Imagine knowing exactly who on your team is the best resource to help solve a particular crisis. Or knowing what personal characteristic of an individual might cause problems ”in the heat of battle.” This is not only possible but essential for a high performing team.
I’m often complimented on my ability to help a group of people – very often a diverse set of folks whom I have never met and worked with before – to become a tight unit that functions extremely well together and to do so in a very short time (often in only a day and sometimes in mere hours!)
It is, of course, most flattering to receive such compliments. But the reality is, as with most of the processes I use and suggest, it is not ”rocket science” to create and manage a successful team — it just takes a good solid, logical, common-sense approach.
For each of the proposal engagements I’ve undertaken over the years, no matter what the size, the steps I’ve followed have been the same. And here I’d like to highlight one of those steps – that being the uncovering, discussing and understanding of the strengths and the challenges that members bring individually and collectively to the team.
My approach is to have team members present, as the last part of an introduction exercise (and we do an introduction exercise even if everyone knows and has worked with each other*), what they see as their talents and their traits. As with each component of the introductions, I frame this very carefully, so that team members will provide the pertinent information.
I start by pointing out that by understanding what each member brings to the team in the way oftalent we can, especially when the going gets tough (and it almost always does at some point!), play to that person’s strength. The same goes for traits.
Talents – I ask each participant to consider what they bring to the team. I point out that that I’m not looking for academic knowledge or past experience (we’ve covered this previously in the intros). Here I’m looking for, to put it in sports terms, when they are the “go-to guy” (using “guy” generically here of course) for the team. Perhaps the team member is highly organized and a great planner. Other roles a member might assume are as “big picture” person, or the person who knows it’s time for everyone to take a break. Maybe he or she can diffuse a tense situation with a bit of humor. All these “skills” will typically prove to be necessary and valuable in the course of a proposal effort.
Traits – Here I ask each person to consider and present, “What about you is going to drive the rest of the team crazy
after we’ve worked with you for 3 hours, 3 days or 3 weeks?” Team members typically laugh when I ask this – indicating to me that they know exactly what I’m looking for, as well as showing that they’re slightly nervous about admitting such things. I highlight things that typically make others a little nuts – such as the person who is always seeking perfection (to a fault!) or the person who is always late, or perhaps the person who constantly interrupts. Or how about the person who insists on adding his or her two cents, even when the topic doesn’t concern them? By getting such traits on the table and most importantly, by having the person who displays these traits present them and own them, the team can then refer to them without the risk of being the first to point these out. In that way, the team can (hopefully) deal quickly and effectively with the trait and get on with the work, without the embarrassment and associated anger that would typically happen. (Once a traithas been offered up by a team member, referring to it usually provokes humor (and a sheepish, “I know” grin) rather than anger.
So next time you’re getting your team together – present and discuss the talents and traits each of you brings – and I’m sure you’ll find your team is much the stronger for having done so.
*I include an Introductions exercise as part of each and every team kick off. Even for teams that know each other well, this allows the team to refresh their memory as to who is on the team, i.e., what they bring and how best their talents and traits can be put to good use.
Also – ‘cause I know you’ll ask :) – my introduction exercise typically include –
- Name – (Here I highlight honoring what the person wishes to be called, hopefully avoiding the difficulties that arise when someone inadvertently refers to someone named Susan as “Susie” and such.)
- Experience with proposals – (Looking to understand the level of understanding this person has coming into this effort so I ask for this with both the current company and any previously experience.
- Role within this proposal team – (And if this is different than expected this is later discussed and resolved)
- Personal objective for being on the team – (Critical to understand as this, and not necessarily the overall goal, is what will provide motivation for this individual.)
- Potential challenges – (Looking here for those things that could prevent or limit this individual’s contribution to the team – time constraints, upcoming events such as vacation, training, etc.)
- Talents and Traits.