Actually, there are several things you can do to prevent the worst team experiences from occurring.
One of the worst experiences is the “misfiring band of misfits” experience.
It’s the team that’s not well-organized or well-led for the work ahead.
One simple thing that’s helps avoid this experience is to schedule, and hold regular team check-ins.
It’s a simple but important way you can keep a group’s attention and efforts focused on their shared customer, and their shared customer goals.
The time it takes to plan and hold these team check-ins is minor compared to the time it will take the group to clean up after misdirection and mistakes.
Here are a few tips for how to have good team check-ins:
1. Start on the same page
Make sure everyone knows who your customers are for this work or project, and what they want from you.
Translate the customer goal – the team’s goal, ultimately – into smaller goals that are well-aligned with the overall plan.
These can be assigned, along with due dates for them, to small groups or individual members of the team.
In addition, to make sure you’re talking about the same thing as you work, simple tools like a glossary of often-used terms can be valuable. This is especially true if the work is very specialized, and the team is a cross-functional one.
Plan how and when you will hold your regular team check-ins. If possible, hold at least the kickoff meeting in person.
Get all regular check-ins on everyone’s calendar – and keep them there.
2. Stay on the same page
Hold your regular team calls or meetings as planned.
Make sure the meetings or team calls are productive and efficient. Many teams find that if they use a standing agenda, the reporting, discussions and other work they need to do together with that time can be done more efficiently. People know what to expect.
Create team ground rules and use them. Contact me if you need a set of ground rules you can start with, and adapt, as need be, for your particular team.
Hold people accountable for using each others’ time effectively.
And throughout the process, stay focused on your shared customers and goals. This goes a long way to keep everyone on the same page.
3. Don’t assume you’re on the same page just because you started that way
For some reason, assumptions are easy to make.
Often assumptions arise innocently enough.
They may crop up as a way to try to speed up and simplify communications and the process of reaching conclusions and taking action.
But often simplification airbrushes, or wipes away, your ability to notice something significant.
For example, you may see a problem start to emerge and assume that everyone else does, too.
But that may not be the case…it may have been just you who saw the signs of problems or danger.
Often, urgencies and emergencies or smaller problems (but problems, nonetheless) can be avoided with simple team follow-up and communication.
All it takes is taking the time and making the effort to clarify or verify a detail that turns out to be highly significant.
When in doubt, check.
4. Finish together
Start as a team.
Stay a team.
Finish as a team.
Don’t become a bickering band of well-intentioned but misfiring band of people who are filled with the awful feelings of, “Don’t ever make me work with some of these people again!”
Team experiences just don’t have to play out that way.
And whether you work together in the future or not, you’re probably going to learn some things on this and each team project that make future team experiences more effective.
Make this particular project or team a high-performing, and highly positive experience.
“Teams, a good experience?!” you ask?
They definitely can be…and may even be some of the highlights of your career and work life, when they’re created and managed very effectively. Regular team check-ins are an important part of that experience.
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