Episode 16: Building Effective Teams with J. Mike Smith


July 30th, 2019

45 mins 40 secs

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About this Episode

Welcome to Liz and Kat’s former boss, J. Mike Smith from BackWest Consulting! We invited Mike on to talk about teams, building teams, what makes good teams, and how to be good team member.

First, Mike breaks down for us the difference between teams and work groups. What are the interdependencies? Building a goal, vision and figure out what the team is trying to do?

Process of building a team- Mike calls it the Road Trip. 1. Figure out destination. 2. Figure out milestones 3. Who does what? 4. How do we want to work together?

Mike tells us why diverse teams - not just gender and race- can power a company. Need to understand the different pieces needed for a successful outcome.

Often in early hiring, we access our networks and hire people who are like us, and then bring in resources once we’ve exhausted our networks. Mike wants you to establish culture early with your early hires, and when you hire a diverse team early, it will permeate your culture.

Being purpose driven is part of culture, but so is deciding early how to work together. If people don’t like how you’re working together, they will self-select out.

Not everyone is a great teammate- if you need synergy of a great team, make sure that you find people who will work well together.

When putting together a team, do some vetting to see how people work with others. Having values be an iterative conversation. Have consistency and repeating conversations in multiple ways to keep everyone on the same page.

If you’re intentional about how you form and nurture teams, it can be incredible.

We talk about leaderless teams with nobody on point, and how they work. Their purpose and milestones have to be even clearer. Time and budget are included in milestones.

We ask about roles and assigning roles on a team. Being able to have candidate conversations about who is in what role and why.

Disagreement on teams- can they still be effective? What does healthy dissent on teams look like? Dissent on a team is healthy, and diverse teams will have more dissent, which will eventually lead to a better outcome.

Getting teams off the ground involves project plans- what are we doing? Who is doing it? How are we monitoring it? Depending on goals, meet on a regular basis to keep things going.

Onboarding and orientation is so important in starting teams- get to know each other, get to know what makes each other tick. Feeling like belonging is key to being engaged.

Know your resources- what skills do people at your company have? Having an inventory of people’s skills helps you to add people to your team, spread around work, and help people have diverse responsibilities.

Good teams watch out for each other- they watch each other for signs of burnout, they celebrate wins, and they help each other. When your job on the team is done, even if the project isn’t done, you don’t need to be part of the weekly meetings, but you are part of the celebration and success.

It’s great to know when to bring people in and phase people out of teams- some people are great at the beginning, but not at the end.

Mike really likes ceremony- celebrating milestones, thanking people and being grateful for the experience and people’s contributions.

Kat asks what we should be looking for in executive teams. Mike says to look at how the executives talk on social. Steer away from hypotheticals- listen to stories about successful teams, teams that struggled, and how they like to work.

Recommendation: The Wisdom of Teams by John Katzembach