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7 steps to creating a successful office team

Diane McCurdy and Ted Rusinoff

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Use a solid game plan to achieve a more productive workplace.
If there’s more than one person working in your office, the challenges and dynamics of a team environment are present. The roles of coach and player, offense and defense — even starters and bench players — are evolving and contributing to your office morale and general environment. Understanding the role of each team member and how they can contribute to your common goals can create a workplace that is more productive and harmonious.

1. Understand your players
Each person was hired for a specific purpose and to fill a specific role. But, since their hire date, they have likely demonstrated skills in many additional areas, providing you with new insight on how to best organize their responsibilities in relation to the total needs of the office.

2. Understand your game plan
Evaluate your office in light of the end goal of your clients’ needs. The skills and talents of your team need to be focused on this goal.

3. Put the two together
Once you have evaluated the talent and the plan, and put those pieces together, it is important to clearly communicate what is required of each person on the team. If the player understands their part, it is possible for them to execute the game plan properly.

Managing and maintaining this productive environment can be challenging. The office environment doesn’t naturally lend itself to the same processes most sports teams follow to develop camaraderie and synergy. That’s why it’s also important to take “timeouts” along the way to create deliberate times of communication and help the team come together effectively.

4. Plan team-building exercises
Simple team-building exercises that can be done in the office help staff members learn more about their co-workers and better appreciate their contributions. More elaborate and involved activities could include a trip to a special destination, often combined as a reward for meeting office goals.

A trip could be an informal way for the team to spend time together, or it could have specific structured activities geared toward team development.

Many challenge course facilities are used for executive and staff team building. These programs are designed to take the group out of their normal environment — and often out of their comfort zone — to create new ways to work together to achieve each task presented during the program.

Other team-building exercises could include a group lunch or office activity that adds a new dimension to the work life of the employees. Some offices have used costume contests at Halloween or decorating contests at other times of the year. Most general team building exercises don’t focus on work-related topics. Instead, they focus on the individuals themselves and their relationships with each other.

5. Foster team-owned projects
Identify a project, possibly with a local charity or community program, in which the staff partners with the outside group to create a common goal, event or fundraiser. Many nonprofit organizations look for local businesses to help staff, sponsor or host their community programs.

A toy drive, special dinner event or even a park cleanup day can create the opportunity for each member of the office to build a deeper understanding of their belonging to the team. These projects could also be focused on planning a client or employee appreciation event.

Don’t be afraid to combine a client event with a nonprofit program. Sometimes your clients would like to be a part of the team just as much as the employees. A toy drive that is staffed by your employees and clients together can foster strong relationships.

6. Schedule communication
The most successful teams always have planned times for communication. Often these occur well before game day, during the time leading up to the actual event. Good communication prior to the event creates the potential for better results from clearer expectations and better understood outcomes.

During the work flow, communication remains critical to effectively completing the tasks required. A classic example of communication during the task can be seen in a football game during the huddle. The team gathers around their leader and listens for the instructions of the next play.

Before the team can properly work together and make a play, they need to be on the same page of the play book. A huddle is the perfect way to help everyone know what needs to happen next. These meetings can be kept short and scheduled frequently if the size of the organization permits.

If the office is larger than 10 people, divide the employees into smaller groups that communicate more regularly and have designated members of each group communicate back to the larger team.

7. Develop skills and cross-train
As your team grows, it’s important to have employees capable of backing each other up and helping when workloads become too large for a short period of time.

Good cross-training helps build backup and a better appreciation for the job responsibilities of each member of the team. These cross-training activities also help expand the skill sets of your employees. Consistently reinforce continued growth and skill development for all of your staff.

Sometimes these skills are directly related to their job or the industry, but other times they are more centered on improving the person as a whole. A good example of improving personal growth might be taking a course to learn a foreign language or adding a college degree in a related area of their primary studies.

The more growth you are able to help each member of the team achieve, the more likely your team grows as a result and becomes more capable at every position.

Good teamwork does not happen accidentally. But with a keen understanding of the office environment that is emerging, coupled with a strong communication platform, the office will become more productive and more capable of achieving greater success in meeting clients’ needs.

Diane McCurdy is a 35-year MDRT member from Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. Ted Rusinoff is a 10-year MDRT member from Stow, Ohio.

Diane McCurdy

Ted Rusinoff

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