Question: How do I know if my team is effective? Part 3

A real-life example unfolded recently with the New England Patriots and their uncommon number of Superbowl wins. As they sought their sixth consecutive title, they are a clear example of an organization that has effective and efficient team-building based on individual contributions and their corresponding impact. The Coach has a mantra for each of the 53 players on the team – Do Your Job Well. This clear and pointed expectation speaks to the individual and the collective. He doesn’t expect anyone to do anyone else’s job, but to do their job well every single minute. If you have an organization that teaches you to do just that and holds you accountable, the result is victory.

Approach your responsibility with confidence and creativity. Challenge convention. Keep yourself well. Bring your best ability to your role. Surround yourself with those who support your goals and weed out those who don’t. Remember your team’s ‘why’ in everything you do. When you walk onto the field or into the boardroom to start your day, do you see a team of individuals prepared to give their very best to get the job done?

It’s fascinating to look at teams this way. How did they come together? Do they share a laser-like single focus and each commit to doing their job exceptionally well? The culture of the New England Patriots football team is so single focused that even the assistant manager of the equipment room states that his goal is to win the Superbowl. His job is to keep the room clean, but his ‘why’ is the one thing they are all there for. They are all in for one goal. It’s a winning strategy!

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Question: How do I know if my team is effective? Part 2

Once the team fully understands the ‘why’ and it takes root, they can begin to see the ‘how’. This involves an understanding of the ‘what’ that’s needed. In the case of the Community Learning Campus in Olds, once the ‘why’ had been determined as a group, we proceeded to produce a concept paper and business case. The Minister – a new Minister – responded by asking how much was needed, and we knew the answer because of the confidence that comes from a clear understanding of the ‘why’.

The ‘why’ is the basis of the team’s success and the project’s sustainability. The ‘why’ might be a better hospital, for instance. Now that traditional forms of funding aren’t available, many community organizations are stepping up to deliver on very fundamental goals. I’m working with a team who wants a better hospital in their small city. They don’t believe that you should have your heart attack in Calgary or have your cancer in an urban centre because of the facilities. That’s not what life is like, or should be like, for anyone. They refer to their goal as their cause, and every team I’ve been associated with has had a cause. Martin Luther King built an entire movement on the back of a cause – a movement that appeared to have no bounds in terms of equity of opportunity.

A team that is clearly achieving – given their talent, knowledge, background and context – is a team that knows their ‘why’. It’s only when they have this clear understanding that they begin to spend their time on the ‘how’ and ‘what’. When you build a team from scratch that’s going to meet a cause head-on, you need a picture of what contributions are required for it to be successful. It’s not just a case of gathering warm bodies – to be effective you must know what you need and then begin to recruit the people who can bring it. Individually and collaboratively, that team you build will have a corresponding impact on achieving its goal. You recruit your own successes or your own problems. If you are conscious at the front end of the ‘why’ and move mindfully in seeking individuals to carry that ‘why’ to the finish line, you have built an effective team.

Read Below for Part 1


Question: How do I know if my team is effective? Part 1

Building an effective team begins by helping a group of people towards an understanding of their situational reality. How would you answer the question ‘where are you right now and what is your team’s goal or vision? Would you be able to provide a clear answer? If you bring a group of committed individuals into a room together to define their purpose, you can have surprisingly different answers. But having them come together into a room is a very good start!

It can be effective to begin a team-building meeting by asking participants to articulate a moment when they felt prideful of their contribution. Getting people to talk about what makes them passionate often brings out their compassion. It exposes why they’re involved in the first place – something must have lit a fire for them to become part of the team’s endeavour. It’s different for everyone, but that purpose is important to talk about or the efforts may not go anywhere or be sustainable.

The human nature tendency is for people to talk about what they know – the ‘what’. It’s so much more difficult to take a step back and talk about the ‘why’. I often use the example of the Community Learning Campus in Olds, which is now a $70 million infrastructure and programming accomplishment with a bunch of ‘how’ attached to it. But it all started with a ‘why’. It wasn’t until that ‘why’ had been wrestled to the ground that I was able to engage another person with a clear articulation about the ‘what’. The ‘why’ was to level the playing field – plain and simple.

Five years earlier, when listening to a Minister of Advanced Education explain to a student why Edmonton and Calgary had such a distinct difference in amenities, facilities, equipment, and supplies than post-secondaries outside of these major cities, it was all too clear that the field was not level. Why was there such a difference between rural and urban higher education opportunities, the student had asked. The Minister empathized and indicated he, too, came from rural Alberta and had learned a long time ago that when you chose rural you chose less. Well, THAT lit my fire and it grew into the ‘why’, because I simply didn’t agree with him.

It’s unfathomable to subscribe to the notion that because people chose to live, work and play in rural, remote and northern communities that they subject their children to second or third-rate educational opportunities. Everyone pays the same taxes, rural kids tie their shoes in just the same way as urban kids. It became my raison d’etre, and the work immediately began in an effort to find a way to level the playing field. It started with two people and grew to 350 people – a team that came to articulate clearly ‘why’. Fairness. Equity of opportunity. Retention of intellectual capital.