Planning a great team kick-off event

Just as individual team members need to build relationships to be effective in their jobs, newly-formed teams also require more than a project plan and set of work streams to be high-performing.

Yet so often I see managers launch a team with a de-motivating statement of the challenges the company faces coupled with a driving sense of urgency – the proverbial burning platform. This may work once or twice, but employees quickly tire of working 24/7 to put out the flames.

The key to kick-starting a team is not to galvanize people into action through fear, but to tap into each team member’s personal purpose and ignite their desire to achieve both their own goals and the company’s. These goals are rarely mutually exclusive. People do not come to work every day purely for the good of the corporation.

The two purposes often align around serving the customer. Whether it’s doing work that’s challenging and stimulating, working synergistically with a tight-knit team, or being associated with a good job in a well-known company – help people to understand that unifying driver. In our work with clients, planning a successful meeting to kick off a new project is something we see as critical to developing a high-performing team.

My advice to team leaders is: Don’t be afraid to show your vulnerability, your humanity. It’s amazing how readily others respond when you allow people to see you with empathy. It opens employees’ porosity to the bigger message you’re trying to get across – the goals the team is trying to achieve.

Equally important is to structure a small, but significant first challenge that will move everyone on the team toward the eventual goal. It has to be something that every team member can contribute to and has a hand in designing. And it needs to be something that can be achieved quickly, ideally within 60-90 days.

In our work with a major automaker, we quickly realized that the relationship between the company’s district managers and its dealers was broken, with district managers maintaining a traditional command-and-control environment in which they interacted with dealers by issuing checklists and insisting they take product whether they needed it or not.

So we challenged 300 district managers to choose a single dealer and turn the relationship around.

The results exceeded even our expectations:

• The company earned the highest J.D. Power owner-satisfaction ratings of any American car company

• Customer satisfaction index scores more than doubled to 100% in eight out of 10 surveys

• Fewer repeat auto repairs were needed, increasing customer retention

• “Quick lead” (within five hours) response improved from 30% to 100%

• Market share shifted upward in pilot regions

• All regions have been directed to adopt “new way” behaviors by the end of 2014.

12 Another important part of launching a new team is getting team members to do something together that unleashes collaboration and innovation. I tend to stick to work-related tasks for the enormous satisfaction of working together on a win that counts, but a number of successful executives I know swear by going with something that puts everyone at ease.

For example, building the tallest tower possible using only stationery supplies (no fasteners). This will establish early on that it’s OK to share half-baked ideas and try new approaches as well as increasing the rapport between team members.

Even I have to admit it’s hilarious to watch a virtual team trying to do this using video software like Unify’s OpenScape, which let you see up to nine team members at once, Brady Bunch style – and it has the added benefit of getting the team familiar with using videoconferencing.

Chris Corey CMO MarketHive

Writen by:Unify

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