4 Straight-Forward Team Building Principles You Can Put Into Action Now

Do you want to learn the four most important principles of team building and how you can put them into action immediately in your team, for results you can count on every time?

It’s the most straight-forward approach to building any team any time. I promise. (If you find a better approach, please let me know.) I’ve written plenty about these before and they bare repeating often and in different ways.

These umbrella principles of team building can be easier to follow if they are translated into specific steps.

Here are 4 ways your team can put proven principles into action:

1. Assume personal responsibility for team productivity

At your next opportunity, whether in informal encounters or at a team meeting, announce to team members that you will only do work that leads to the entire team’s success. Further, announce that you will not be able to meet your goals unless the team meets its goals, so it is in your best interest for the team to be extremely productive and effective.

In addition, say that you have decided to do everything in your power to help the team operate at superior levels of performance.

2. Define and then get in the same boat together

At the next meeting, get on the agenda and ask teammates to put aside individual roles and have a conversation about what you will collectively accomplish. Think of the team as a unit, indivisible (i.e., not divisible) into smaller roles, and answer the question:

What must this unit do?

Insist on continuing that conversation until everyone seems to share the same clarity about what you are to do as a team. When you have done that, make that your “super-objective” — make it larger than any individual role or objective and give it more importance than any other objective or goal.

3. Determine “What’s In It For Me?” then “What’s In It For You?”

Once you know your super-objective, sit down at your keyboard, or with pen and paper, and generate a series of answers to this question:

What is in it for me to pursue this super-objective?

Keep asking the question and writing down answers. Encourage yourself to probe deeper inside yourself and generate more possibilities. When you have a complete list (five to ten answers), then prioritize your responses until you truly understand your motivation for serving on that team.

After you know what’s in it for you, focus on team building by asking your teammates the same question. Say, “What’s in it for you beyond the paycheck to pursue this task with this team?” Then wait patiently for the responses.

Encourage their answers and probe to discover which response seems more important or energizing than others. Watch for non-verbal cues like sudden smiling, twinkling eyes, head rocking back, or a gaze of recognition. That will tell you when they have accessed an important desire.

Test for the most important interests by asking the question, “Is that important to you?” and listening for a congruent and powerful “Yes!” You can also test for commitment by asking them, “If by serving on this team, we can help you get (fill in their important interest), then would that be worth your investment in this team?” If they answer “Yes!” your team building has effectively tapped a source of team power.

4: Make and keep agreements

Since you have made your interests known, wouldn’t you like to protect them? While at your keyboard, or sitting with pencil and paper, inventory your “shoulds.” These are the expectations you have about how others “should” behave in your presence, in your teams, or at meetings you attend. List them all.

Then turn each important “should” into a “request” and present it to your teammates. Here’s an example: “Would you be willing to start and stop each and every meeting at the time we have agreed to?”

Then negotiate your request into a proposed agreement on which you can get team consensus. Of course, nothing guarantees the agreements will be kept, so you must also be willing to call yourself and each other out on broken agreements.

Making and keeping agreements builds teams and trust.

Now take action

Implementing just one of these steps will make a positive difference. Following through on these four principles will form a team full of team members who help each other and work together toward a common goal.

Please comment and tell me your experience.

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5 Responses to 4 Straight-Forward Team Building Principles You Can Put Into Action Now

  1. Nice summary! None of these 4 steps sound terribly difficult. The trick is to do them and to do them well, even when time is a factor. The successful teams will take the time to do these and the other things well. Teams that don’t follow-up or keep their commitments will miss deadlines and will have delayed success if any at all. I’d add that using the Deming PDCA Cycle brings much needed structure for Continuous Improvement teams.

    Thanks for sharing!


    • Christopher says:

      Thanks Chris. You hit the nail on the head. The trick is to actually do them.

      Thanks too for the link to your fine article on Shewart’s Plan-Do-Check-Act cycle. I recommend everyone who is not practicing it in every phase of your life and work go now and read your article. In the agile movement it goes by the name of “inspect and adapt” and comes at the end of every plan-and-execute timebox (i.e., a fixed period of time), whether daily, each iteration of 1-4 weeks, each release, each project, etc.

  2. Great points, Christopher! These approaches draw people together to actually think as a team and focus on the purpose, ‘What are we actually doing this for’ rather than operating as mindless drones. Collaboration, accountability, servant leadership – what a powerful team.

  3. Oh Christopher! LOL Sometimes, I read your blog and I think, “man, did my phone butt dial him during that call?”

    I just had this very conversation with some great Rally folks about how we get a team to start working. I started with understanding self, Nosce Te Ipsum. I put this one before project because it’s personal, and it borrows from life coach examples. Then it’s so simple to just say it out loud, “I’m good when we’re good.” Love it.

    I really appreciate the PDCA reference from Christian. Pulling that cycle from life, to the BPM as core behavior, then to the team as a state of being provides the consistency and behavioral expectations that can be scaled with the entire organization.

    After all, your company will grow as a result of these tactics, right?. If the behavioral model isn’t scalable, I won’t be the great company to work for anymore and you’ll find yourself at home on Friday reading the AveryBlogs for new way to ‘fix’ what was preventable.

    Always love your simple approach to great team starts. Keep ’em coming!

    • Christopher says:

      Scotty, thank you for your kudos and gracious adds. I’m honored every time you stop by. I like you point about the behavioral model scaling.

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