Building strong, productive teams can be a challenge both for the leader and the team members. In this podcast, I present ideas and steps to developing teams that get things done, offer more creative solutions and enjoy the process.
00:01 Jacalyn Holsted: Hello. You’re listening to On Point Conversations. My name is Jacalyn Holsted and I am a content marketing strategist, team builder and owner of On Point Thinking. Today in my podcast, I want to talk about developing teams. And the goal of developing a team of course is to have a strong team, which means that there needs to be some planning put in first, as well as looking at how to make the team actively productive. When we started COVID-19, many people or companies were shut down, and therefore, people were working remotely who might not have been used to working remotely prior to the start of the shutdown. I’ve been working remotely, and with clients, and using online resources since… 2008 is when I started my business and then, since then, have progressively got further into doing more of a online approach and using different mediums, particularly now Zoom, in order to work with clients and teams across the country.
01:15 JH: First of all, in my observation, it takes a really pretty strong, intuitive leader to build a motivated productive team. A leader that really can consistently build productive teams by offering and having goals in mind in being able to monitor teams and in being able to build the team. It really, from a leadership standpoint, requires a person who understands people, and even though you’re not in a meeting directly with them across the table or next to them, understanding people as you see them, even with their online presence, listens, an active listening, really listening to what they’re saying, can see and develop the strengths and weaknesses of team members, can mitigate conflicts, which is gonna be a key in teams when you’re having teams with different disciplines come together, select really the best motivators for that team and then keep the team engaged in helping each other, so that it really becomes a strong team.
02:26 JH: The first thing I want to talk about is when you’re working toward productivity is to set objectives. Now, this happens whether you’re developing a new team or you currently have an existing team and you’re working on a new project. It’s critical to have that team work together, and to really know and want to work in the team, and not just what do they want to do in the team. People form opinions very quickly, and those opinions tend to be very sticky. So starting the team off on the right foot is always a good point too.
03:06 JH: Today, I want to talk more about starting a team outright. So basically, you’re developing a new team, whether those team people know each other and they’re solving a different problem, or they’re a brand new team. When they’re a brand new team, you want to start by introducing the team members and give time for each of them to get to know each other. It seems kind of obvious, and yet I’ve seen more team meetings start with the leader, and probably because there’s a little bit of a nervousness to it, and they want to get right to the actual topic at hand or the problem they’re solving. So, it’s surprising to me how many times that part might not be done, but it is important to introduce team members and then let them tell a little bit about themselves.
03:57 JH: It might seem really elementary too, but even in an online meeting, having some kind of name card, whether you’re gonna do a little badge or however you’re gonna do a name card, so that people get used to knowing who is around there and remembering everyone’s names. A really good way to start is to do an icebreaker. The icebreakers really depend on your audience, but it’s worth the time to consider whether an icebreaker game would be good for your group, and it should be relevant, the activity, to your topic, and on topic. So not something totally different. Although I’ve seen that work, I think icebreakers are when you want to take time and consideration to which one and what works.
04:45 JH: Generally, I start my meetings out, when it’s a new team, with introducing. Each person introduces themselves, they tell what area of the country they’re in, maybe what the weather’s like that day, something innocuous, so that if you get people who are introverts, which you will, and don’t want to share a lot about themselves, they can open up a little bit that way. And an extrovert, and of course, will open up and talk about that. You want to also time limit your introductions, just so someone doesn’t dominate and take over a very large part of time and loses people because they’re so busy talking about what they are and what they do.
05:22 JH: Set operating guidelines in the beginning for the team. This is just house rules. I’m surprised how many people… I’m on a team right now, which is made up of communications people from different companies and they’re all technology companies, so they’re used to being online, but I’m actually surprised, kind of, some of the behavior that they have that can be disrespectful to the whole team. For example, the other day, someone was typing the entire time and you could hear it on the meeting. It’s very distracting. Or someone else got on the telephone, on their cellphone and started talking without muting themselves. So setting those guidelines of you want to be on time for meetings. We’re online, but time is money. So time would be good to be. No cellphones or whatever you need to do to establish a very positive collective respectful environment, and those general guidelines, they might sound hokey to begin with, are good team reminders.
06:26 JH: Understand that each team member’s ideas are very valuable and should be treated as such. Respect is really important for team members to feel that they can share and be helpful and open sharing and really feeling like you’re heard and you’re helpful is gonna really open up the group to way more creative ideas and solutions and it goes without saying, but there’s really no stupid idea. It might be that the first time you get it out there, it’s not all thought out through, but it doesn’t have to be and it’s team member’s respect for each other that allows that creative idea to be gathered and then worked from. Set team aims, which is basically set the objectives, what are you trying to accomplish, and make every effort that it’s very clear what you’re trying to accomplish, what your objectives are, the time frame, the responsibilities, who’s responsible for what, and understanding of what success is gonna be for this team. If you think of team sports like football, the prime goal is to win, but there’s also that need to demonstrate a support of team members and also just good sportsmanlike conduct is really important too for knowing that your team works together.
07:48 JH: Encourage trust and cooperation among employees on your team. Remember that the relationships that the team member set among themselves, as every bit is important as what you’re trying to solve, so as a team starts taking shape as a leader, really look at closely at how the team members work together and really look at ways and steps to improve communication, cooperation, trust, and respect for those relationships.
08:17 JH: Encourage team members to share information. What you don’t want to do and I’ve seen this happen where someone goes around the team and comes directly to the team leader to give them their ideas because for some reason they want certain kind of accolades for their ideas, they want to be the one, but really encourage on and off screen or in and out of meetings that team members share information among themselves. It can create very much a disruptor and lack of trust if that’s not happening. So reiterate to each team member that their contribution is important and that the whole team benefits from those comments and those creative ideas.
09:01 JH: Follow your words by actions. Leaders need to know that they really lead by their own actions, not just by their words, so follow your own guidelines if you’re the real leader, follow your own rules, model that interaction, be authentic, don’t preach, but talk is cheap and easy, it’s the actions that count. Facilitate communication. Since communication is really the important key factor to successful teamwork. Understand that miscommunication is very easy, especially if I see this when dealing with cross-cultural teams and varied personalities, and those two aspects can make your team super strong and super creative because working off each other but it can also create some real miscommunication.
09:51 JH: Now, miscommunication can also happen any time you have a team, even if they’re the most homogenous team that you’ve ever put together, and you really believe everybody’s on the same page, there’s still miscommunications, so be sure to set your own example by suggestions and concerns, asking questions and offering help and doing everything you can to avoid communication in your own communications. I tend to like to use visual communications when I can. I’ve just found this one, a program called Whimsical for online meetings, where you can capture the thoughts and that way people feel and know that you’re listening, the team is listening, they are captured so they’re not lost, and it’s a very visual type of approach. It takes a little bit of getting used to from the leader standpoint to make sure you’re listening, gathering the information, writing it down, it’s ike putting things on a whiteboard, but it’s a good way for team members to say well, that’s what I meant, or that’s not what I meant so that you can give them different ways of presenting their information.
10:57 JH: And you don’t have to be a refined artist, in fact, an artist… You don’t have to be an artist at all. You just have to really be able to visually communicate an idea or a message. If there is a miscommunication, address it in the meeting and also, so that everybody knows that this is in the communication. I know that with email or text or other types of communication, Slack, some things can be so abrupt or so quick that they create miscommunication, you really want to be sure that everybody understands. Encourage real listening. I know if a team is made up of people within the company, it sometimes becomes a challenge because they might be afraid to disagree with one another and that fear can lead to very mediocre decisions so it’s encouraging very thoughtful debate and really opening up the group to more creative ideas and solutions, and it’s gonna really result in better results.
12:02 JH: But it’s something to be aware of as you’re working within your teams, particularly, as I said, within your company teams that they not feel like afterwards there’s gonna be some ramification for them or grudge or anything, but if they disagree in a good way that they can structure and create a more solid team. As I said and I’m gonna end on this note, leading a team is a challenge and you learn along the way, you can make adjustments along the way, and it’s not beyond any scope to also take team members off who are extremely disruptive, and you will know early on, if you have a bully in your midst. You have someone that is just not in the best interest of the group and therefore is not gonna really help the team and it’s just gonna bring them down. There’s not a rule that says that you have to keep them on, unless, of course, you have to have this particular person in, then you might spend some time with them individually to talk about it, but there is a way and things that you might do to take that person off the team, so that your team can be more productive.
13:18 JH: I appreciate your time listening today, you listened to Jacalyn Holsted at On Point Thinking. If you want to send me any comments or you want to add to this conversation or you have more questions and you’d like me to do a podcast specifically on that or add it to another podcast, you can send your comments to email@example.com, and I read those comments and answer them. Thank you so much for your time.