Tag Archives: teamwork

The Team You Deserve

“Ted, your team is functioning exactly as it was designed to function,” I started.

“What do you mean? You make it sound like it’s my fault,” he defended.

“Exactly, as the manager, the team you have is the team you deserve.”

I could tell Ted was getting agitated. It is easy to look at someone else to blame. It is tough when the responsibility is ours.

“The team you have is the team you deserve,” I repeated. “As time goes by, you will find that your team will be no better than you are. The speed of the pack is the speed of the leader.

“If you find that your team is not what you want it to be, if you find that you are not able to bring out the best in that team, to bring them to higher levels of performance, then, as the manager, you are not the leader who deserves better. At least not yet.”

Ted was quiet.

After a minute, I broke the silence. “So, what do you think we need to work on? Where should we start?”

Ted took a breath. “I guess we have to start with me.”

Stars Can Win Trophies

“Look, I have the best engineer, I have the best mechanic, I have the best designer, I have the best installer,” Ted complained. “Then why do we get such mediocre production?”

“I don’t know, what do you think?” I asked.

“We just can’t seem to make our numbers,” he started. “It’s like we have all the best talent, but just can’t put it all together.”

“So, it’s the putting together part?”

“Well, yeah.” Ted stopped. “You’re right, it’s not the talent part, it’s the putting together part. They don’t sync up, they are all running in a different gear. They don’t relate.”

“So, you just found your constraint? How well you connect is how well you do as a team. Your production will never be as good as your star player. It doesn’t matter how well your star plays. Individual stars can win a trophy, but it takes a team to win a championship.”

Requires a Conscious Mindset

“So, how do I get the team back to productive work?” Miriam asked.

“Facing the issue of having to work together, in a conscious, cooperative way, takes effort,” I replied. “It doesn’t happen by itself. As the manager, when you push the issue back to the center of the table, there are four predictable responses. The team will go into fight or flight. They will freeze or appease, not necessarily in that order.”

“I just have to outlast the panic,” Miriam remembered.

“To work together, the team has to change its belief about the way it works together. Culture starts with the way we see the world, the way we see our circumstances. Teams that work together have a different mindset. They don’t cooperate (for long) because we tell them to. They support and help each other because they believe that is the way things are done around here. It may not be comfortable at first, but high performing teams not only live with the discomfort, but create rituals to meet adversity head on. I can always tell a team is making progress when they trade in (solve) old problems for a new set of problems.” -Tom

Why Do You Need a Team?

Phillip’s team looked at each other, across the table, and for the first time saw something different. No more were they simply co-workers, but now interdependent members of a group whose success depended on those connections.

We were talking about changing habits.

“No one succeeds by themselves,” I said. “At least for anything of significance. Sure you can think you are the Lone Ranger and prance around like you are someone important, but to achieve anything of real significance, you need a team. Each of you will, at some point, stumble, make a mistake, misjudge a situation. Each of you will, at some point, become discouraged, or become a Prima Dona, full of yourself.

“And when that happens, you will not recognize it in yourself soon enough. You need each other to tell you those things, to make each of you better. Without each other, you will end up in ditch somewhere and no one will notice.”

How Do You Interview for Teamwork?

“There is just something about this candidate that I can’t put my finger on,” Wendy was skeptical. “Everything checks out. This person has the technical skills, the necessary experience, seems enthusiastic, but there is something. On paper, this person should be hired, but my gut is telling me otherwise.”

“You have covered the bases on my list,” I replied. “But I would trust your intuition. Which is it?

  • Capability
  • Skill
  • Interest, Passion (value for the work)
  • Reasonable Behavior

“Which is it?”

“What do you mean, reasonable behavior?” Wendy wanted to know.

“It’s important what a person knows, technical knowledge. It’s important how a person feels toward the work, interest or passion. But to complete the tasks in the role, the person has to do something. It’s about behavior. Are there habits that people have that contribute to their effectiveness? Like always showing up early for work?”

“Yes, habits are important,” Wendy agreed.

“And do we have cultural norms for our behavior in the work that we do around here?”

Wendy nodded. “I think you got it. That’s it. We have a very strong team culture. Every company says teamwork is important, but around here, it is critical. Some of the work we do is dangerous. Every person here depends on their team members to work safely. Their lives depend on it.”

“So, if culture is that unwritten set of rules that governs our behavior in the work that we do together, what does your intuition tell you about this candidate?” I asked.

“Everything story the candidate told was about himself. I mean, the interview was obviously about the candidate, but every accomplishment seems like it was single-handedly performed. I never heard the word ‘we’ during the whole interview.”

“So, your intuition is telling you something, related to reasonable behavior. What additional questions do you want to ask?”

“Working together as a team is a critical role requirement,” Wendy explained. “I need to know how this candidate works with other people. It is as important as any of the technical skills.”

“What questions will you ask?”

“Thinking out loud, here is my list,” Wendy replied.

  • Tell me about a time when you worked on a project where teamwork was important?
  • What was the project?
  • What was the purpose of the project?
  • How long was the project?
  • How many people were on your team?
  • What was your role on the team?
  • What were the factors that made teamwork important?
  • What were the factors that put pressure on the team to work together?”
  • When the team worked well together, what were they doing?
  • When the team began to crack, when they didn’t work well together, what were they doing?
  • What was the outcome of the project?”
  • Tell me about another project, where teamwork was important?

“That ought to be a good start.” she smiled.
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I need some help from iPad users. How many of you are buying books out of the iBookstore as opposed to the Kindle app for iPad? Hiring Talent is available on Kindle, but I am thinking about publishing through the iBookstore.