Archives for category: Teamwork

I spent last week with coaches and athletic directors from the National Christian College Athletic Association (NCCAA) at their annual convention that I spoke at. What a dynamic, focused, and joyful group of people!

Kicking off the NCCAA Convention in St. Louis: Vision to WIN

Three things stood out to me about these leaders:
1. Authenticity is attractive. In listening, observing, and talking with these leaders, I could tell there was a connection in “walking their talk.” Their personal convictions and value of their school and athletic program mission and purpose statements rang true.
2. They possess an ethic of care and love for people over profit. In today’s world, this is refreshing and magnetic. This is not to say these coaches and athletic directors aren’t interested in the bottom line – whether it’s measured with their department/program budgets or their win-loss records. Their concerns for developing people around them to know and love Christ and live with meaning and purpose simply trumps their desire to “profit.”
3. A sense of urgency to improve the performance of themselves as leaders, of their teams, and programs focuses them. Like most college coaches, desiring a general sense of improvement “down the road” isn’t good enough. Their openness and desire to learn launches their quest for leveraging tools and consulting strategies to equip their team to improve . . . now, this season, beginning today.

These key questions may help us reflect and grow as leaders:
• Am I authentic in my life and work? Do I “do” what I say is important?
• Do I value people or profit (measured in financial gain or wins) more than the other? How do my behaviors and attitudes reveal this?
• What is my sense of urgency to improve the performance of my leadership effectiveness and of my team in and out of the heat of battle?
• How attractive is my leadership?

By Dr. Heidi Scott, the Leader’s Coach

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Dear Dr. Scott,

Developing Digital or Face-to-Face Team Goals Require These 5 C’s

As a business leader, I thought I was decent at getting my work teams motivated to work together toward the completion of goals. But I need help. Sometimes I feel like I’m herding cats trying to keep people on the same page with where we are headed.

I oversee 5 virtual work groups and have competent department leaders heading up each group. When I click “Off” from a web-conference to end a meeting with these leaders I often think, “Good, it seems like my leaders know where we are headed and they should be able to get each of their work groups to reach these goals.”

But then it doesn’t seem to take too long for my wishful hopes to unravel as reports of data and also group conflict come my way. What am I doing wrong in trying to set up effective goals for my virtual teams? Can you give me some insights to help my work teams reach their goals?

Signed, Vastly Vexed in Vermont

This is a common question for leaders of virtual work teams, as well as those who work primarily face-to-face (F2F). Oftentimes, to a leader of a group, a team goal may seem almost obnoxiously obvious…like, “Of course this is the goal! Isn’t it clear that the group must reach this goal with excellence and timeliness?”

But “assumptions get us nearly every time” (one of my favorite sayings!). And if a leader assumes that group members recognize the same priorities and goals as they do – well, that may be an initial problem in the scenario of a group not all pulling together to complete the same goal!

So here are insights I’ve offered to a leader client caught up in the struggle of establishing effective team goals for virtual work groups.

NOTE: To be sure, these “5 Components (C’s) of Effective Team Goals” work in the F2F setting as well! The main difference is that the leader of virtual groups must be much more in-tune and aware of being highly intentional in addressing each of these components to improve the performance and success rate of virtual teams they lead.

How will it look when the goal is reached?

5 Components (C’s) of Effective Team Goals

1. Clear Goals This is the “what” of the goal. What is the overarching objective? Where is the desired destination? Does every member of the group possess the same clarity about this group goal? As the leader, have you confirmed this?

Compelling goals stir a desire to contribute

2. Compelling Goals As the leader, have you crafted a vision of this goal’s desired end state that is motivating to the group members? Have you addressed the, “What’s in it for me?” question that each member mentally asks? Have you shared this group goal in such a way that you create in every member a desire to contribute? Are they authentically eager to reach this goal?

3. Cooperative Goals

Cooperation increases when team members feel needed & valued

Because we know that a high-functioning team works as a system with well-oiled parts that must be working in synch, as the leader have you identified a role for each member in the group? Have you indicated how each role is needed and valued? Have you confirmed that group members know their role (and the value of it)?

Challenging goals seem outlandish - but "do-able"

4. Challenging Goals Have you heard of the term “Stretch Goals” when talking about setting milestones with meaning that seem almost out of reach…but are still quite possibly attainable? Well, that is what I mean by setting challenging goals for your work teams. Team members need to believe that it IS possible to attain the goal; and they must realize that it will take cooperation among team members to make it happen. If they believe the goal is completely out of reach, good luck engaging them! If they believe the goal is so easy that any two members could complete it on their own, quite possibly members will sit back and wait for the little effort they believe is required to come from other members! As a leader have you planned this as a strategic, important, and challenging goal?

Commitment means, "I'm on board! Let's go!"

5. Commitment to Goals Have you invited feedback from group members during the discussion you’ve led about this fresh, group goal? Have you asked (specifically) for your group members to express that they’re “on board” with this group goal? They don’t have to love it; but they must be moved to a point beyond being willing to “live with it.” When you can get them to verbalize out loud to themselves AND the group that at the least, “I’m on board,” the group’s commitment level goes up exponentially. And almost more importantly, have you as the leader expressed that you are not just “on board” but that you are fully committed to this goal?

So if you identify with the issues vexing the leader in the intro e-mail to this post about:

  • how to set up effective goals for your virtual teams, and
  • how to help your work teams reach their goals,

employing these 5 Components (C’s) of Effective Team Goals will be of help. If these issues resonated with you, there are 3 things of which to remain aware.

a)    As a leader who desires to develop effective team goals that your teams get behind and work together to make happen, YOU must take the time to think through and plan for how to communicate the 5 C’s of Effective Team Goals with your team.

b)   As a leader who desires to share team goals with your team of leaders who must then go cascade this information about the team goal with those they lead, you must plan for how to communicate the 5 C’s of Effective Team Goals with your group of leaders.

c)    As a leader who oversees numerous work groups (each with a leader), if you want those groups to reach team goals, you must do a) and b) above, AND teach the leaders of those groups how to do the same with the members in the groups they lead.

Our dear Vastly Vexed in Vermont leader diligently prepared to share team goals in these ways. The results? Team members collaborated cooperatively toward the clear, compelling, and challenging goals they were committed to reach. Motivation and momentum mixed to make results happen.

How can you articulate the 5 C’s of a current (or soon to be) team goal (whether it is a virtual or F2F team!) to increase the likelihood of your team(s) reaching it?

By Dr. Heidi Scott – Leadership and Organizational Development Specialist – consulting with and coaching leaders across industries

Dear Dr. Scott, I’m working in one of the virtual groups in your online Masters class. I’m at my wit’s end trying to complete our group tasks for this first week of working together. To be honest, it’s really challenging to “collaborate” with the group when there are only 2 of the 6 of us present online in our virtual group’s wor- space! I have tried to engage our members. I have emailed them. I have posted requests for folks to jump in to the dialogue. But the clock is ticking and I’m getting ticked, too! What advice do you have about how I should proceed? It’s just very stressful trying to work with people who are not willing to participate.

Signed, Freakin’ Frustrated Frenzy in Florida


As our planet “shrinks” through virtual group work, what are some keys to building effective virtual work groups?

So I teach graduate students online. There are often virtual group projects assigned. Through the years I have seen some groups flourish and some tank. Typically, these people have never met face-to-face, and even during the project never speak voice-to-voice. Sometimes I receive a plea from a student like the email above (based upon a true story!).

What are the keys to successfully working in a virtual group? Whether for an online course (which a growing number of people across the globe partake in weekly), or a business virtual group – what are some concrete steps to building an effective virtual work group?

1.     Connect with group members as individuals; try to establish a sense of a personal relationship right away – rather than focusing solely on the tasks at hand. Ensure clarity of purpose and who the group members are right away. And most importantly in this first step, conscientiously communicate respect and value toward each person and the experiences and depth each person brings to the group.

2.     Be willing to be authentically vulnerable. By approaching conversations as a humble contributor (rather than a know-it-all), you add to a positive chemistry where insights and perspectives of others are genuinely encouraged. Operating without assumptions for why other group members do what they do helps you remain open to discovery – and encourages others to share openly rather than defend any shortcomings.

3.     Verbalize agreements in the team setting. Even in a virtual, text-only setting, committing to actions and timelines – and then following through! – builds trust in the virtual group. There’s not much beyond being dependable and pleasant that the group may know about you in the fully virtual, text-only group; following through on agreements sets the team up for continued effective work toward its common goal.

4.     When life gets out of control as it sometimes does, or when “it” happens and you can’t follow-through or engage with your virtual group as intended or planned, are you willing to “own” your behaviors? If you willingly address your shortcomings and include plans for how you intend to avoid this in the future, you help your group get over your short-lived failure. (Believe me, they most likely already know about your shortcoming! Being silent about it only causes them to doubt that you are aware of how you negatively impacted the group.) “Owning” your behavior drives the level of trust up – which is so critical for the success of a virtual group.

5.     Express appreciation for the efforts, contributions, and personhood of your group members. It is amazing how a little bit of verbal appreciation goes such a long way! Celebrate the value that each person contributes; celebrate the mini and major milestones of the group’s progress.

These keys to build real trust in a virtual group also work in building a trusting culture in a group that meets face-to-face. The difference is that in the virtual setting, you just have to be a bit more focused on investing in your group’s positive momentum  – because you can’t rely on “sensing” feelings through voice tone and body language and facial expressions! In the virtual group it becomes tricky at best to check your perceptions.

Going back to the email I received from my graduate student, Freakin’ Frustrated Frenzy in Florida, it was somewhat funny to see the debacle unfold as it came to light that the assumed “missing” and “unengaged” group members were not missing or unengaged at all! They had (all) mistakenly been dialoguing in a different area of the online work-space for the group…and had been wondering where the “other 2” group members were! No one was dis-engaged…they were just a bit confused on the correct virtual location in which to work together!

Part of the 5th key above to build trust in a virtual group includes the strategy of operating without assumptions in trying to understand the motives and behaviors of others. One of my favorite statements when it comes to communication – whether virtual or face-to-face – is: Assumptions get you nearly every time!

By Dr. Heidi Scott – Leadership and Organizational Development Specialist (who for fun teaches undergrad Communication and graduate Leadership!)