Here we are … a new year filled with all of our related and identified goals. From the standpoint of our jobs, many of us enter the workplace determined to achieve the envisioned success … for ourselves and our organizations. So much of what we will be doing relies on working successfully with our team … a team representing a single project, our department, division or the overall company.
There is work to be done and so often people are chomping at the bit to get to work … jump in … make it happen. However, what has been demonstrated over and over again is that doing so upon a foundation of a solid relationship, respect and understanding among the members of the team carries with it significantly heightened success.
I recently heard a story about a sixth-grade teacher and the way in which he launched each new school year. I believe it has application here. Get this. Day one was a pretty normal day spent getting familiar with the room, the grounds, the agenda for the year and the expectations. However, ‘normal’ ended as the day was almost over when the students were told that the following morning the entire class was going camping for two days. Huh? Tax dollars going for a camping trip? Who ever heard of this as a kickoff for a school year? And why?
The kids were told to bring certain needed supplies, a sleeping bag and the clothes they would need. They also heard that they were going to cook and cleanup for all the meals. And oh yes … they would be doing some school-like learning, however this learning was all about getting to know and collaborate with their new classmates. Innovative thinking? Or, is it time for this teacher to go? His explanation to questioning parents was that he had learned through this kind of investment in the development of the class as a team, the payoff was huge. The children could actually experience what they could and would accomplish collectively and individually as they embarked on the planned curriculum for the 6th grade.
This brings me back to all of the ‘teams’ that exist within companies. The jump in and get going immediately mentality doesn’t mean not caring on how cohesive the members of the team are. Rather the belief is that over time we’ll all get to know and appreciate one another and in the meantime we have work to do. After all, we’re being paid to be productive and accomplish … right? Head scratcher for sure and I got very curious. What would be the added value if every team took the time at the beginning to know and appreciate other teammates and the leader of that team?
I went in search of commentary on this topic and came across an article published in the Harvard Business Review … “What New Team Leaders Should Do First” by Carolyn O’hara. Some highlights of this article:
- What is the purpose of this team?
Whether you’re taking over an existing team or starting a new one, it’s critical to devote time and energy to establishing howyou want your team to work, not just what you want them to achieve. The first few weeks are critical as a way to minimize significant problems down the road.
- Who are those on the team?
As an initial priority getting to know the team through its’ member is extremely valuable in helping the team to gain appreciation for one another on it by actually learning about them aside from the project at hand.
- What does the leader expect and value?
If you are the leader initial interactions with team members are an opportunity to showcase your values. The leader can explain how she/he goes about making decisions, what the priorities are, and how the team’s performance will be evaluated, individually and collectively.
- Indoctrinate a new addition to the team from the beginning
When a new team member comes on board, it’s critical that they are indoctrinated into the group culture & norms with a full explanation of how things work and what is expected. Do not presume that other, older team members will fill them in … completely.
- Set or clarify goals
Use the full team to establish clearly defined goals. Having their involvement brings with it their buy-in as they will have had a part in formulating that plan.
Something to be learned from the 6th grade teacher? I think so. Of course we’re being paid to accomplish. And if this makes just a bit of sense to you, maybe, on the way to running forward we should begin by walking. The next team you’re on, maybe you’ll be the one to suggest an overnight camping or some form of socialization activity. The sleeping bag may not be your most comfortable bed, however the team bond that is formed just might payoff in spades.