Put a bunch of smart people together and there’s no guarantee you’ll get a smart team. Just look around you for examples. Great teams, like leaders, aren’t born, but consciously built around a series of focused conversations that help to define their mission, individual roles, and ways of working together to get things done. Done right, well-built teams make sound decisions, share responsibility for success, create results they’re proud of, work through - even embrace - differences of opinion, keep it together through the tough times and self-correct as things change. And they have fun. Sometimes even lots of it. Here are some of the services I provide to help you build and sustain smart teams.
New Team Launch Sessions
It’s our natural default - bring us together in groups to get something done and we’ll start doing that something. What could possibly go wrong? I mean, we all know why we’re here, what success looks like, who’s supposed to do what, and how we’ll go about conducting our business. Don't we? Turns out, this is often not the case, and misalignments from the start create disruptions and wreak havoc down the road that impedes task accomplishment and gets team members very annoyed with each other. Better to pause at the front-end and take the necessary time to get on the same page.
I help you design those pauses - fun, productive, results-oriented worksessions of varying lengths (two hours to two days) depending on your needs and preferences - to get your team up and running in a way that taps into your collective wisdom. And yes, that's possible!
Team Alignment Worksessions
Once launched and underway, teams can sub-optimize for all kinds of reasons, the most common being inertia. It's our tendency in groups to "stay the course," to keep doing what we've done, the way we've always done them, because 1. its easier that way and 2. because we fear the consequences of disrupting things. Or if we've disrupted things unsuccessfully in the past we've learned an unfortunate lesson to
" leave well-enough alone;" better sometimes to "go along to get along." And when this happens, people fall out of alignment with each other and both performance and team cohesion suffers.
Assuming, however, that you've got the necessary talent on-board and able-enough leadership, I help you design worksessions that provide a structure and a process for critically examining yourselves in areas fundamental to your team's success, resulting in shared agreements, ways to hold yourselves accountable to those agreements, and excitement about working together going forward. After all, why bother if there's no excitement? These worksessions are custom designed and can vary in length from two hours to two days.
Team Feedback Workshops
Ah, feedback. Most of us hate to give it, bristle when given it, but know that we and the teams of which we're a part can't grow and develop without it. And the more interdependent our team is, the more important it becomes for us to be forthcoming about how well we're working together. Teams get smarter when people skillfully and non-blamefully speak their truths about, and directly to, each other. But this doesn't come easy or naturally for most of us.
I help create a safe, supportive environment for people to exchange feedback, which is a very specific type of communication that provides information to others about the impact of our behavior, thus allowing us to change ineffective behaviors, promote effective behaviors and to strengthen crucial work relationships. During these sessions I teach people how to give and receive feedback skillfully and coach them in real time, such that they're more able to do it on their own back at the office. I also am available to work with team members after these sessions to help make sense out of what they've heard and figure out how to transform long-standing habits that may no longer serve them. Feedback is truly "the breakfast of champions." Want some? Click here to read more about my approach to developing capacity in this area.
Sometimes it makes sense for an executive team to get away from the office and invest a substantial chunk of its time to do important work. Like setting goals for the next year, or thinking through a product launch, or figuring out why something important went wrong and what's needed to get things back on track, or setting a vision or change strategy for the organization, or working through energy-sapping, mind-numbing conflicts between strong-minded people. You know, the stuff that matters.
I help you figure out what conversations you need to have, the order in which you need to have them, the skills you'll need along the way, and how to converse in a way that advances the dialogue. And I take the burden of facilitation off you or other team members so everyone can fully engage; I worry about the clock, I capture key agreements and understandings, and I give you the benefit of a lifetime of experience facilitating teams and helping people practice the requisite skills for pulling together across differences to make great things happen. I'd call these advances, but that's too corny, so let's stick with retreats. Perhaps it's time for your executive team to invest in its very own thought-factory.
© 2016 Marty Kaplan, PhD