In our first E.P.I.C. post, we spoke of the importance of setting clear expectations (“E”) that empower leaders and their teams to be strategic, take initiative, innovate, and deliver desired results. In this post, we will focus on the second “E.P.I.C.” component, pulling your team together and connect them deeply to the mission (“P”).
You’ve seen it many times. The bickering. The lack of healthy communication. Folks sitting quietly at their desks, hoping to stay under the radar and not be burdened with more work, let alone someone else’s work. Other folks prioritizing their wants and needs over those of the team.
When Morris, a small business owner and a NYC-area independent school board president, called me, he was at wit’s end. His board was not functioning properly and there were too many competing agendas.
Most significant was the rift that had developed between him and the school’s executive director. To make matters worse, members of his board had lined up on both sides of the argument, making a pathway forward harder to access. They needed someone to step in swiftly and bring folks together.
I’ll describe below how I helped him.
Without question, silos and the turf wars that they enable devastate organizations by wasting resources, killing productivity, and threatening goal achievement.
Undermanned teams in particular are a recipe for divisiveness.
As demands increase, individuals start to think in terms of self-preservation and protecting their turf. Of course, this is the exact time when team members ought to be pulling together and complementing one another. Those that do can more than make up for shortages in manpower and individual expertise.
It’s the leader’s job to construct powerful, cohesive teams that support and rally around one another and complement each other’s skills sets.
That’s Item 2. Pull your team together.
So, how can you know whether your team needs a “pull together”?
In the case of Morris’ board, I led a two-day offsite that got people talking about the organization’s priorities as well as their own thoughts and concerns. The conversation went deep and was at times contentious. But at the end we arrived at a consensus-driven plan of action that ended the rift and put the organization on an upwards trajectory.
One simple way is to ask them. Survey questions can give you some great feedback about team cohesiveness and collaboration. At meetings, ask folks for ways to bring the team together even more. Engage a consultant to lead safe conversations and probe deeper. (To access a team cohesion survey, download a copy of my “E.P.I.C. Solution to Understaffing” eBook.)
If you need/want to build a more cohesive team, start with team-building activities. When done thoughtfully and properly, these activities are a great way of improving communication, morale, motivation, and productivity. They help employees get to know each other better and learn more about each one’s strengths and interests.
Keep in mind that bringing teams together involves more than getting folks to work willingly with each other. It also means fitting your pieces together in a way that covers all the bases while making sure that you aren’t forcing square pegs into round holes.
To do this, use a skills gap analysis.
A skills gap is the difference between skills that employers want or need, and those that their team members currently offer. Conducting a skills gap analysis helps you identify the skills your people possess as well as those that they will need to master to meet your business goals. From there, you can begin to determine the answers to such questions as:
- What strengths do our people presently have that can best help us meet our misson?
- Are they currently positioned to help us succeed?
- What training programs will most directly address our current shortfall and get our people up to speed?
Once you have greater clarity about the skills needed to move forward, get with your people to develop a plan that will maximize on their individual talents and supplement their learning where needed.