Team Goals, Rules, and Strategies

Welcome to the third of three posts on Team Engagement.  Here’s where we Sharpen the Saw (as Stephen Covey would say) in regards to keeping Teams focused and productive.

Let’s say you’ve managed to Engage your Team, and worked on making them more Effective, how do you ensure that they stay on track?  I find the following are important behaviours to keep in mind and keep us focused:

  • “Team Time”  As teams strengthen, it’s only natural that some members will build their own relationships.  Be aware of how members naturally congregate and see how that strengthens their work. Use “team” time (electronic or in person) to encourage members to share their knowledge and experiences.  Encourage their group discussions and delegate resolutions (or solutions) to them. If anyone feels left out (or you notice that they aren’t as engaged) remind them of how everyone’s contribution, skills, and thoughts work together to reach the team (and company) goals. You should always be in a position to connect the work being done by the team to the impact on the company’s success.
  • Team Goals.  Speaking of goals, it’s extremely important that the team understands what those are and where they stand in relation to company goals.  Items of note in regards to success:
    • Teamwork.  Together, the boat rows faster.  Address any roadblocks be they process, technical, or people. The same point I made regarding not letting minor disputes linger applies here. If something is tripping up the team, clear it up.
    • Performance. What does “success” mean to the team? Discuss everyone’s opinion on “Team Success” and establish an evaluation criteria together.
    • Challenges. Are there outside influences impacting the team? Every team has some members who seem to be regularly pulled into other emergencies.  Make sure interruptions and the impacts of those interruptions are understood by all stakeholders. Your schedule will suffer and your stress level increased if it’s not handled properly.
    • Clarity of Solution. Is the team clear on what needs to be accomplished and how success will be measured or what timeframes are important?  It’s sometimes easy to be bogged down by trying to get the “perfect” solution, but not at the expense of hitting milestones. The better the focus on the goalpost, the clearer the road to get there.
    • Clarity of Members. Does everyone know their roles and responsibilities? When it comes to a team, your official title does not denote your only responsibilities. Everyone on the team should understand what is expected of them. For example, who completes the documentation? Who reviews it? Who is responsible for external communication? Who gives the final sign-off on a process or a delivery? Don’t let assumptions ruin a team’s cohesion.
  • Team Rules. By the same token of setting boundaries between the leader and the members, boundaries should exist within the team as well. Make sure everyone is aware of them, accepts them, and commits to them.  Some sample rules could include:
    • Time. Start meetings on time, end meetings 5 minutes prior to the end. No one, and I really do mean no one, should be forced to wait for meetings to start. The reason we all deal with agendas and schedules is to ensure everyone is available when they are needed. If you can’t make it, don’t accept.  If you accept, be there on time. By extension, don’t wait until the very last minute of the meeting to end it. Everyone should be allowed 5 minutes (or even 10 depending on how long the actual meeting is) to get to their next meeting or at least go for a bio-break.
    • Respect. Everyone should get a chance to speak or have an opinion. No one should be talking over anyone else.  If necessary, ensure each meeting has a moderator.
    • Agreements. How does the team reach consensus on actions? This is where a moderator (if it is not you) is important to gather opinions.
    • Debate. How long can we discuss until we either vote on an action or agree to push forward? Does everyone need a voice (although as a leader, you should encourage feedback). Is further information required? Can the decision wait until a follow-up meeting?  Or is an answer required at that moment? Was the decision coercion or consensus? Agreeing to disagree is ok and does sometimes happen, but everyone should understand the implications of the decisions (both business and project-wise).

In summary, I would have to say these are my top 5 strategies for Teams:

  1. Get to know them – who they are, how they like to work, what challenges them.
  2. Engage them: Give them what they like to do and the leeway to do it (whenever possible).
  3. Focus them: Make sure they know what needs to be done and why.
  4. Get buy-in: Prove they have a voice and that everyone’s opinion is respected.
  5. Communicate: this is the clincher. Keep them in the loop. Explain decisions. Update them when something changes. Share knowledge. Share expectations. Get them working and thinking as a cohesive unit and not just individuals. Teach them to play ideas against each other to find the right solution.

Obviously, what works for me doesn’t always work for everyone else. After all, every team has its own restrictions and challenges. Either way, I hope these last few articles have given you ideas to try out or at least hope that building effective and engaged teams is possible!

(Disclaimer: Mike Aragona recently underwent Starfleet Academy Training and was confirmed as being able to join the Communications team due to his near-perfect score.  Considering the amount of articles and discussions he’s had on the importance of Communication, he found that extremely appropriate, especially in relation to his love of languages.  His thoughts and opinions are his alone and do not reflect any person or company associated with him, alive or dead. Qapla’!)


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