Building a Team – 4 Tips to Build Your Dream Team
Great teams just don't happen magically, though. Building a team takes hard work and commitment, but there are some things you can do to make it easier.

Building a Team – 4 Tips to Build Your Dream Team

The great thing about being a leader is all the great people on our teams. Great teams just don’t happen magically, though. Building a team takes hard work and commitment, but there are some things you can do to make it easier. In the military, we very rarely had the same people on a team from beginning to end. People were always moving in and out or getting reassigned. We were always in a mode of developing talent on our team and building our leadership capacity on those teams. Hopefully, you have a little bit more stability on your team. The tips in this post tips should help you build your team, whether you’re starting a new team for a brand new project, bringing new members to an existing team, or looking to do a little bit of development and training with your current team members.

Building a Team Tip #1 – Assess Your Needs

First and foremost, assess the needs of your team. Your needs could be skills, experience or knowledge. This is helpful if you’ve already got an existing team and you need to bring in a new member. We don’t always get to choose the members of our team, but if you do, look at the skills you need on your team. Find someone who’s got that skill set or at least some of those skills. If you can’t find someone with exactly the skill set you need, don’t worry about it. Find someone who has most of what you need.  Develop the rest of the skills in them or in another team member.

Building a Team Tip #2 – Find People Who Complement You

When looking for people for your team, find people who complement you and the other members of your team. Look for people who complement you in areas you’re not as strong, as well as areas where you complement them. This relates not just to technical skills, knowledge, and experience as mentioned above, but also personality, attitudes, and behaviors. If you’re not really a people person, you might want someone on your team who is a little warmer and personable to help make people feel more welcome.  Build your team with people who complement each other so that you’re all working as a team and providing all the support that everybody needs

Building a Team Tip #3 – Think About Culture

Think about the culture you want on your team and to bring in people who match that culture. If you’re a startup there will probably be a lot of late nights. Your team might be jumping on a plane at the last-minute, so bring in people who are going to be comfortable with that unpredictability. If you’re in a bigger organization that prides itself on excellence, being thorough and discipline, much like the military, those are going the kind of people you want to bring in. Culture doesn’t have to match perfectly. You should look for people who complement the existing culture as well. People who might be a devil’s advocate or have a different perspective than the rest of the team can drive innovation on your team.

Building a Team Tip #4 – Have a Plan

Make a plan to develop each team member. Consider their leadership skills as well as their technical skills. It’s important to have a plan to ensure everyone on your team gets leadership opportunities to grow and move up into a leadership position when the time is right. Without a plan sometimes we can unwittingly play favorites or overlook people. Work with each member of your team to develop an individual plan for their development and career advancement. Include soft skills like leadership skills, presentation skills, and communication skills that don’t lend themselves easily to technical analysis.

Building a Team Bonus Tip – Know When to Let Go

Don’t be afraid to let your team members move on when they get a great opportunity take a leadership role somewhere else. A lot of leaders want to keep their team together because they’ve got things working well, but we need to let our team members move on to greater opportunities so they can do great things in the world. There comes a time when every person needs to move on and do something else. As leaders, we should embrace that and help our team members prepare for that day.

Try these tips for building a team whether it’s a pre-existing team or you’re getting to pick your dream team to start a brand new project. Assess your needs and put that team together so that the members complement each other in terms of skills and personality traits. Stay conscious of your team culture and develop your team members you can all move on and grow together to greater opportunities.

Employee motivation is a challenge for every leader. So how do we get our team members to do things that need to be done without being told?

Employee Motivation

One of the reasons we wanted to become leaders was so that we could take on challenges we couldn’t achieve by ourselves. Employee motivation is a challenge for every leader. So how do we get our team members to do things that need to be done without being told?

This week we’re answering a question from Pete. He says, “One thing I’m dealing with right now is trying to motivate people who don’t show initiative.”  To help Pete out with this issue, I’m going to give 4 tips for employee motivation.

Employee Motivation Tip #1 – Understand the Psychology

First, it’s important to remember the psychology of motivation. We need to understand the concepts of intrinsic and extrinsic motivation. Everyone is both extrinsically and intrinsically motivated to some degree. Extrinsic motivation is motivation by external rewards, whether that’s money, a bonus, time off or whatever the individual desires. Intrinsic motivation is the rewards that comes internally from feeling the satisfaction of doing a job well done. As a leader, you need to understand how each of your team members is motivated and in what proportion. This will require getting to know each team member! Once you know what makes them tick, you can use that knowledge to your advantage when applying the other three tips.

Employee Motivation Tip #2 – Appeal to Intrinsic Motivation

Taking advantage of intrinsic motivation is tricky. You now know more about your team, their hopes and dreams, likes and dislikes. You can use that information to get excite them. Everyone has something they want to see done better in their workplace. Encourage your team members to talk about improvements they would like to see. When you overhear them talking to each other, challenge them to follow through on their ideas.

Employee Motivation Tip #3 – Use Your Resources

To use extrinsic motivation, Use the resources you have. You may not have money for bonuses, but almost every organization has a recognition program. If you don’t, create one. Make initiative a heavily weighted criteria when giving out awards if you can. Get creative. Time off, work from home, flexible schedules, whatever you can think of. Remember, that to incentivize any behavior, the incentive structure has to match what you say you value. If you want to incentivize initiative, recognition and rewards have to reflect that. You can’t give out awards for BLANK and not recognize the people who took initiative to try to make positive change.

Employee Motivation Tip #4 – Build a Culture

Finally, and probably most importantly, we need to be sure that we are setting up a culture on our team that fosters and rewards initiative. This requires some honest introspection on our part as the leader. When our team members show initiative, how do we react? Our reactions, both conscious and subconscious, verbal and non-verbal have a lot to do with how our team will behave in the future. Patience and open-mindedness are key here. If their work is acceptable but not the way you prefer it was done, you have to find ways to build on their work without shutting it down.

If we want our team members to show initiative we have to show them that their efforts won’t be wasted. We need to get to know them as people and what makes them tick. As leaders we have to encourage them to follow-up on their ideas and we also need to use our resources to recognize and reward them appropriately. Most important we need to show that we are open to the things that they show initiative on. Even if it’s not the most important thing on our list or the outcome isn’t perfect.  We must appreciate our team members’ effort if we want them to show initiative. Keep doing that and your team members will keep taking on new challenges without you having to ask them to!

As we continue with our May theme of Courageous Leadership, this week Jason talks about the idea of intellectual honesty and how it is different from simply telling the truth. Intellectual honesty has a basis in problem solving but can be applied to make well-informed decisions in a variety of leadership situations. Striving to be intellectually honest helps us ensure that we have considered all factors when making a leadership decision. Developing our team members to be intellectually honest gives them the ability to provide depth to their work that will lead to solid decision making. In the video, Jason talks about how to differentiate between our interests and our positions and how that distinction relates to intellectual honesty.

Intellectual Honesty – Video Guide

As we continue with our May theme of Courageous Leadership, this week Jason talks about the idea of intellectual honesty and how it is different from simply telling the truth. Intellectual honesty has a basis in problem solving but can be applied to make well-informed decisions in a variety of leadership situations. Striving to be intellectually honest helps us ensure that we have considered all factors when making a leadership decision. Developing our team members to be intellectually honest gives them the ability to provide depth to their work that will lead to solid decision-making. In the video, Jason talks about how to differentiate between our interests and our positions and how that distinction relates to intellectual honesty.

Components of Intellectual Honesty

  • Not letting beliefs interfere with seeing the truth
  • Including all relevant facts in our decision
  • Presenting facts to others without bias or misleading
  • Giving credit to others for their work

Source: Wikipedia https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Intellectual_honesty

Being aware of these concepts as well as our own biases helps us to make decisions based on all of the relevant facts and not just on the ones that support our position while leaving out facts that go against our argument. Even if we are not the decision maker, we can apply the principles of intellectual honesty when we present information to others who are making a leadership decision.

Jason goes on to talk about some practical tips you can use from Good to Great by Jim Collins in order to help you and your team adopt the principles of intellectual honesty in your day-to-day activities. Applying intellectually honest principles to our information gathering and decision-making processes helps us to make better decisions that stand up to external scrutiny and stand the test of time.

Photo Credit: By European People’s Party [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Just like our homes can get cluttered as the year goes on, our teams can get cluttered with misplaced priorities, ineffective procedures and tasks that no longer serve a valuable purpose. While we should always be on the lookout for waste and activities that are no longer serving our purpose or helping us achieve our mission, planning a spring cleaning activity can help us get focused on making improvements without getting caught up in our normal day-to-day activities.

Spring Cleaning – Video Guide

Just like our homes can get cluttered as the year goes on, our teams can get cluttered with misplaced priorities, ineffective procedures and tasks that no longer serve a valuable purpose. While we should always be on the lookout for waste and activities that are no longer serving our purpose or helping us achieve our mission, planning a spring cleaning activity can help us get focused on making improvements without getting caught up in our normal day-to-day activities.

Depending on how long it has been since you last did a thorough assessment of the activities that your team does on a daily basis, you may find out that there are so many things to review that it makes sense to tackle the most important ones first and come back at a later time to address the others. If you’re wondering where to get started on reviewing a task, procedure or activity, here are a few questions you can ask yourself and your team to determine how to proceed:

Spring Cleaning Questions

  • Does anyone use the results of this task?
  • Does this activity take a large proportion of work time, but is used infrequently?
  • Does the information produced by this process give us insight about our mission or our team, or is it outdated?
  • Is there someone on another team or elsewhere in the organization that uses the outputs?

One of the most challenging parts of a spring cleaning activity is to determine what course of action to follow after we’ve done our assessment. In the video Jason talks about how to determine which tasks to keep, which ones to get rid of and some ways to approach improving on a process that you need to keep, but is inefficient or wasteful.

Photo Credit: By Papypierre1 (Own work) [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Now that we've recovered from the holidays and we've got a few weeks of 2016 under our belt, it's time to start thinking about some ways that we can make our team stronger, better and faster over the coming year. One of the ways we can make these kind of improvements is through team building exercises. While these kinds of activities can take away from the time we have to get work done they often pay significant benefits in helping us assess our team's strengths and capabilities as well as giving us an idea of what areas we might want to help our team members improve upon. Taking a little bit of time at the beginning of the year to do this kind of assessment can help give us an idea of what specific capabilities we'd like to have each of our team members work on for their next evaluation period.

Team Building Exercises – Video Guide

Now that we’ve recovered from the holidays and we’ve got a few weeks of 2016 under our belt, it’s time to start thinking about some ways that we can make our team stronger, better and faster over the coming year. One of the ways we can make these kind of improvements is through team building exercises. While these kinds of activities can take away from the time we have to get work done they often pay significant benefits in helping us assess our team’s strengths and capabilities as well as giving us an idea of what areas we might want to help our team members improve upon. Taking a little bit of time at the beginning of the year to do this kind of assessment can help give us an idea of what specific capabilities we’d like to have each of our team members work on for their next evaluation period.

Team Building Exercises You Can Do

Team building exercises don’t need to be elaborate or time consuming to be effective. What we want to do is find an activity that will help challenge and develop the communication, problem solving and leadership skills of our team members. There are a lot of team building exercises out there but one that is very effective at developing the kind of skills we talked about is the Marshmallow Challenge. This exercise requires only a little preparation using inexpensive items you can get from your local supermarket and should take less than an hour to complete, including discussion after the exercise. If executed properly, the Marshmallow Challenge should challenge all of your team members’ critical skills without taking away too much time from their regular activities.

Give this exercise a try and let us know how it goes for you. If all of your team members get through this exercise without being challenged, it might be time to consider an even more challenging exercise for them next time!

One of the most important responsibilities we have as leaders is to develop other leaders who can someday take our place and grow to achieve their own successes. While it doesn't usually come with increased pay or benefits, developing leaders on our team can be one of the most personally rewarding endeavors we can undertake. To effectively develop our team members into strong leaders we need to be genuinely and authentically invested in their future career success as well as the short-term benefits that they can bring to our team.

Developing Leaders on Your Team

One of the most important responsibilities we have as leaders is to develop other leaders who can someday take our place and grow to achieve their own successes. While it doesn’t usually come with increased pay or benefits, developing leaders on our team can be one of the most personally rewarding endeavors we can undertake.  To effectively develop our team members into strong leaders we need to be genuinely and authentically invested in their future career success as well as the short-term benefits that they can bring to our team.

The Challenges of Developing Leaders

Helping people on our team grow into strong leaders for the future comes with it’s own set of challenges and hurdles. The first is that most companies and organizations don’t have a great deal of money dedicated for leadership development and training at all levels. Many companies focus on spending resources to improve leadership at the highest levels, but it often doesn’t make it’s way down to the front lines where it is needed most. Consistent leadership development activities can fall by the wayside when unexpected high-priority tasks pop up. It can also be difficult to demonstrate to the members of our team exactly why having solid leadership skills benefits them as individuals as well as advances the mission of our team. All three of these challenges can derail even the most dedicated leader from fully realizing their goal to turn their team into great leaders. It’s important that we commit ourselves through assigning the resources we do have and making the time necessary to help the individuals on our team grow into strong leaders that will carry our organization into the future.

Authenticity in the leadership and the workplace has gotten a lot of attention recently. Most of us would agree that being authentic is a highly desirable trait in our leaders, but it can be really difficult to understand what authenticity truly means and how to go about practicing it in our day-to-day activities leading others. A working definition of authenticity that I like to use is simply, "having your words and actions match each other and the ideals you believe in." Making decisions and taking actions that are in line with the ideals that guide you, as well as the ideals that guide your organization, can build a foundation of trust that will be noticed and appreciated by your team.

Authenticity & Core Values

Authenticity in leadership and the workplace has gotten a lot of attention recently. Most of us would agree that being authentic is a highly desirable trait in our leaders, but it can be really difficult to understand what authenticity truly means and how to go about practicing it in our day-to-day activities leading others. A working definition of authenticity that I like to use is simply, “having your words and actions match each other and the ideals you believe in.” Making decisions and taking actions that are in line with the ideals that guide you, as well as the ideals that guide your organization, can build a foundation of trust that will be noticed and appreciated by your team.

Authenticity through Core Values

One practical way to get your words and actions to match is to clearly articulate and practice your core values. You may work for an organization that has clearly defined core values expected in the workplace, but it’s a good idea to get really clear on your own personal core values and let those be your guide to developing your leadership philosophy and style. There are a lot of examples of core values, some common ones are:

  • Integrity
  • Loyalty
  • Respect
  • Service
  • Excellence

These are all great examples, but as you reflect on your core values you’ll find that they will be easier to live to every day if they are based on the ideals that are closest to you, so try to choose 3 or 4 of these core values that are most important to you and really clearly articulate what they mean to you. Having a solid definition in your mind will help guide your decisions and actions to be consistent with these core values

Practicing Core Values

Authenticity comes from not just defining and communicating your core values, but from practicing them in your daily activities. A leader who has a core value of respect, but then insults or belittles members of the team is not practicing that core value and will ultimately not be viewed as authentic when it comes to respect. As leaders, we are judged by others on the values we practice, so taking some time to connect with ourselves on our strongest beliefs will help us be better leaders to those who follow us.

Transparency. It Matters!

Nothing erodes trust like finding out someone was hiding something important from you. I don’t like to get political in these posts, but there are several recent examples where people in positions of trust and authority (both government and corporate) have been accused of withholding information that should have been available to the general public. This lack of transparency, whether real or perceived, is having a significant impact on the faith that people have in our public and private institutions to execute their duties and responsibilities. Only time will tell what the true impact that these breaches of trust will have on senior leaders’ ability to lead effectively, but there are valuable lessons for all of us who lead others.

Besides the obvious potential legal consequences that result from a lack of transparency, there are other disadvantages to withholding information from your team. Trust lost from a lack of transparency isn’t just a moral or emotional issue. Without transparency into decision making processes, decisions made as a result of those processes can look arbitrary or uninformed.

Occasionally, when you’re the boss, there’s no one higher in the chain to hold you accountable for your actions directly. As a leader, your customers or followers may indirectly hold you accountable for your actions. If you’re not transparent and forthcoming about your motives or desired outcomes, your followers may take it as a sign. Productivity may drop, you may start to see fewer people taking initiative to get things done or going above and beyond to get superior results.

On the positive side, there are some real benefits to be achieved on your team if you maintain a good degree of transparency. Trust is a two-way street and you can foster the trust your team has in you by being open about your values, motives and decision making processes. Additionally, if you have been clear with your team about the whole picture and the motivations behind it, they can act on your behalf to achieve objectives when you’re not around. Being able to trust your team to make solid decisions in your absence is invaluable.

As a leader you are on a career trajectory taking you upward to new challenges, so someday you will be leaving your current team behind. Transparency will help provide them with an ability to continue getting the job done after you have moved on.

My personal philosophy is to be as transparent as possible, whenever possible. There are times when it makes sense to hold your cards close such as matters of safety and security. Many industries can be highly competitive and need to withhold some information to maintain their position in the market. As a leader, it’s important to ask yourself, is there an overriding interest of transparency to do the right thing. Sometimes it just comes down to asking yourself, “Will I be able to sleep at night if I keep this information secret from people who need to know?”

 

Discussion question: What criteria or circumstances do you consider when deciding how much information to share with your team?

 

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Leading Millennials and Beyond

One of the topics I often discuss with my colleagues, mentors and the individuals that I coach is the role that younger people are taking in the workplace. Some of the folks I talk with have very strong opinions about these younger cohorts, especially Millennials. I don’t want to get into labelling certain groups of people (although I kind of already have), but despite opinions, the younger generations are entering the workplace, or will be very soon. The challenge for today’s leaders is to determine how we can motivate and lead the younger people coming along as well as how we can grow them into high quality leaders of tomorrow. In order to do that it’s helpful to understand the background and mindset of our younger team members.

A few weeks ago Beloit College released their “Mindset List” for their incoming class of 2018. Beloit has been putting out the Mindset List every year since 1998 to help their faculty and staff understand the “cultural touchstones and experiences that have shaped the worldview of students entering colleges and universities.” (McBride & Nief, 2014) While this list is mostly just entertaining and doesn’t have a lot of direct bearing on how we lead our teams today, in several years these students will be entering our workforce and we will need to be able to lead them effectively and develop them professionally once they arrive.

A few items I found interesting on this year’s list:

  • The water cooler is no longer the workplace social center; it’s the place to fill your water bottle.
  • There has always been “TV” designed to be watched exclusively on the web.
  • “Good feedback” means getting 30 likes on your last Facebook post in a single afternoon.

 

From the list for the class of 2015 (just about to graduate and enter the workforce)

  • The only significant labor disputes in their lifetimes have been in major league sports.
  • As they’ve grown up on websites and cell phones, adult experts have constantly fretted about their alleged deficits of empathy and concentration.
  • Their school’s “blackboards” have always been getting smarter.
  • More Americans have always traveled to Latin America than to Europe.
  • They’ve always been able to dismiss boring old ideas with “been there, done that, gotten the T-shirt.”
  • They won’t go near a retailer that lacks a website.

 

And from the list for the class of 2010 (those who have been in the workforce a few years and are just starting to take leadership roles)

  • They are wireless, yet always connected.
  • Text messaging is their email.
  • They have always been able to watch wars and revolutions live on television.
  • They have always preferred going out in groups as opposed to dating.

 

So what does this mean for us as the leaders of these individuals? Primarily it means that the ways that we have developed organizational culture, adapted to new technology, and offered rewards and incentives may need to be re-evaluated. Collaboration in the future will definitely mean more than meetings in conference rooms and offsite retreats.

This doesn’t mean we have to accommodate every request that our younger team members make, but it might help balance their requests with other requirements if we can see the perspective that they’re coming from. As always, at some point the mission has to come first, but there may be ways to get the mission done better, smarter or faster by considering the “younger” perspective.

Also, a piece of advice for the younger folks coming along (just in case you thought you were off the hook). Understanding and communication are a two-way street and it is just as important to be a good follower as a good leader. Take some time to understand where your colleagues who have been around a bit longer are coming from. Unfortunately, Beloit didn’t start the Mindset list until 1998 so you might have to do some research to find out what makes us tick. I promise it will be worth the effort!

 

Discussion topics: What tensions exist between different age groups on your team? What perspectives have you gained from another age group that greatly assisted you in getting your mission accomplished?

References

McBride, T., & Nief, R. (2014). The Mindset List. Retrieved from Beloit College: http://www.beloit.edu/mindset/

 

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Ethics

 

Ethics in leadership seems to be a topic that comes up frequently. Unfortunately, the topic usually comes up when there has been a serious breach in ethics and a very senior individual has been removed from their position, or sometimes even ends up in jail. We often ask, “How did we get to the point where this happened?”

Like many of the things we have discussed, you can help yourself out by giving some thought ahead of time to the ethics you wish to promote. Ethics are something that should definitely be included in your personal leadership philosophy. This includes both the ethics you intend to hold yourself to as well as the ethics you will promote on your team. It certainly is easier when you can make these two things the same, but not always easy to achieve; especially if you lead a team that is part of a larger organization. In this case, a standard “code of ethics” is probably the foundation upon which you build your team’s ethics. Here are some questions you can ask yourself to help define ethics in the framework of your leadership philosophy before you find yourself in the middle of an ethical dilemma:

What are the ethical principles that you wish to promote on your team? Integrity, accountability, respect, and loyalty are the ethical principles that we hear about the most. This is not an all inclusive list and you should develop your own list of ethical principles you expect from yourself and your team as part of your leadership philosophy.

What do the ethical principles on your list mean to you? While there are commonly accepted definitions of integrity, accountability, respect, etc., if you ask 10 people what these ideas mean to them, you’ll probably get 10 slightly different answers. As a leader, it is important you are clear with your team about what they mean to you and that you will be holding them to that standard.

How do you promote these ethics by exemplifying them? It’s not enough to simply communicate the ethical standard. Saying one thing and doing another at best sends mixed messages to your team and can do much more damage than that. As a mentor of mine whom I highly respect says, “Ethics are not just a poster you hang on the wall.” It’s critical that you live every day to the ethical standard you hold your team to.

What are the formal means you use to promote/enforce these ethics? What actions will you take when someone falls short of the ethical standard? What actions will you take when they exemplify the ethics you seek to promote? This is one we often forget.  It’s often easy to react to a breach in ethical behavior, but we often forget to point out and reward behavior that holds those standards high.

What are the informal ways? While a budget meeting or presentation review seems pretty standard, there could be opportunities to discuss ethical considerations in the context of the task at hand. Topics could include presenting data objectively, recognizing the views of others who may disagree with the presented position, or clearly stating the disadvantages of the favored course of action. There are plenty of opportunities to promote ethics without having a formal training session.

Ethics can often be a thorny subject and my purpose here today is not to dictate to you what your ethical standard should be, but to encourage you to think about what ethical expectations you have for your team and then communicate to them and hold them to that standard. Working though this ahead of time can prevent the next ethical issue in the workplace from turning into a significant emotional event for you and your team.

What does your team discuss regarding the topic of ethics?

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