The Big 3: Setting Your Team Up For Success
June 2, 2015
"Weak foundations are the most common cause for an eventual collapse; and you can't easily fix the foundations once you've already started building!" I seem to remind others I work with (and myself) of this sentiment often. It has proven to be of the most powerful insights and has changed the way I work with new teams. It has caused me to realize that as managers it is our responsibility to set the team up for success.
I've lost count of the number of times my office phone has rung with a frantic Program Director on the other end of the line. They've recently launched a new morning show and in just a few weeks the cracks are beginning to show. "I am concerned about the team's performance. The team doesn't seem to be gelling off air. They are more concerned about themselves than the show as a whole." They go on, "It's chaotic. We can't agree on what is important; they fight my direction and I disagree with theirs!" I have always hated it when people say "I told you so" and promised myself I wouldn't be one of those people. However, it is during these conversations that I really have to hold myself back. It's not that I have a higher IQ or anything. It's simply that I have screwed up launching many shows by skipping one vital step…the same vital step that these PDs are always adamant isn't needed for their new team when I first suggest it.
When a new team is formed it's easy to get swept along by the early momentum and energy -- everyone wants to get started on the work straight away. Let's go, right now! However,rushing ahead without clearly defining purpose, expectations and behaviors is just like starting out on a road trip without a map. At first it's fun and exciting exploring places you've never been before but eventually, as time drags on, you realize you're lost. Hopelessly lost. You're not sure where you're heading or how you're going to get back. It is at this point that feelings of frustration, panic and anger set in.
For a team to succeed it needs clarity, and it needs it before the actual work is started.
When working with teams, I talk about the importance of exploring the big 3 and using the answers to form a team charter. The team charter is a living document that clearly states the purpose of the team, how the team will work together and what the expected results are. More importantly it provides the team with direction when times get hard.
The big 3 refers to… What, Who and How?
- The what is about setting a common vision for the team. What is our purpose? What is the reason for the team's existence? What is it that the team is committing to achieve together sometime in the future? What are others counting on us to do?
- The whois about exploring and setting the team's responsibilities. Each member of the team needs to understand who is responsible for what and how they are going to achieve it.
- The how is about establishing the acceptable behavior and norms for the team. Howare we going to work together? Everyone on the team agrees to the behaviors and standards they are going to be held accountable to.
Asking the big 3 questions and using the answers to form a team charter is the most effective way to create an engaged and aligned team before you start the work. From using this strategic approach with many teams over the years the benefits are apparent:
- It establishes alignment -- everyone is moving in the same direction!
- It provides clarity of purpose, priorities and roles
- It creates commitment and buy in amongst all the team members
- It enhances communication, trust and collaboration
- It keeps everyone focused when times get hard
- And, it's a useful tool to share with new team members - it gets them up to speed quickly!
Working in teams can be exhilarating and rewarding if all the team members work well together. However, if people are pulling in different directions it can be excruciating. Teams can quickly dismantle themselves when they are without clarity of purpose or can be torn apart from avoidable infighting. Invest your time (and energy) into answering the big 3 whenever you launch a new team. The time you commit early on to creating strong team foundations will be repaid many times as your team progresses on its journey.
What's that old saying? "Failing to plan is planning to fail!" Turns out that really is true!