It is amazing to be on a team that gels, finds its rhythm, and achieves phenomenal success.
At a probation camp, my supervisor said “some people take command immediately and others wait for the right moment. Some wait until everyone before them leaves. Which one will you be?” That is how I began to look at team dynamics and leadership. Coming from a semi rural area of Pennsylvania and working with street and gang kids from LA was eye opening. Team assessment and building became a critical way to create real change.
Later in my career, team building was essential in working with upper management at corporations, government, and nonprofits. Working with a team that relates to each other and understands each other’s strengths is the easiest way to accomplish a mission. Here is what I learned and how it can help you and your teams succeed.
- Where does the leadership reside? A recognized leader may not be the team’s real leadership. Leadership comes from the person that influences the team toward its goal. It may be the de-facto leader, the person taking the minutes or notes, or the quietest member that raises a question to get back on track. Whoever it is, it is recognizable from their spark that ignites the team.
- Everyone brings their own agenda as well as their own preconceived ideas. If you don’t believe it, try leading a meeting with kids from rival gangs, or corporate executives from Coke and Pepsi, or high ranking officers from different branches of military service. Learn to put issues aside quickly and keep the goals in sight.
- Draw circles. We studied this in an old undergraduate sociology course. It showed how to define who chooses seats at a table and how houses on a street interact with each other. Draw a circle for each person at a meeting or in your team. Draw lines of communication between members. It can tell you a lot about who interacts with whom. I have found it most useful if you replace the names in the circles with their expertise, skills, or experience.
- Let everyone know what each team member contributes. Take the circle drawing to a new level by recognizing past successes, experience, and skills applicable to the team mission.
- Celebrate team wins.
Good luck and have fun and success with your team.