If there is one thing that appears to be an ongoing challenge in business that is completely independent of technology advancements or a generational mixture of co-workers it is the challenge of creating a team that helps to insure success of the combined efforts of its’ members. It really makes no difference if a team is formed to spearhead a special project for an established organization, begin a new department or division of it or begin a completely new company. Laying the strong foundation upon which the ongoing success of the effort will rely remains as a most critical step. Unfortunately, it is one that is too often all but ignored or addressed in a most surface manner. This omission then, can and does serve to undermine the best intentions and desires and contributes to the major number of businesses that fail within the early years of existence.
I encounter this situation rather frequently when coaching within various businesses. As participants begin to experience the cracks that appear attributable to the missing or weak foundation, they experience the following:
Of course enthusiasm and energy run high when launching a new effort. And too often these same positives are blinding to creating the strong foundation on which the effort stands and from which it will grow and prosper. Determining roles, structure and responsibilities are too often thought to be ‘obvious’ and thus, there appears to be no or little need to spend time defining the ‘obvious’. Welcome mega-frustration potential.
- Loss of confidence
If from the start the team is experiencing challenges related to an agreed upon vision, how it will be approached and how it will be achieved, it makes it difficult to stay focused on the goal of the team. Rather, it’s easy to begin to question whether the team is made up of the right players … again a most basic aspect of creating the team in the first place.
- Wasted dollars
Time is money and one certainly doesn’t subscribe to wasting it. The wasting it part is so oftensimply because those involved didn’t take the time to discuss and agree to how things were going to progress. And whereas this is not surmountable, very few efforts budget for wasted dollars … the one unnecessary thing that can derail the best of intentions and effort.
- Missed opportunity
It’s safe to say that all efforts requiring a team are made with a vision of needed and desired success. And yet, when you consider the very significant failure rate of projects or businesses it becomes apparent that something that would or could have made this a success was missing. Much research reinforces that the missing ingredient is the lack of that strong foundation upon which all else will be built. Too many times it appears to be this key ingredient that can be attributed to the lack of success and achievement.
This experience is very much avoidable. What it takes is taking the time to build that foundation. And rather than it being time intensive, it is a matter of being focus intensive.
Here are some of the key things that should be addressed when the team is in its’ formative stages!
- Why have those on this team been included?
What does each person bring to the effort that when combined with all others will provide a complete circle of knowledge, experience and expertise that success requires?
- In what ways are the personalities of all involved compatible or challenging and how can you address this to contribute to the success being pursued?
- What open gaps might exist in terms of the desired knowledge and experience and what is the plan to acquire that needed resource?
- What needs to be done so that everyone involved in the effort knows and understands what each person will be able to contribute to achieving intended success?
- What do you do to assure that open and clear communication remains at the forefront of the team effort?
- How will you as a team address differences of opinion or approach? As they are a guarantee, knowing how you will deal with them avoids ramming into a dangerous wall.
- How often will the team meet and what is the nature of the check-in you want that will make certain that the foundation needed for success avoids or quickly repairs cracks.
- Who is the person recognized as the leader with the final say on decisions to be made? Or … is the final decision in the hands of the person who oversees the item being addressed? Co-leaders seem nice however they are also responsible for trouble in operating successfully. Whereas it seems ‘nice’, it is also responsible for many business or project dooming issues. Going this route can be a sign that decision-making and confronting real issues is potentially a crack that can undermine all good intentions and desires.
- Why the need to put aspects of the structure and related agreements in writing?
- As those involved become immersed in the project and working to achieve the intended goals, some of the foundational items fall from memory. When this happens it too often leads todisagreements around what had been agreed to or the process to be followed if needed ‘down the road’. This reference avoids the need to recall what had been decided and helps to maintain focus on the project or business itself
- Especially when just getting started those involved either can forget or confuse aspects of structure, decision-making and responsibilities assigned to various individuals through a specific way to address them. The written format provides a fast answer that avoids being side-tracked.
Like any relationship, business relationships need to be cultivated over time. Team participants and/or partners need clear expectations. They need to know they are valued. Building trust over time becomes essential when complications and difficulties arise, and they always do. All need to realistically understand and accept the challenges that they will potentially encounter as well as how they will be confronted … individually and collectively. Addressing the foundational aspects of a team effort significantly increases the likelihood of reaching the intended success.