Recipe for Success
When you cook up company goals, blend
your team so it has all of the ingredients needed to
Putting a group of people in a room with a common goal and
calling them a team is akin to throwing the contents of your
refrigerator into a bowl and calling it dinner. You may end up
with something edible, but odds are you won’t enjoy the
meal or you’ll throw it out and start over.
Successful teams, like great meals, don’t just happen.
They are the result of careful planning and resource
management. Use these tips from the kitchen to ensure that your
team is not following a recipe for disaster.
Know your customer. Many a
home cook has tried a new recipe and watched the family eat
bits and pieces, picking out what they like and leaving the
rest. Feigned praise or outright complaints may ensue, and the
cook, now discouraged from trying something new in the future,
worries that the family’s needs have not been met. So too
has many a team leader finished a project only to see their
customer, their manager or their CEO pick it apart, separating
out and discarding what is not to their liking. Before you
begin any team project, make sure you know your customer and
include his or her requirements and preferences in your
planning. In other words, don’t serve filet mignon to a
What’s for dinner? Just
as it’s the chef’s job to decide what will be
cooked by his crew and to ensure they have the right
ingredients, tools and equipment, it’s your job as team
leader to identify the goals and objectives for your team and
to ensure they have the resources to get the job done. Make a
realistic assessment of the goal, the stated time frames and
deadlines, and who outside the team needs to be included. If
you don’t have all the right resources, make a shopping
list and requisition what you need. If your request is denied,
you’ll need to re-plan or modify the goals.
Show and tell. Most cookbooks
have pictures (the more elementary the cookbook, the more
frequent the pictures) because pictures inspire us to visualize
the end result. Make sure you paint a picture for your team.
Show them examples of what you’re talking about and tell
them what you expect them to accomplish. Encourage and allow
time for questions and suggestions, and refer often to the end
result to keep your team moving in the right direction and
motivated to reach your goals.
The spice of life. When a chef
creates a menu, she includes different textures, colors and
flavors. Her selections are not just complementary; each
enhances the others. When you select team members, whether you
are hiring a staff or choosing employees to be part of a work
group, follow the chef’s lead. Combine individuals with
different job and life experiences, different ethnicities and
nationalities, and different opinions and perspectives.
You’ll find that diverse team members will learn from,
question and challenge each other. As a result, the end product
will be more complete, clear and convincing.
Too many cooks. When it comes
to teams, it’s best to have some structure and defined
management. Establishing team leadership is key. You, or the
person you select, will coordinate and organize the group,
facilitate team meetings, work with the group to determine
individual roles and responsibilities, and report on progress,
obstacles and successes. When leadership is not clear,
typically the team will self-select a leader, who may or may
not be qualified. When popularity or competitiveness is an
issue, the team may disagree on who should lead and may choose
up sides. Just as too many cooks spoil the broth, unclear
leadership can sabotage team success.
Just desserts. When your team
completes a project, whether they succeed, fail or fall
somewhere in between, they are due their just desserts. A
successful team deserves recognition (and maybe rewards), and
all teams deserve feedback. A debriefing session or postmortem
is simply a retrospective analysis once the team has finished
an assignment or completed a significant phase of a project.
During the meeting, review the project soup to nuts and
identify achievements, areas for improvement, and failures. Use
the information to improve the next phase of the project or the
A satisfying dining experience is one of life’s great
pleasures. Such an experience is the result of preparation,
resourcefulness and skilled execution. Successful team
leadership doesn’t just happen either, but by following a
few key principles, you can develop a team environment and
savor the results for the long term.
Kramer is The Council’s senior vice president, Office
of the President.