Posts Tagged ‘Leadership’

Elements of Effective Teams

5 March 2012 3 comments

Promotial photo of the original Star Trek cast, season three.A team isn’t a team just because you call a group of people a team. Instead of calling people “my staff” or “the department”, managers are referring to their subordinates as “a team”. However, Shakespeare’s quips don’t apply here: “A rose by any other name would smell as sweet.” Just because you call it a team doesn’t make it smell any sweeter.


Regardless of what it’s called, if you want to develop a team you have to include a few key elements.

1. Commitment

Each member of the team must be committed to achieving the team’s mission. One bad apple spoils the barrel. Each member of the team must be devoted and driven to the end goal. If one person drags her feet or misses meetings or doesn’t follow through on assignments because of lack of enthusiasm or other commitments, the success of the team is as risk. This is especially true of small teams. This doesn’t mean that membership on this team is the only commitment or even the most important commitment. I am committed to my family, but that doesn’t mean I spend 24-7 with them. I am, however, there when they need me. The same should be true for team members.


2. Communication

Communication among the team members must be open and clear. Sometimes one member of the team may dominate the communication. This can be detrimental to understanding, cohesiveness, and collaboration. Everyone needs to feel comfortable sharing opinions and ideas without the fear of retribution.


3. Diverse Skills

When Star Trek’s Captain Kirk sent an away team to the surface of a planet, he didn’t just send a team of doctors. He sent a representative from key departments: medical, security, science, and administration. Besides the varied skills, diverse teams bring different perspectives and experience to the table. A programmer looks at a problem much differently than a school teacher. Teams need the broad range of expertise and perspective to tackle problems from every angle.


4. Flexible

There always seems to be a great deal of unknowns in the world. Even with the most extensive planning, there is always a curve ball. Teams that can adapt in changing environments will thrive and succeed. Part of being flexible means the team attacks problems head-on and not procrastinating or ignoring the problem altogether. Adapt, attack, advance.


5. Autonomy

Effective teams need the freedom to be creative. If a leader micro-manages the team, then the team is reduced to mere acolytes attending to the whims of the manager. The goal and constraints need to be clearly communicated to the team. Then stand back and let them solve the problem. Let their diversity and creativity reach a resolution.


Teams can be difficult to manage, both for managers and for team members. Some managers feel they need to be in control and that control stifles the productivity of the team. Some team members lack the social skills to function effectively in collaborative environments. These weaknesses can be overcome with education and practice. By practicing these principles you can bring yourself and your team one step closer to excellence.


What qualities or principles have you experienced in team settings that seem to work well? What have not?



The Mantle of Leadership

2 March 2012 1 comment

Each of us can be a leader….The mantle of leadership is not the cloak of comfort, but the role of responsibility.

Thomas S. Monson.

President, Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Categories: General, Leadership Tags: ,

Marriage vs. Employment

3 February 2012 2 comments

Courtesy of

If you’re reading this it means you are not trapped in some trans-normal Groundhog Day loop. Congratulations! Welcome to February 3.


I have a wonderful marriage. In fact, I would count it as one of my greatest successes. What makes it so successful? I’m no marriage expert, but I have some ideas.



We were friends, really good friends, before I even proposed. We met in college in 1989. She dated my roommate for nearly six months and spent a lot of time at our apartment. She had dinner with us, watched movies with us, played games with us. It was like she belonged there just as much as we did. After school, I went back home (800 miles away) and we wrote letters back and forth. That’s when we began to fall in love. It sounds like some sappy scene from Sleepless in Seattle, but it’s my life. Even now after nearly 22 years of marriage we are still the best of friends. That’s sort of odd because we have very little in common, but we really enjoy doing things together.


Failure is not an option

Many couples I see today use divorce as an out. “If things don’t work out, we’ll just get a divorce.” I’ve heard the term “starter wife” used. The first marriage never works out. So, many people plan on having two or more wives in a life time. Divorce, in my case, is not an option. Therefore, we work to work it out. When disagreements arise, we have to discuss it. The “discussions” are not always pleasant, but there is never any question that we love each other. We can disagree and still love.


Memories and Traditions

We have spent 22 years building memories and traditions together. Decorating the Christmas trees (we have two in our home), opening the car door for her–every time, family time on Monday evenings, attending our children’s plays, concerts and performances together, going to church together, shopping together. It’s not because we have to; it’s because we want to.


So, what? My professional happiness mirrors my marriage. I have friends at work that I care about and that care about me, that I enjoy spending time with (both at and away from work), that I can open up to and share. I can go to work each day knowing that someone cares. It may not be my boss or even the guy in the cubicle next to me, but there is someone. Someone is there that helps to enrich my professional environment.


Sometimes we disagree about certain work philosophies, but we know we’re still friends. I know I can raise my voice and be passionate about an issue. He does the same. In the end, we’re still laughing together about the latest Dilbert, shooting Nerf darts back and forth across the hall and joking about ice cream and Hershey’s peppermint Kisses. Being happy at work is not always JUST about enjoying the job; the people make a big difference, too.


Traditions at work are important. A friend of mine told me recently that after over 20 years, the supervisor decided not to have a Christmas social because everyone was too busy. Morale plummeted. It was the highlight of the year. Families gathered, wives chit-chatted, good food, games for the kids. Everyone looked forward to the Christmas social every year. Then, at the last minute, it was pulled out from under them. If your boss isn’t providing traditions at work, then make your own. Bring your own chili day; hat day; simple department birthday party once a month. Give yourself and/or your employees something to look forward to, something besides the next project or task.


My employment as been a lot like my marriage. My marriage has been hugely successful. I’m not millionaire, but I feel successful at work because of the the friends, emotional security, and traditions.


What makes you successful? What traditions have you built, either at home or at work that make it so enjoyable?


Nothing-But-Net Leadership

27 January 2012 Leave a comment

My dad, Jim Smith, was a huge proponent of mental attitude and vision and the effects they have on our lives. I was never much of a basketball player. In fact, I shunned team sports. I didn’t really care to watch them or even play them. My brother, on the other hand, was everything sports, especially basketball and football. My dad tried to get me involved in wrestling, but I was always more of a lover than a fighter. Still am.

I do remember, however, my dad telling us how our performance on the court or the field depended as much on physical practice as it did on mental practice. He said, “If you want to get good at free throws, your need to imagine yourself shooting free throws.” He would constantly remind us to “picture” ourselves standing at the free throw line. Dribble the ball a couple times, in our minds. Feel the weight of the ball in our hands. Assume the stance, the toe of the right shoe poised just slightly behind the line. Bend slightly at the knees. Focus on the front of the rim. Then purposely and smoothly extend the right arm, flicking the wrist down, letting the ball sail toward the goal…..swish! Nothing but net. He reminded us over and over and over to run through it in our head again and again and again.

When I was young and could play basketball, though I didn’t want to, this all sounded like hog wash. But time has taught me the wisdom of his words. It turns out, this technique works for more than just sports.

The quote that applies here is a scripture, “As he thinketh in his heart, so is he.” (KJV Proverbs 23:7) We become the focus of our desires. Concentrating on World of Warcraft will not develop good grades in school. Focusing on sewing (thinking about, reading about, watching shows about, talking about) WILL make us better at sewing.

I saw a poster the other day: “If you want to be a writer, write.” If your goal is to write a novel, it is not going to pour out of the ether while you’re playing online poker. You have to focus on writing. We will not accomplish the one thing we want–whatever it is–unless we devote some serious, concentrated, focused effort on that ONE thing.

My advice: If you want to be a leader, lead. Yes, you are going to make mistakes. But that is what life is all about. Live and learn. You will learn from your mistakes. Read books about leadership. (Read blogs about leadership!) Watch great leaders in action. Imagine yourself in similar circumstances…over and over and over again. Imagine yourself repeating excellence. Spend time on the leadership “court”. And then, when you are finally physically standing at the free throw line of leadership…swish! Nothing but net.
Categories: Leadership Tags: ,