"I am only as good as the team I surround myself with." I've said it many times. This statement applies to any team environment, but especially in professional services. It applies to large projects, small projects, quick and easy projects and those complex, painful, challenging projects that everyone claims one day "you'll look back on this as a learning experience."
Commitment and compliance are two very different states for project teams. A compliant team is one that shows up because they have to. They may not actually punch a time clock, but at the end of the day they shuffle their feet to the parking lot – they may even run out the door. They are working on the project because, well, what else would they do. A committed team treats the project like their own garden or pet – they obsess over it, they care for it, they own it. They are thinking ahead of how to do it better, already solving the next three problems that haven't been discovered. The project just 'clicks.' It's much easier to go from a committed team to a compliant one. A couple of poorly managed challenges can easily break the chain, and it's much harder to go from a compliant team to a committed one.
How do you get a team together that 'clicks'? How do you transform your team into a high performing one? Here are my top five means I like to employ to help build a solid team that is engaged, exceeding expectations and most importantly, committed. (Not quite to the level of the Spartans in 300 though – now that's commitment). I'd love to expand to this list and hear your thoughts – this is certainly not an exhaustive list.
1. Roles and Responsibilities
It's important to know your team members and their skill sets to make sure each is in the right role, and it's even more important for the team members to know what their responsibilities are. Often times expectations aren't laid out for teams up front that are in line with a project's expected outcomes or objectives.
2. Empowerment and Ownership
Once you have roles that are clearly defined for your team members and expectations set, empower them – let them "do their thing" – and hold them accountable for the success and outcomes of their role. Set expectations that "you own it," with some guidance and parameters on what they need to do. Support them, back them up. One example I often use: "I don't really care which hours of the day you work, so long as you can make sure we meet our commitment on the deadline. What do you think and what's your plan?"
Trust needs to be earned, but also requires some faith. In a leadership position you need to grant some trust in order to start the chain. With follow-through and execution, trust will build. It's only a matter of time until you can finish each other's sentences.
When a job is well done, don't skimp on recognizing the team. Highlight small wins and big wins all along the way. Look for those folks who aren't inclined to shout about their accomplishments. Make sure the management team stays in touch with what is happening and shares good news – not just the crises.
5. A Sense of Humor
Stress affects people differently. I, for one, need an environment where laughter exists. If everyone is so heads down focused without time for a good practical joke, to laugh at ourselves or share some good project humor, I'm not interested. Projects can be tedious, lighten up!
What other means would you recommend for building a solid and committed team? What things do you remember most about good teams you have been a part of? What made them "click"?