Frontline Festival: July- Teams And Teamwork Edition

Welcome to the July, Teams and Teamwork Edition of the Frontline Festival. I am pleased to bring you another International line-up of thought leaders sharing their best posts on teams and teamwork.

David Dye of Trailblaze, shares his post Give Me 3 Minutes and I’ll Make You a Smarter Leader.  I love his application of crowdsourcing, and the leader’s responsibility for making the most of group thinking.
“In the era of crowdsourcing and the reality that your front-line people have unique and vital knowledge, you help your team make the best decisions.”

Skip Prichard, of Skip Pritchard,  shares a fantastic list, 10 Lessons in Teamwork, Top 3: Make the team the rock star; Remove all excuses for failure; Find and focus on the winning scenario.

Susan Mazza shares her post, 3 Ways Anyone Can Boost Team Performance, on her blog Random Acts of Leadership. “Some mistakenly believe that culture can only be affected (for better or for worse) by the CEO. However, regardless of your level in an organization you have the power to impact culture and boost your team’s performance.” Right on!

Alli Polin of Break the Frame shares her post, Want Something? Pull Together. I loved her inspiring story of simple collaborative effort. I just wish she had included a pic of her 80’s big hair.

Lolly Daskal of Lead From Within shares her post, The Honest Truth About Teams. Great insights. The most important point, “There will never be a perfect team, because teams are, after all, made up of imperfect people,” She shares important characteristics to get strive for within that imperfection.

Dan Rockwell, Leadership Freak, shares his vital post, How to Destroy Teams and Become Losers. He addresses the important issue of internal competition. My favorite line,Your best brings out my best. Never let their best bring out your worst.”

Tanveer Naseer of Tanveer Naseer discusses the Role Leaders Play in Developing Great Teams. Among his great thoughts:
“Making the effort to talk less and listen more is a powerful way to not only demonstrate how much you respect your employees’ insights, but of how much you trust their abilities to understand and evaluate the best options for your organization to achieve its shared goals.”

Frank Sonnenberg,Frank Sonnenberg Online, shares Leadership: Promoting Beliefs and Values. He offers important questions to guide team behavior. Worth reading.

Jon Mertz offers The Greatest Satisfaction for a Leader from his blog Thin Difference. Encouraging leaders and team members delivers the greatest leadership satisfaction. This post encourages us all to test our encouraging leadership style. As always, a fantastic contribution.

Jesse Lynn Stoner, Seapoint Center, What Team Members Can (and should) Do to Help Their Team Become High Performing  I loved this post because she talks about what team MEMBERS can do. She begins with 2 common mistakes:
Mistake #1: Thinking it’s the team leader’s responsibility to pull the team together and waiting passively for that to happen.
Mistake #2: Accepting mediocrity because they assume there is nothing they can do.

Robyn McLeod, The Thoughtful Leaders Blog presents One Important Question For Getting Your Team on the Same Page. She offers tips for understanding team dynamics within your organization and promoting greater alignment among teams to discover what is really going on. Excellent.

Jennifer Miller, of the People Equation shares insights on developing your team in 7 signs you’re hoarding your team’s talent. I’ve met such talent hoarders, she’s got a strong list.

You might be a talent hoarder if you: (top 3)

  • Don’t publish organizational charts because you don’t want the competition to “steal” your employees
  • Can’t remember the last time an employee initiated a conversation about career growth with you
  • Don’t have a succession plan for each of your team members

Jonathan Green of Monster Leaders, shares, Teamwork It’s What For Dinner. Even if you aren’t a San Francisco Giant’s fan you’ll enjoy this post about winning teams.

New to the Festival, Michele Cushatt of Michelle Cushatt shares 4 vital characteristics of collaborative teams in her compelling post, The Four Requirements of Collaboration. She offers what to do if “the group you thought was “just what I was looking for!” ends up a soul-sucking, eyeball-scratching, mud-wrestling match for attention. Instead of collaboration, it turns into a struggle for leverage, connection, or an opportunity that might be “The Opportunity.”

Julie Winkle Giulioni of Julie Winkle Giulioni shares Group, Team or Train Wreck . I love her comparison matrix on characteristics of effective teams.
“Because of this deep appreciation for the contributions of each member to the joint mission, teams operate from a natural sense of respect. While they might have ground rules that include respectful behaviors to demonstrate, most team members volunteer respect organically and authentically.”

Matt McWilliams of Matt McWilliams addresses the important topic of team communication in his post How to Teach Communication to Your Team. He reinforces the need to “teach communication and the drill it in.” He shares 5 steps to do so. Another great read.

Wally Bock of Three Star Leadership bring us, Creating Teams that Create Great Results. The best teams are usually not all-star teams. Here are some things to consider when you put a project team together. As always, salient and practical advice.

Mark Miller of Great Leaders Serve shares his provocative post Are You Leading a Team or a Family? The post presents a comparison of two ways to think about an organization and explains the importance of treating your team like a team.
“My recommendation is to treat your family like family and your team like a team. You’ll win a lot more games if your second baseman can catch ground balls.”

Chery Gegelman of Simply Understanding shares her useful post A Virally Infectious Team, and Why You Want One  “We have all watched teams win the Super Bowl one year, and fail miserably the next year. Teams that seek to be the best don’t rest after one practice, after one win, or after one season.”

Mike Henry Sr. of Lead Change Group, shares his excellent post Sacrifice and Teams.
We must address our economy and our quality of life as a team. If one groups’ quality of life continues to grow while many others deteriorate, our culture will eventually fragment and die. Our teamwork needs to be focused on the goal of improving the quality of EVERY life in our communities. There is little teamwork in hoarding or consumption. There is great teamwork, reward and accomplishment in sacrifice and contribution. Our championships need to happen at the community level if we’re going to make a positive difference.

Kate Nasser of Kate Nasser shares a great post that helps new leaders avoid a huge mistake that takes much time to undo, Breed Accountability, Not Blame, for Employee Engagement. “Accountability is the profitable practice of initiative, ownership, and follow-through. It is not blame.”

Joan Kofodimos of Teleosconsulting shares Have You Created an In-Group on Your Team? Such an important post, and a dynamic I see all to frequently.
 “If you can shift your perspective on who’s in and who’s out, your new attitude is likely to manifest itself as a more equitable treatment of your reports, and a better opportunity for your less-preferred reports to flower.”

Terri Klass of Terri Klass Consulting writes, “Every leader needs to encourage people to voice their ideas and opinions. Without input from team members, the best outcome might never get achieved.” Let is be so. Loved her post, Do You Encourage People to Find Their Voice?

New to the Festival, Irene Becker, Just Coach It, shares The Thriving Organization: Ten Power Steps Out of Jurassic Park  She addresses the important topic of team communcation in this fresh post.
“Develop vertical and horizontal communication. Success is not achieved alone. Your people, your relationships (social, person to person) are your most important asset. Develop a ME to WE culture where shared objectives, values, communication, learning/relearning and collaboration are entrenched in every communication and initiative. Systems theory tells us that one small, consistent change will in turn change the whole system. The positive, purposeful small and consistent changes you make will reset the individual and organization GPS to fast forward”

Beyond Blogs

teams and teamworkJoy and Tom Guthrie of Vixwerx offer their creative teamwork pic, Team Under Construction. I’m always inpsired by their strategic art.

New to the Frontline Festival, Ali Anani, shares creative and useful presentations on teams. The first, Metaphors for Wrong Management explores the importance of team collaboration and learning. The second Building Engaged Teams, shares insights on team motivation.

Upcoming Frontline Festivals

You are welcome to submit your links for the upcoming Frontline Festivals.

August: Energy and Engagement, due August 9th

Sept: Leadership Development (and self-development), due September 13th

October: Vision and Values, due October 11th

November: Gratitude, due November 8th

December: Gifts (take any spin you would like), due December 13th

Team Chemistry: Leveraging Diversity to Drive Team Performance

There is much good research on the characteristics of high-performing teams. It is possible to structure teams in ways that maximize performance (e.g. small number, shared vision, complimentary skill sets). A great resource for this is
Katzenbach and Smith’s The Wisdom of Teams.

I have been on teams that are identical in these criteria, and yet there is an invisible factor that seems to drive performance– chemistry.
When I was in my early twenties, I played Sergeant Sarah Brown in a Community Theater production of Guys and Dolls. Young Sarah is a spunky Salvation Army worker with a logical list of characteristics she is looking for in a man. Sarah meets Sky Masterson, an attractive con artist and gambler, who laughs at her long list of desired traits and gives her his one-factor list, “chemistry.” Well, of course it’s a musical, chemistry wins, they fall in love and sing happily ever after.

The thing is, in both love and teams chemistry matters.

And yet, when we make hiring decisions, we often start with a list of desired competencies, backgrounds and skill sets at an individual level. Like Sarah, we work to attract the best talent for the individual roles, and then after the fact, work to pull them into a high performing team. Chemistry is even more vital when looking to select the leader of the team.

I am not suggesting hiring based exclusively on DiSC, MBTI or some other personality profile. However, all other things being equal, hiring for diverse backgrounds, experiences, skills and approaches can help to create some serious positive combustion.

I recently went through a DiSC workshop with my larger team. After the session, one of the women on my team came up to me and asked, “Did you do that on purpose?” She was referring to the very eclectic mix of personalities on both my direct report team and throughout the organization.

At first, my reaction was “no, I hadn’t even thought about DiSC.” But the truth is, having had a unique opportunity to build the team almost entirely from scratch, I had been very deliberate about hiring leaders with different backgrounds, experiences, expertise and styles. They in turn did the same. As a result, we have a team that works hard to leverage one another’s strengths and make up for gaps. They have each other’s backs. They have chemistry and results on are on fire.

Opportunities to Build Team Diversity

In addition to the more traditional views on diversity (race, age, gender), there are other important factors to consider when hiring for a high-performing team

  • Expertise, attracting unique skill sets helps to foster respect, creates interdependency and enables cross-training
  • Background, hiring people with diverse experiences helps to provide different perspectives to complex problems
  • Styles, not always comfortable, but hiring a team with different personality preferences can offer richer approaches and solutions
  • ??? what other factors do you find important?

Where Similarities can Help

I also find there are some characteristics were similarities are quite helpful. I find having a team unified by these factors helps them to work more effectively with their diversity.

  • Passion: I see teams come together best when they all share a common passion for a unified vision. They all care deeply about accomplishing something important. I look for passion from the moment they enter the job interview.
  • Gumption: This manifests itself in various ways in different people and personalities. But energetic commitment and strong work ethic matter. High-performing teams seem to operate on a similar gumption frequency.
  • Receptivity: Openness to feedback and change. High-performing teams have members who are able to adjust and learn from one another and the environment. They are hungry for feedback and willing to share.

Think about the teams that you have worked on with the best chemistry.