A New Year’s Resolution for #Leaders and #Teams: Who Are We?

Connection lights

A #NewYear’s resolution: Connecting in a deeper manner with your work team. We spend a great deal of time together being #productive. Let’s answer the question: “Who are we?”

At my father’s retirement ceremony as a college president, the local reigning politician concluded his remarks with a heartfelt statement. He indicated that if he were selecting someone to spend a week with in a fishing boat catching walleye, it would be my dad. In this rural northern Minnesota town this was the ultimate compliment!

This story gets at how important it is for us to spend time with colleagues that we know and like.  When teams are formed, they first naturally want to know what they are supposed to accomplish together. This is why the question that a team naturally asks itself is: “Who are we?”

Once their reason for being together has been answered, the next question is who is sitting next to me? Who are the people that I am about to take this journey with?  Just like the northern Minnesota folks who want to know who they will be spending a significant amount of time with in a boat, team members want to know more about their peers who they will rely on to work together as a team.

There are many packaged surveys and assessment tools that one can purchase in order to learn more about your team members. For example, I have led teams in completing and processing assessment instruments such as the Myers Briggs [https://www.themyersbriggs.com/, 2018], which indicates various psychological preferences of how people perceive the world and make decisions.

Instruments such as the Myers Briggs can be an effective way for teams to learn in-depth how they can better leverage each other. However, there is a financial cost for each team member who completes the tool. In addition, it typically takes a minimum of a half day to help the team process the instrument results.

For these reasons I have at times opted for a lower cost, quicker solution to help team members get to know one another. I simply ask them questions that will allow them to get to know one another better personally and professionally. I find that the time that team members spend getting to know about each others’ backgrounds, motivations, working styles and passions in life translates into better teams.

There is really no magic here, but following is a sample slate of questions:

  • Information about your background – career path, etc..
  • What do you like most about your city?
  • What do you like best about their work?
  • What are your favorite hobbies?
  • What did you do before you started working here? Not just jobs you held, but career path and aspirations?
  • What motivates you personally? What motivates you professionally? What gets you jumping out of bed in the morning “before” the alarm clock goes off?
  • Tell me about your family?
  • What thing in your life (outside of work) do you have a passion for? Do you have a career goal they would share with others?
  • Where’d you go to school how did you end up working here?
  • Why do you do what you do for a living? And why does your department do what it does?
  • Please let us know a bit about your education and work experience?.
  • What’s your favorite way to keep up on professional trends and best practices? [Conferences? Publications? Training? Podcasts? Etc.]

I have made this exercise a little more interesting for the participants by turning it into a “Crumple and Toss” activity. Each team member carries out the following steps, which results in the exercise being more dynamic and introduces an element of fun:

  • Step A: Participants select a question that has been crumpled and tossed in a hat.
  • Step B: They can answer that question or select a new question until they pick one they like, limiting answers to two minutes or less.
  • Step C: Crumple the question back up and toss it into the middle of the table. Providing a forum for team members to ask each other questions to get to know one another is simple to carry out and the positive results for team members is significant. I have had many teams indicate that the personal relationships among them is one of the reasons they can point at to explain their success. This simple exercise is a great New Year’s resolution which started them on that path.

When I began in this field I assumed that team members would naturally get too know one another. I thought they would be asking each other these types of questions from day one. However, I have learned that most employees on teams go right to accomplishing the tasks at hand.

Providing a forum for team members to ask each other questions to get to know one another is a great New Year’s resolution.  It is simple to carry out and the positive results for team members is significant. I have had many teams indicate that the personal relationships among them is one of the reasons they can point at to explain their success. This simple exercise started them on that path.

This blog does not represent the views of my employer.

 

The Importance of Peers In Our Organization Development Work

“We have all known the long loneliness, and we have found that the answer is community.”

Dorothy Day

As #OrganizationDevelopment (OD) professionals working with peers is one of the most important factors leading to our success.  Helping our organizations succeed is a team sport and the ideas and support we receive from our fellow OD colleagues is invaluable.  I have been a sole provider of OD consulting at several organizations.  The freedom to design and deliver interventions that I deem to be the best is empowering.  However, I will take an OD partner to collaborate with any day.

As we start our careers, most of us learn the field of OD from our peers.  This was certainly the case of my career path.  I learned a great deal about the theories of organizations in my Doctorate program.  However, I became adept at actually doing OD work early in my career by spending countless hours with my OD teams discussing business challenges, designing solutions and co-leading interventions.  The powerful and unique viewpoints and techniques that each of us brought to the table was my true school of OD.

I focused on industrial organizational design as part of my academic program and early application work.  My peers steeped in the psychological world of OD opened up for me the importance of coaching, teams and culture.  Working with talented colleagues I observed first-hand how to navigate the “soft” side of our work.  I learned a great deal from them and it motivated me to become a well-rounded consultant just as prepared to take on an organizational design or process project, as a teaming or culture challenge.

Once we have found our footing as an OD professional, we are looking to hone our ability to provide even more impactful work.  At this stage in our careers there is no substitute for the clashing of ideas that professionals steeped in various aspects of organization provides.  I can clearly recall a heated discussion where each member of our OD team saw a business problem from a completely different perspective.  Each of us made a case that the root cause of the problem at hand stemmed from people, process, structure and even technology challenges!  In the end, our solution encapsulated each of these aspects of organization and was much more effective than addressing a single root cause.

I would be remiss if I did not mention that in addition to success, OD colleagues provide a deep level of satisfaction in carrying out our work.  I experience this on a daily basis with my current OD peers.    Together we share the highlights when things go well with a client, as well support each other through the challenges and disappointments.

As OD consultants we help our clients work through challenges.  But who helps us when we run up against road blocks?  The answer is simple, it is our peers who provide us with the community that allows us to carry out powerful, fulfilling work.

As OD consultants we help our clients work through challenges.  But who helps us when we run up against road blocks?  The answer is clearly our peers.  At a recent MN Organizational Development Network (http://www.mnodn.org)  meeting some of the founders of the OD practice in the 1970s cited the community of practitioners as being one of the keys to putting our field on the map.  That has not changed over time. It is our peers who provide us with the community that allows us to carry out powerful, fulfilling work.

Note: The content of this blog does not reflect the views of my employer.