How to Build (and Keep) a High-Performance Team

“There’s no ‘I’ in ‘team.’ There is a me, though, if you jumble it up.” Dr. Greg House, from TV’s House

Employers and entrepreneurs often think they have to “do it all themselves,” as reflected in the following statements:

“No one can do this as well as I can.”

“It’s easier to just do it myself than to explain how to someone else.”

“I don’t have time to train anybody.”

When you think that way, however, you may be overlooking a critical component for success in managing small-to-medium sized businesses. And that is, building the right team.

What’s in a Team?

A team is basically a group of people with complementary skills who are mutually committed to working together toward a common goal with shared rewards.

Highly Effective Teams…

See “the big picture.” This promotes collaboration, increases commitment and improves quality. Each team member knows the greater goals of the organization and understands the context of their own (and each others’) roles and responsibilities toward those goals.

Have common goals. Effective teams know what the goals are AND know how to determine if they’ve reached them (or not).

Collaborate. Effective teams are all about interdependency. Collaboration reduces the need for playing “the blame game” while encouraging opportunities for learning and improvement.

Where to Find Your “A-Team”

Finding the right people doesn’t have to be difficult.

 Start with who you know – clients, colleagues, classmates, volunteers.

 Check other people’s recommended resources (this is especially good for projects).

 Do a search online/post online.

 Post at non-traditional places like Craigslist (one of the most underutilized places to find people “in the know”).

Smells Like Team Spirit

Whether you’re building a team from scratch or working with an existing team, here are some key strategies to help make the most of your team.

Effective Team Leaders Must…

 Give clear tasks and goals.

 Ensure that the team has the necessary support, resources, structure and training to do their jobs.

 Put a deadline on everything – whether it “needs” it or not. Remember, the task on hand will expand to fill the time allotted.

 Over-communicate. Better to have the information and not need it than to need it and not have it (including timely, constructive and consistent feedback).

 Promote problem-solving within the team. How? By seeing mistakes as opportunities (and encouraging the team to do the same). Instead of hiding mistakes, people become proactive.

 Focus on structure. Poor performance is usually due to poor team structure, not individual performance. Poor structure leads to negative, ineffective behaviors in individuals and impedes communication. If team members feel that they are misunderstood or competing against each other, they’re more likely to hold back information or resources.

What’s My Motivation?

People are motivated by many things: getting paid, loving what they do, seeing a project come together, taking on new (bigger) challenges, the creative process, ego gratification or simply not being bored.

How to keep your team invested in your success:

* Offer challenging work and opportunities for learning. This gives people a chance to grow into new roles and encourages responsibility.

* Offer freedom and independence in the decision-making process to encourage self-empowerment. Powerful individuals make powerful teams.

* Recognize the contribution of your team. This is absolutely critical to the success of any company, and most leaders fail at doing so adequately – a HUGE mistake. Noticing (and publicly acknowledging) the effort of each team member is an underutilized (and free) way to ensure team success. Remember, no one does it alone.

* If subcontractors make up your team, offer a retainer for a certain number of hours each month so that they are likely to be more committed to you.

* Pay them well.

* Create win-win situations by making referrals to contracting superstars and watch their businesses grow (and make referrals back to you!)

Finding the right team is not about finding the perfect team, and it doesn’t guarantee success.

Team members need consistent and ongoing support. Ideally, team members will be both independent and interdependent. Remember, nurturing a team (even a little) achieves better performance and better results.

To your success and happiness
Corinne McElroy

Letting Go Of The Expert

When I first encountered this concept of letting go of the expert, I thought: That is crazy, I’ve educated myself and worked hard to become an expert, why would I let it go?!

Perhaps the most understandable way to start this discussion is to discover what is an expert. Webster’s defines an expert as: A person with a high degree of knowledge or skill in a particular area. Some synonyms: master, proficient, and whiz. The suggestion is that you have arrived, and your work is done. OK, that sounds pretty good, so why do I want to let go of that?

Let’s also look at the reverse of expert as in a learner and a discoverer. Learner: again Webster’s definitions: To gain knowledge or mastery of by study. Discoverer: to obtain knowledge or awareness of something not known before, as through observation, study listening.

So why let go? Because letting go could lighten your workload, reduce your stress and responsibilities and open the door to incredible discoveries and personal and professional growth for yourself and your team.  Are you interested?

Here are some ideas that have been shared with me. After all, I am not the expert. I, too, am in the learning process. Review the concepts and choose what works for you. There is no right answer only exploration into possibility.

Consider these options:
When we present ourselves in the world as an expert, whether it be at home: as a parent or spouse, or at work: as a manager, we are opening a communication channel, one that most often is one way. It is up to us the expert: to distribute the information in a way it can be heard and understood, weigh the consequences, to make the decisions, get cooperation or accomplish the tasks ourselves, set a timeline, determine what is success and take the credit for success and or the failure. Whew! Granted, we are basing our efforts on time-tested expertise, this is a good thing, and there are times that this is the best method, as well as the best use of our time, energy and resources. There is little room for growth for the expert or the team in this situation as the task is to disseminate expertise in an effort to create the outcome upon which we have decided.

When we present ourselves as a learner or discoverer we also open the channel for communication, and in this instance, the communication is more likely to be two-way. We listen, ask questions and receive input from various sources. We have the chance to make changes based upon the input we have encountered. We may discover a better method or process through this discovery. We will probably get a more thorough buy-in by our team if they have some input to the process and outcome. We are not necessarily alone in determining what is considered success, neither are we totally responsible for the tasks at hand or the outcome. The result can be a workload spread over several more willing members, less stress, and an excellent opportunity for both personal and professional growth. As a learner we can add to our pool of knowledge, and potentially grow through the experience of collaboration.

True, you no longer have total control of what the actual outcome may look like, and it could possibly be even better than you could imagine. And the trade off may be worth it: If you gain time to work on other projects, what if your team is more motivated with their role of contribution and accomplishes more, if the atmosphere in the office improves with their added input, almost anything is possible. Your team is also given the opportunity for personal and professional growth so they can potentially contribute even more in the future.

Here is a simple example of how I learned to let go of being the expert and the effect on my quality of life.

I dislike doing dishes; as a matter of fact other than eating brussel sprouts it is my least favorite task in life. My husband promised that if I did the cooking, which I love, he would do the dishes. Wow! He continued to explain that his Mom taught him how to do dishes and that she always said he was terrific at it! Double WOW! So the bargain was made. I cooked and he did the dishes.

What I immediately discovered is that if I stand at my place of expert and review his work, he doesn’t do it the way I would do it myself. I began to approach Michael on this subject of his expertise. Then I stopped myself and thought: If I get to be the expert here, I also get to do the dishes. If I become the discoverer and encourager, I get to have half an hour of quiet time for myself after the dinner hour.

The next time I visited with my Mother-in- Law, I mentioned what a great dishwasher Michael is and thanked her for teaching him so well. She winked at me and I realized she had always had that half hour of quiet time. We chatted and smiled while Michael did the dishes.

Coaching Challenge:

Look at your world and ask yourself if there are times when being the expert is holding you or your team back? Pick a situation and become the discoverer and learner and smile!