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Tag Archives: Team Building

Yes, we’re all dumb – enough to make mistakes – and then we learn.  In a way, that is a part of the self-deprecating culture I miss about the military.  We are all very hard on ourselves, and while also served with an occasional dose of – ahem – “confidence” we also ridicule ourselves more often than anything else.  Well, ourselves and each other.  I have grown to realize there is a productive measure to that ridicule that improves individual, collective and team performance.

When a working team establishes a communication environment that allows for straight, sometimes brutal, but honest and even more often comical, communication – there is very little left unsaid.  Why is that helpful?  Because it ensures that all members of a team are voicing their observations when they thinks something is awry.  If you are doing something that can be done better, you’ll be told.  If your performance is good, but can be better – you’ll be told.  If someone disagrees with you – you’ll be told.  The guess work is taken out, and the perceived friction point can be addressed.  This reduces what I’ve been introduced to as “office politics”.  If we’ve learned anything in a democratic society, it’s that “politics” and “efficiency” often get in each other’s way.

Of course, there needs to be moderation.  No team should suddenly start verbally lashing out at each other (nor should they ever really be “lashing out”).  First, everyone has to believe that everyone else in the team is more concerned about the TEAM’s goals and objectives than any individual’s objectives.  Team-orientation over self-orientation is a topic of its own, and gets into the foundations of team building.  But that will be it for today – let’s keep it short.  How honest have you been with your team lately?

*You might have noticed the title was intentionally, incorrectly spelled as “were” instead of “we’re”.  It’s a play on words… making “dumb” only temporary, until enlightened.

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I like to be adventurous sometimes… and this is something that has come to mind and I’ve noticed in Global, Political and local context.  So I’d like to address it some, and briefly apply it to team building and entry-level leadership and manager roles.

Human people, as a mass, are control freaks.  We will always try to find blame for bad things on attributes which can be controlled, or that we at least perceive we can control.  It gives us peace of mind to think we can do something to prevent the recurrence of a mal-event.

It is much less likely for people in mass, to attribute mal-events to forces that are much more difficult to control, require a shift in thought in order to control, or are simply not controllable.  The only exceptions to this rule are those mal-events that are results of natural disasters.  Even then, there will be those that will try to rationalize that any negative effects of the natural disaster were preventable, or controllable, based on some aspect of human error.

We as people are horrible at differentiating what CAN be influenced, and what CANNOT be influenced.  I use the word “influence” intentionally.  No single thing can be controlled, but it can be influenced.  And often, people over-look the ability of influence.  The best influences are those that are never realized, yet effect the decisions and the results of events.

To this, I say – always seek out and diligently identify any contributing factors to an outcome, if you are looking to effect the outcome.  This works in micro and macro applications.  When managing a team and you notice a lack, or shift in performance or results, first identify all contributing factors (team members, member’s work environment, your implicit signals, members’ home environments, etc).  Then, analyze where you should focus your INFLUENCE (not “control”).

Well placed influence will always reap a higher return and more efficient results than emplacing “controls” or “exercising control”.  If you feel like you’ve lost “control” of your team – change your mindset.  Stop trying to control people and control the environment and start influencing people and harboring the environment.  The best part of influencing anyone or anything – effectively influencing forces you to listen, comprehend, and understand the subject of your intended influence.

How do you influence others?

There has been a lot posted lately about my efforts in Veterans Transitions – and there will be more.  But today, I wanted to take a step back and bring up something that has more to do with general Leadership and Team Building.

While there are many “definitions” of Leadership – most generally focus around the idea of organizing a group of individuals into a team with the focus of reaching a common goal.   Most importantly – there is a focus on a common goal.  There are many studies, theories and methodologies out there that speak to the multitude of motivational theories and personality matching that goes into building a cohesive team that will reach and set new goals.  For fun, I’m going to dumb-down to look at a comparison.

I’ve seen motivation of 2 or more individuals based on their desire to achieve a goal that benefits both to a level greater than could be obtainable if each attempted to do so on their own (This would suggest synergy – a more comprehensive and overall better explanation can be taken from Stephen Covey’s The 3rd Alternative.  Is the bond, and level of cohesion in that scenario as strong, stronger, or inferior to the bond and level of cohesion obtained when 2 or more are united by a common enemy?

Now I have thought about this… and I am not sure which is more powerful in the long run.  However, in thought – I believe being united by a common enemy is often more influential and bonding when dealing with a diverse group of individuals with pre-existing aversions towards each other.  I’ve also seen many examples of manipulating individuals into bonding through the threat of a common enemy – as I am sure most of you have.  Let’s look at some.

If you have had siblings – How many times were you and your sibling punished after bickering or fighting by your parents?  So much so that the punishment dealt by your parents made you and your sibling work together to bare the punishment, or even more so, try to out-smart your parent – after such you and your sibling(s) were left with a tighter bond and deeper understanding of each other?

If you are in a direct sales role, where multiple sales teams operate in the same region – there is that one sales team that always wins the contests and bonuses.  You find yourself teaming up and sharing ideas with another team – that would normally be competition, almost solely for the sake of keeping the top team from winning once again.

In the military – it happens EVERY DAY at the ground roots.  In one of the finest and most renowned leadership courses our nation has seen, high school graduates by the hundreds, from all over the nation land on yellow foot prints at the Marine Corps Recruit Depot in San Diego or Parris Island.  Many times with the testosterone drive, A-type personalities sought after by USMC recruiters.  Once assigned to a platoon, before they can figure out if they like each other or not – recruits realize their greatest, and only ally against the wrath of Drill Instructors is each other.  If you’ve yet to see what Recruits will do, as a cohesive unit, in an effort to avoid the wrath or even further impress their Drill Instructors – you might be grossly underestimating the power of unity through a common “enemy”.

Anyhow, there are many ways to motivate a group of individuals in order to create a team.  But many of the most cohesive, successful and well-oiled teams I’ve formed, been a part of, or observed have all at some point, experienced a period of bonding induced by their own unity against a common enemy.  By no means is that the solution to building a team – but a very interesting piece of the puzzle to be considered.

 

How have you seen it in your situation?

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