to go out of town at a crucial moment, you could get sick, you could get playoff tickets . . . Hmmm . . . Maybe having some people around who could help out and watch your back wouldn’t be so bad.

OK, who’d be good on the team? People who know their stuff? Check. People who get along with you and each other? Check. People who share the vision? Check. In other words, people who are just like you! But wait . . . What was it that guy from the Workforce Solutions Group said last month? Oh yeah. He said,

“The best teams are made up of people from diverse backgrounds, with different kinds of experiences, and who can cooperate in pursuing the team’s goals.”

Well, you can go along with the cooperation part, but what’s so important about diversity? Anyway, you did that workshop already. What else did he say?

“When a team is involved in making decisions together, they are more likely to work harder to carry out those decisions than if the decisions were just handed to them. The best decisions are made by teams who bring different backgrounds and experiences to the table. That way they don’t overlook issues or problems that might get past people who all come from the same background.”

Well, that makes sense. So you’ll need a couple of people from engineering, maybe someone from logistics, a marketing guy – nahhh! OK, OK, a marketing person, too. What about that new person from the IT Department? She’s so young, what does she know? Well, she might be more in touch with what younger people want and how they can be reached. She’d be really good with the web version of our new announcement, too.

Let’s see, anybody else? What about that guy from production, the one who was just transferred from New York? He’s kind of pushy and argumentative. He might hold things up. Wait, what’s that voice in your head saying? It’s that Workforce Solutions Group guy again.

“To make sure you don’t ramrod decisions through, you need a ‘devil’s advocate.’ That’s someone who is responsible for purposely looking for the downside of your team’s decisions to ensure you don’t overlook a potential problem.”

All right, the New York guy is in. But that’s it. Any more people and you won’t get enough time for people to participate fully and get to talk things out. Seven is a really good size for a work team.

Looks like you’re ready to put this team to work. Yep, this is going to be the best St. Patrick’s Day celebration ever!

Team Charters: What’s the Point?

Team building is a process that has taken on more than one meaning. What do you think of when you see or hear the term? You might think about a day off in the country, with some fun and games, maybe a little rope climbing, lots of rah-rah, etc.

On the other hand, you might think about how to get a group of people at your workplace to cooperate with one another to bring about a desired result that will benefit the organization all of you work for. If that’s your idea of team building, then I’ve got something for you – it’s called a team charter.*

Whenever you put a new team together you want to make sure that after you’ve decided who will be on the team, these people know what they’re there for. Chartering the team means leading them through a process of deciding their:

  • Purpose: the focus of the team’s efforts, its primary reason for existence, and how the team supports the organization’s goals
  • Accountabilities: the team’s main job responsibilities and deliverables, budgetary issues, etc.
  • Goals and deadlines: what they need to accomplish and how, when, and by whom it will be accomplished
  • Ways of measuring and displaying success: how progress is tracked and reported on
  • General ground rules: behaviors and expectations regarding work, communicating with one another, decision making methods, etc.
  • Specific meeting ground rules: frequency, duration and mechanics of meetings

The chartering process is not trivial. Depending on the type and size of the team, the process of chartering could take a couple of hours, or all day. Don’t have that kind of time, you say? Do you have time to have people go in circles, bicker, blame, fail to show up, not know who’s doing what? The fact is that taking the time necessary to develop a team charter that everyone agrees to up front will save your organization time, money, and the cost of a stress management workshop down the line. It will also maximize your opportunities to please your boss, your staff, and – most importantly – your customers.

Perhaps you’ve heard of the stages of team development:

  • Forming
  • Storming
  • Norming
  • Performing

It takes every team a certain amount of time to get started (forming). They need to get to know each other, learn each other’s talents and capabilities, develop some trust, etc. Once the work itself begins, they might find themselves going in circles (storming) for a while, until they learn how to collaborate effectively, get past their personality quirks, etc. When this happens, they can begin moving forward on their tasks (norming) and make some progress toward their goals. Finally, they get the hang of it and begin moving at full speed (performing) as their skills and experience complement one another and create a true team atmosphere. People in high performing teams see their mistakes as learning opportunities, not what people get blamed for; they’re willing to ask each other for help; they value their diversity; and they’re willing to share their ideas with one another for the achievement of their common goals.

The value of a team charter is to shorten the amount of time needed in the first three stages, and to move as quickly as possible into the performing stage, where the real work gets done and where the real results happen. The charter helps team members to build commitment to tasks, goals and purpose of the team itself and to set aside personal goals and issues that get in the way of team progress.

As the team succeeds and the organization prospers, maybe you can find some time for some fun and games in the country.

For more information on advancing your business by providing leadership and professional development training to your employees, contact Barry Schapiro at 314-539-5329.

* The team charter and associated concepts are used courtesy of DDI.

About Barry Schapiro

Barry is the Workforce Solutions Group Practice Leader for Leadership and Professional Development. His experience includes delivery and management of business training in a variety of industries, with specialties in leadership, team development, generational diversity, and customer service. Twitter

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