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A New Way to Build a Team

One of the most significant problems technologists and business managers face is building teams that work.

My wife was at a meeting last week at which Marshall Goldsmith spoke.  She came home with a bundle of material, and I want to share with you his direct and appealing method for “Team Building Without Time Wasting,” an article he co-wrote with Howard Morgan.  While I’ve read much of his material before, this approach was new to me.

His begins with the belief — with which I agree — that while the need to build effective teams is increasing, the time available to build these teams is decreasing.  So how do you build a great team under circumstances of limited resources and narrow timeframes?

An underlying belief in his approach, which is core to his coaching model, is that meaningful and measurable improvement ‘tends to occur when team members develop their own behavioral change strategies rather than just executing a change strategy that has been imposed upon them by the boss.’  Individuals themselves create the change; not the coach.  This means the team member must want to change a behavior because doing so is beneficial to them.

In abridged form, here is Mr. Goldsmith’s 14-step model for building effective teams.

  1.  As soon as the team is assembled, ask all members to confidentially record their own answers to two questions:  1) How well are we doing as a team?  2) How well do we need to be doing?  (You can use a 10 point scale.)
  2. Calculate the results from step #1 and discuss among the team.  Depending on the gap between the answers to the two questions in step #1, you will see how people assess where they are and where think they should be.  This is an important grounding step because you as the coach need to know if the team members believe the team is important and necessary.
  3. Then, ask each team member what two behaviors they would change to close the gap.  Each change should be noted on a flip chart.
  4. Ask the team members to prioritize all the behaviors and determine the most important (say the top 2) behaviors to change.
  5. Each team member will now hold one-on-ones with each of the other team members and suggest ‘two areas for personal behavioral change (other than the ones already agreed in step #4, which relate to the team) that will help the team close the gap.’  (These discussions should occur simultaneously, with the team working through this step in less than an half-an-hour.)
  6. Of the suggested changes, ask each team member to select the one ‘that seems to be the most important and announce their one key behavior for personal change to the team.’
  7. Now, thinking about the future, encourage all team members to ask for a brief monthly discussion to ask how they could be more effective, using the model of ‘one key personal behavior.’
  8. In six months, conduct a short confidential survey to assess the ‘perceived change’ in each person’s effectiveness.  ‘This survey will include the one common behavioral item, the one personal behavioral item, and the overall team member item.’  (The coach can perform the survey, ensuring the feedback is kept private.)
  9. Calculate the results on all items for each individual and for all team members.  This provides information at the individual level and ‘a summary report on the team’s progress on the items selected for all team members.’  (Studies by Goldsmith and others have proven that regular follow-up with colleagues about one’s behavior is essential to obtaining the desired change.)
  10. Using the survey results, have each team member discuss ‘ key learnings and ask for further suggestions.’
  11. Review the summary results with the team.
  12. Going forward, every team member should continue to ‘conduct brief monthly progress report sessions with all the other team members.’
  13. If the team still operates, follow-up step #12 with them after one year, conducting another mini-survey.   Discuss results as you had done in steps #10 and #11.
  14. Assess if more team work is needed.  If so, continue the process; if not ‘declare victory.’

The process is not as egregious as it seems.  Through a little structure and the assistance of a coach, it ‘is highly focused, including disciplined feedback and follow-up,’ both of which have been shown from study after study to be critical in changing behavior.  And knowing how members view the importance of the team is sure to give it a strong footing on which to start.