Kickstarting Your New Team

By Tom Davidson

Q. What’s the best way to get my team off to a good start?

A. Just like a productive forest is no accident, neither is an effective team. The best team leaders know what to do at the beginning, middle and end of a team’s life cycle. Here are three important things to do at the outset of any team.

Choose Carefully. Most new managers choose team members based on their functional expertise without sufficient consideration of their team, leadership and communication skills. Determine the characteristics needed for your particular team and put them in terms of observable behaviors. The resulting list of criteria is the backbone of your selection process. Compare each of your candidates to that list and you will stand a much better chance of making the right choices.

Charter the Group. Rather than letting the team jump into the task helter-skelter, take time to clarify exactly what they are supposed to do. This includes their unique purpose, short- and long-term goals, relationship to other groups, and what success looks like. If it’s a temporary committee, include when the team is to end. Insufficient clarity in these areas will eventually affect morale and efficiency.

Establish Ground Rules. The term, “ground rules,” comes from baseball. Since every ball field has unique conditions (just like every team), each baseball stadium has its own rules that enable the two teams (home team and visitors) to play by the same rules. In terms of work teams, ground rules are agreed-upon norms of behavior that spell out exactly how the team will work together (i.e., how decisions will be made, how team members will stay in good communication, and how work will be handed off among the group).  Just as nature abhors a vacuum, norms will grow there anyway, so you might as well make some good ones on purpose.

Let me know if you need more help with your team or have more questions about teams and teamwork.

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