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Considering a team development exercise within your group? What you need to think about.

Before you invest time and money into team development and improving teamwork skills there are some necessary questions to ask; these will directly impact your success in this area.

Do we have a clearly defined culture?

Have we clearly defined the skills and abilities necessary for all positions in our organization? Do we know the “psychometric” drivers that affect our employees’ performance?
Have we assessed the strengths and weaknesses of the individuals on our team so that we best know how they need to be managed and what motivates/de-motivates them?
Are our business goals and objectives clearly defined, and are our people aligned with them?

What do you do if one of these folks drops his piece?
Swimming upstream

If you don’t have these things in place and have disparate hires on your team you may be swimming upstream, and the exercise of team development may be quite challenging. For example, if you have a team member who is a lone wolf, getting this individual to work effectively in a team setting may be next to impossible. If you have a member of the team who has communication issues, you have a whole other problem to deal with. You need to get these critical alignment and hiring issues in place before you attempt to work on team development. If you haven’t aligned your talent strategy with your business strategy this will be one more thing standing in the way of successful team development.

Now you’re cooking with gas

Let’s assume these items are in place and you’re highering effectively for them.

The first thing I’d recommend you do is to gather your team and tell them what you’re up to. Tell them that you’re committed to successfully developing the team and will do what’s necessary to make that happen. Tell them that the outcome of this exercise will be a well-oiled “machine”. It will create a team that is happy to be there and working in harmony and without drama. Be straight with them and do it in an authentic way. They’ll know if you’re blowing sunshine up their skirts.

Next, ask each of your people to make a list (give them a “by when” to complete it) of what’s working and not working for them when it comes to the team. Be very clear that they have the freedom to speak their minds with NO negative consequences, even if the comments are about you and you don’t like what you hear. The reason for this is to give each of your people an opportunity to express themselves without any fear of what others will think, especially if this is your first time going through a process like this.

Once you’ve collected each of their comments, sit down one on one, and discuss what each has to say. Be present and listen. Ask questions. Be curious. All these things will have them feel heard and engage them more fully.

After you’ve had the opportunity to sit down with each team member it’s time to get the group together for some uninterrupted collaboration. When I say “uninterrupted” that means no phones or email at the meeting. Ask your team to suggest ground rules for the meeting. For example:

No zingers/digging
No one is “wrong”/everyone is “right”
No crosstalk
Communicate effectively
Listen with intent and an open mind
Be authentic
Take care of your own needs
Respect others’ perspectives
Bring the lists you gathered with notes from each conversation you had. Make sure that each point gets covered. You can also use flip charts to make a list of all the items you need to cover as a group. Make it a comfortable space to be in. Bring in food. Be sure to set any necessary follow up items at the end of the meeting with a date to have them completed. Schedule a brief meeting once you’ve finished the process to get complete and cover any items that came up after the meeting.

The amount of work you need to do for this type of team development will determine the time it takes to achieve your goals. If you’ve never been through this type of exercise I’d recommend you allow 3-4 hours in an initial meeting. See where you are and how much you’ve accomplished and go from there. I’d also recommend you find a facilitator to manage the process unless you are experienced at this. Using a facilitator also has the benefit of you (the manager) being part of the collaboration.

Creator and Host,

Carol Schultz

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