In my last post I shared 5 sports-themed principles of team building. In this post I would like to give you a practical tool to help you build a team, unify them, point them in one direction and then let them execute the plan.
One of the best leadership practices is question-asking. Accordingly I would like to give you 20 questions that you first answer yourself and then work through with your team. As you think through these questions and collaborate with your team on possible answers and implications I believe you begin will see the true potential of team-effort. There can be a beautiful synergy between team members co-laboring on mission, vision and goals but as the leader you have to ask the right questions.
The first three question are foundational questions that will lay the groundwork for building your team:
1. Why do I want a team? — Loneliness isn’t a good enough answer; neither is “trying keep up with the times” or “trying to be relevant”. Simply claiming “best practices” or “streamlining our organization” isn’t enough either. Is a team really necessary to accomplish your task? Continue on through these questions to help you decide if you really need a team.
2. What can a team help me do that I can’t do on my own? — Is your task big enough to need the insight and assistance of others? And are you really needing a team or do you merely need to disseminate projects? There is a difference. Simple delegation can be done without a team. True teamwork means the job can’t be done alone, and requires each person to contribute thoughts and ideas and to do their part in order to accomplish the end goal. Before we can determine if we need a team, then I guess we better discover what we are trying to accomplish.
3. What is it that we are trying to accomplish? — If we don’t know what we are trying to do, what the end goal is, or the purpose for our organization we stymie our progress before we get started. As you work through this question you may realize that bureaucracy, tradition, and opinions have stacked up and become a cumbersome load that the mission never intended. It may be that your team has never been effective or productive because ultimately they don’t know why they exist or what they are trying to accomplish.
After these first three fundamental question are answered (which may take weeks or even months) go on and work through the next 17 questions to build the structure of your team and implement a team strategy:
4. What am I /are we looking for in team members?
5. What are my shortcomings and weakness that will hold back the project/organization?
6. What are my strengths that I feel no one can do as well as I can in the given context?
7. Are there skills and abilities represented by my team members that the organization hasn’t taken into account?
8. Do the team members know their value to me and the organization?
9. Do we recognize a “win” when it comes?
10. Do we celebrate the wins?
11. Do we recognize a “failure” when it comes?
12. Do we debrief and learn from mediocre or failing endeavors?
13. Is there a bottleneck at any one person/policy that is inhibiting effectiveness/efficiency?
14. Do the team members have all the tools necessary to do their job?
15. Are there unspoken expectations, unheard concerns or unexpressed frustrations?
16. Is there trust, fellowship and camaraderie amongst team members?
17. What practical thing(s) could we do to release imagination?
18. What practical thing(s) could we do to open lines of communication?
19. How can we affirm team members and build team morale?
20. How can we change our approach so as to multiply our effectiveness?
This is by no means an exhaustive list and perhaps you have better questions. The point is that we as leaders need to ask the tough questions of ourselves and of those we lead and be willing to work through the answers. We need to constantly inquire as to the health of our team members and the team as a whole. Furthermore we must continually evaluate our collective progress lest we stall out and become nothing more than cogs and gears spinning but accomplishing nothing. Please, let me know what key questions you ask, I would love to learn more how to better help my team(s) towards health and effectiveness.
Photo credit: Jim Sorbie / Foter / CC BY