Productive Teams Just Don’t Happen…

Working for a long time in corporate America as I had, I got the opportunity to work for some pretty amazing people. The reverse was true as well… The best lessons of how to make a team function well come from both sides of the spectrum. The great ones and the bad ones.. Examples are the best teachers!

How did the “they” get their teams to work well.. How did they get people from diverse backgrounds to really produce? Here are some of the examples..

Let us do the thinking – The best team that I was ever on, we did not always agree, we never settled for what the manager said or the status quo. We challenged each other to think, to look beyond just what everyone else was doing and we never settled for the easy way. Our manager was one that pushed us to not sit back and follow the instructions of others – we were the leaders of the organization and we needed to lead. One of the last managers I had, used to put everything together with a “select” few and pass out what is happening to the group. Really was not a great place for innovation. Involve the team – give the team the first crack on what needs to happen; before the tablets are written.

Let us see – Sometimes the big strategic mission and plans were passed down in the form of mission statements and budgets. The really good managers would let us review those and put into our words (for the organization and our teams) what all that meant and how we were going to accomplish our part of the bigger picture. We got connected to that bigger picture. We connected the dots for our teams and ourselves. The really bad leaders would pretty much leave us in the dark. We really never understood what we were doing and how we connected to the bigger picture. My best move with my team’s was to involve them in reviewing what was completed and passed down – then we would develop where “we” fit and how it felt to us.

Let us get it done – Everyone wants to get stuff done… Part of being the leaders is giving up control when needed. The really good leaders would let the team take actions on their own – as individuals and as a team. The best leader I had, would let us do the work and would hold us accountable. When it came time to get stuff done, we did and enjoyed it! All we needed to do was get it done.

Let us play – Getting leadership teams to work together is sometimes difficult. It takes a good leader to push interact between the leadership team (the “A” team). Each leader had their own teams that they led and it would be easy for them to get wrapped up in their own “stuff.” Some of the bad leaders would pass on developing their “A” team. The lower level teams would see how dysfunctional the leadership team was and just wonder – they are our leaders?

Let us do the talking – It is so easy as the overall leader to do all the talking. Let your team do most of the talking and you do the listening. Listening uncovers so much. You actually may get a better sense of what is going on within the whole organization. Additionally, set up time to meet and discuss with the lower level teams (again, let them talk and you listen). It is very hard to listen when you mouth is in action.

Let us fail (as long as no one gets hurt) – My very first leader that I can remember said, “there is more success in failure.” Making mistakes happen, learning from mistakes are lessons that will last a life time. I used to struggle with this early on in my career, failing was not an option (or at least I thought it was not). I quickly learned a valuable lesson when I did something that I had done before (it worked before) and it failed terribly (this time). When I reviewed everything from the first time (it worked) till when it failed, I quickly learned I was lucky the first time. I forgot something that needed to happen that I am now aware of (and have not made that mistake again). As long as no one is going to get hurt or injured – sometimes it is okay to fail.

Let us have fun – One of my favorite phrases, “We work hard, so we play hard.” We used to enjoy getting together as a team and having fun. Of course, we did some of that out of the work environment with teambuilding… We also used to have fun in the workplace. It really did not matter where – fun was just built into our team DNA. Many folks will say, “work is not supposed to be fun.” I usually come back with, “I spend way too much time “at work” not to have fun. Where is there harm in having some fun at work?” Teams are about relationships. Fun can only help with building a strong relationship with each other. Translating into a better team.

I hope this helps you when you are looking at leading your teams…