Rodney M Bliss

Team Edition: Building A Team From The Outside In

They are demoralized, disorganized, discouraged. And they are your new team. You’ve been brought in to lead them. In addition, you’re new. What are you going to do first?

Leading a team as the designated leader is much different than leading a team as a peer. Where the player/coach, who is a peer-leader needs to be the best or one of the best on the team, the designated leader doesn’t need to be an expert. He (or she) just needs to be competent at what the team does.

A team is more than a collection of people. It’s a functional unit with as many moving parts as there are members of the team. A baseball team, for example has infielders and outfielders, pitchers and catchers. Even within each group, like pitchers for example, you have starters, long relievers, short relievers, setup men and closers. And over all of it is the manager. Occasionally through history, there are been player managers. The last one was Pete Rose who both played for and managed the Cincinnati Reds. Generally, though the manager is a separate role. The manager wears a uniform just as the player do. He really another member of the team. His role is different but just as important as any of the players.

As a new team leader or as a team leader trying to rally your group, you need to understand what your role is. Your role is to focus the team; drive it toward your objectives. But, first you have to pull them together as a team. The mechanics of how you do it are less important than the objective. The Army, for examples, follows the pattern of first breaking down individual members and then building them back up as a team. In the movie Miracle, famous USA Hockey Coach Herb Brooks, who lead the 1980 USA Hockey team to a gold medal is shown in one scene intentionally agitating his team to inspire them. Legendary basketball coach Red Auerbach was known to intentionally get thrown out of games to inspire his team to play harder.

How you inspire you team will depend on your skills and your team’s needs. Trying to use someone else’s technique, if it’s not a natural fit for you would be a waste of time and effort. There are a few rules that can help to guide you.

Teams rarely respond to threats. Even if you do get some increased effort as a result of a threat, any positive will be offset by lack of loyalty. There’s a school of thought that you need to give your team a common enemy (you) to rally around. I’ve never seen it work except in the movies.
Teams do respond to a vision. As the leader it’s your job to give them something to work for. Steve Jobs, when trying to recruit John Sculley away from his position at PepsiCo said, “Do you want to stay here making sugar water, or do you want to come with me and change the world?” Sculley said it was that statement that made the difference. Jobs also, when working with the team that developed the first Macintosh computer told them to make it “Insanely great.”

Teams will also respond to a challenge. You might be a manager over a frontline team that has no influence in the rest of the organization. Don’t sell them on the corporate vision. Sell them on your vision of the team. If you are an engineering team, inspire them to be the best engineering team in the company. If they are a manufacturing team, inspire them to be the most efficient manufacturing team in the corporation. Find a goal, a goal that will make them stretch and also be achievable and give them something to work for.

I’m a believer that rewards are an important part of leading and inspiring a team. It’s not a universally accepted view. Some people insist that “I don’t like the attention,” or “Awards just go to the best brown noser.” I’ve given plenty of awards to teams and team members over the years, I still believe that in moderation it’s a great motivational tool.

Mostly, you need to make sure that you identify the team roles that need to be filled and put the right people in each role. Then, get the team headed in the right direction. Like a well-tuned engine, if you put the right inputs in, you get an efficient, powerful result. Just don’t think you have to do everything yourself.

This is the second in a three part series on teams
Wednesday: Building Teams From The Inside Out
Thursday: Building Teams From The Outside In
Friday: The Best Team I’ve Ever Been On

Rodney M Bliss is an author, columnist and IT Consultant. His blog updates every weekday. He lives in Pleasant Grove, UT with his lovely wife, thirteen children and grandchildren. 

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(c) 2017 Rodney M Bliss, all rights reserved

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