Welcome back to our series ‘Building a Kick-Ass Team From the Ground Up’. In the first post Part One - The Start Up Phase we covered the initial phase of team formation. In this blog, we’re moving on to building the team’s identity, which is essential for establishing team norms so that everyone knows how the team operates.
In this phase you will be hands-on and sometimes directive. This is a time for obtaining your new team’s commitment, setting well-defined expectations and clear objectives. This is also a critical time for you, as the leader, to demonstrate your commitment and follow through. Lets look at the key steps to founding your team with an identity each member can embrace.
1. Crack the Ice
Right now you have a team of strangers together or they haven’t worked together with you, as yet. To get work done, they’ll first need a chance to connect on a different level; otherwise they’ll naturally be cautious and hesitant to get down to work. You COULD throw them straight into the day-to-day work, but we’re talking about building kick-ass teams here – and kick-ass teams begin with a kick-ass culture. A better way to begin would be with a little bit of fun – laughter is the one of best ways to help people break down their walls.
There are plenty of team-building icebreaker games you can do to help warm up your group. Just be mindful that the icebreaker should properly underpin your objectives and be appropriate for the work environment. For example, I don’t recommend a game that involves hand-holding (i.e. like the one called Electric Current in the link) with engineers in a corporate workspace – they surely would be uncomfortable and resistant.
One of my favourite icebreakers is storytelling. This involves getting everyone together in a room and having each participant share the following:
As the leader of this icebreaker, it’s important to listen carefully and point out similarities or connections between team members (i.e. like how many people are a middle child). It’s also important to watch how comfortable each participant is. If anyone seems uncomfortable, try giving him or her a different question when they get stuck. If it’s a big group you can also break the team into smaller groups then have each group provide an overview of the fun highlights they learned.
To wrap up the icebreaker, make a summary statement about your team’s diverse backgrounds, different skill sets, similarities or the great potluck lunches you expect to have in the future!
The most important note is that YOU go first! You set the tone for participation. Make the exercise fun and memorable and be open and transparent. Enjoy this time to connect before you all get down to business.
2. Set the Stage
Remember in Part One – The Start Up Phase when you did all that white boarding of your vision? Now’s the time to share it!
Even if you went over your plans with each person, as you were onboarding, it’s still important to review your vision and communicate your expectations to the whole team. If you’re in a formal work environment, you may wish to create a slide presentation to walk through, otherwise use this list below to help guide your team meeting:
Kick Ass Action Step - Share Your Top 5 Personal Values
Take time to let your new team know about what you personally value and expect – these help to lay a foundation for the behaviour of the team. You can refer to this Core Values list to contemplate your top five. By conveying what you’re all about, you’ll be helping your team know more about who you are and what you do or don’t tolerate.
3. Assign the Mission
Just like in the Mission Impossible movies, each team member needs to know what they personally need to accomplish, what they will be held accountable for and who to go for approval or solving problems. This is a perfect time to share the job specs you developed in phase one, if you haven’t already.
Provide members of the team with their own job description and have him or her review their role considering the context you shared when you set the stage. Discuss their individual objectives to help meet the overall goals and ask them to begin thinking of their own development plan. This is a good time to check in and see what help they may need to be successful, and to let them know how frequently you’ll be checking in with them moving forward.
4. Establish Team Norms
You’ve likely worked in different teams with an assortment of distinct norms. Perhaps you’ve encountered one where the people were backstabbing and constantly late to meetings, or another where the people were supportive and eager to help each other succeed. I can guarantee you that the difference you experienced wasn’t the company; it was very much indicative of the behaviour of the leadership.
Team norms are standards and operating principles that groups demonstrate and quickly become the internal culture of a team – the ‘how we do things around here’ you encounter. It is during the ‘building team identity’ step that you, as the leader, can set the tone for these norms, whether by design or by action. The way your team operates is a direct reflection of you.
Think about what your team can count on when working with you…
With your guidance and direction in these areas, you can influence the culture of your team in a way that will not only have an immediate effect, but also a long term one. If you’d like to chat about developing a team charter that everyone will ‘sign up to’, let me know – I work with businesses to set principles that shape team norms.
Kick-Ass Action Step: Take a moment to list the norms YOU will personally uphold and commit to – i.e. responding to emails in a timely manner, remaining open to differences, working efficiently, following through on commitments, being on time etc. Then make those your MO! Your actions will directly influence how the team culture is formed.
5. Be Consistent
I recently read a great post on LinkedIn called No Consistency, No Success by Grant Cardone. In it, he acknowledges that consistency builds discipline and disciplined actions done consistently create success – both personally and professionally.
The fact is, the best leaders follow through. This builds trust, creates credibility, sets the tone with a team and forms the basis of a team’s identity. Follow my simple Kick Ass rule below to become a more consistent leader:
Kick-Ass Tip – a simple rule:
If you’re setting up your team identity or are struggling if its gone awry and want to talk strategy or simply design a killer team building session, contact Dots Leadership Solutions. We design kick-ass strategies to help leaders launch their teams successfully!
Watch for the next instalment in the series, Building a Kick-Ass Team From the Ground Up – Bust Through the Barriers, where we’ll talk about the high conflict stage of a team formation – this is where you’ll learn how to earn major leadership stripes!
We welcome your comments – let us know of your challenges or successes in building a kick-ass team.
Elaine Adamson is a leadership consultant with Dots Leadership Solutions Inc. A natural dot connector. Passionate about coaching team effectiveness and leadership development she shares over 25+ years of real-life tips and tricks that really work!
Elaine believes you can discover and leverage strengths to forge a strong team dynamic despite business challenges or organizational change.