Lesson 11 – Team Development Lessons Taught by my Dog.

Look after your team and they will look after you.

When Jake became the newest member of our household, we knew that some things were going to change. Walking, training and feeding have been added to the daily routine (some with more acceptance than others!) We anticipated that this little dog was going to worm his way into our hearts and we would care for him like any other member of the family; but what came as a surprise was the way in which Jake showed his care for us. If one of us is sick, Jake is there by our side to make sure we are OK, if there is a strange noise outside, Jake is there with a bark to alert us. The care we had shown for our new little team member was being reciprocated.

The same principle applies when working within or leading a team. While the concept of looking out for your team is not new, many people seem to forget that the process is ‘give and take’ rather than just ‘take’. A common mistake amongst new team leaders / supervisors is to assume that they can ‘take’ from their new team without giving anything in return.

A simple principle to remember when managing a team is the difference between a Savings Account and a Credit Card. Care and concern for the team is like having a savings account. Every incident of care or concern you demonstrate for members of your team is similar to making a deposit. The more deposits you make in good times provides you with ‘credit’ that you can use later. A Savings Account only works when the balance is positive – you can’t draw more from the account than you have put into it.

Many team leaders think of care and concern for their team like a Credit Card. They will take and take from the account (ensuring that the balance is negative) and top up the account once a month. Rather than bringing the account back into positive territory, they bring it back to zero, then start to draw against the account again.

Anyone with a credit card knows that there is more than just the balance to pay back at the end of the month, there is the interest payment as well. In this analogy, interest can be thought of as the resentment and lack of trust that results from a Team Leader taking more than they give from the team. Without constant care and attention, a Team Leader using a credit card approach can easily fall further and further into ‘debt’ and eventually will not be able to make the repayments required to manage the team effectively.

How much credit do you have with your team? Have you taken too much from the account? What are the ways that you use to ‘top up’ the credit account?


Lesson 10 – Team Development Lessons Taught by My Dog

Lesson 10 – Understand the unique behaviour and skill set you bring to the team

Having Jake in our home has forced everyone to consider what role we have in the family. Jake looks to each of us to provide different things for him; what he expects from me is different to what he expects from my two children. Each of us has roles that Jake expects us to fulfil, just as we expect him to behave and act in a certain way. Each member of our family has a unique set of skills and characteristics that are appreciated and recognised by other members of the family. In fact, we wouldn’t be the family that we are without those skills and behaviours.

When it comes to the team that you work in, what are the unique traits, characteristics and behaviours you exhibit that are valued and admired by your team?

This is one of the questions that I ask team members to consider as part of the Building Effective Teams workshop, and it always provides profound results. Many members of the team have never considered what skills and attributes they bring to the team, let alone how much their skills and traits might be admired or respected by others in the team. Despite working with dozens of teams, many of whom have been at each other’s throats (one of the reasons a team development specialist is sought in the first place), not one person has found it hard to find genuine positive traits that they admire in other team members.

In fact, more often than not, team members are pleasantly surprised and appreciative upon hearing how the behaviour / skill they undertake is valued by the team. Hearing from other team members about what is appreciated does several things:

  1. Reminds people that they are part of team,
  2. Reinforces that each member of the team has an impact on someone else in the team,
  3. Highlights to team members that what they do is noticed and recognised by others,
  4. Provides positive reinforcement to continue performing tasks and behaviours that the team values, and
  5. By extension, gets team members to consider the behaviours that are not respected and admired by the team.

So how do you find out what skills and behaviours your team admires in you? First, you could ask. This will probably sounds awkward at first, but ask everyone in the team to write down three traits that they admire in each of their team mates. The responses provided can easily be developed to a list that can be shared or debriefed in a team meeting. I find it most effective when each team member has to share with the team (one by one) what traits the team admires in them. Even after seeing this so many times, the positive reaction it generates in the individual and the team still surprises me.

Second, you could find out what your natural task preferences are within a team. An easy way to do this is by completing a Belbin Team role questionnaire. Dr Meredith Belbin conducted studies in the 1970’s asking the question ‘Why do some teams succeed and others fail?’ In his book ‘Management Teams – Why they Succeed or Fail’ (1981), Dr Belbin discussed 8 roles that a team must have to be successful. Who completes each of the 8 roles is not important, so long as the team has a way to fulfil each of the 8 roles. (If this interests you or you would like to complete a Belbin Team role questionnaire, email Michael@kameleons.com.au or add your comment to the blog post and we can help you out)

What unique behaviour or skills set do you bring to your team? What skills or attributes do you admire in the other members of your team? Do they know? Are there skills that you wish you had more of / less of?


Lesson 9 – Team Development Lessons Taught by My Dog

Show respect for your team in ways that they appreciate

At the end of a hard day at work, it always good to get home. Not only because I get the chance to relax, but also because Jake (our dog) has a way of making your very presence feel special. As soon as you get home, he is there waiting, wagging his tail, hoping to greet you in the most excited way possible. He has the ability to make an average day feel pretty good (even if it gets excessive at times!). Jake shows his enthusiasm in a simple yet effective way, and it demonstrates to the rest of the family that they are appreciated.

Jake’s appreciation leads me to ask: ‘How do you show your respect and appreciation for your team?’

From the many, many examples that I have seen demonstrated, the simple things are often the best. How often do you do the following:

  • Giving a pleasant, cheerful ‘good morning’ in the morning to your team mates
  • Not letting little things get you down
  • Ask about how people are doing – both at work and at home
  • Say thank you for a job well done

The last point – saying thank you – seems to be so hard for so many people! It is either not said, or said in a way that has no impact on the recipient at all. This is ‘teflon- coated’ praise – just like the cooking surface, the praise ‘washes right off’ the person you delivered it to and is forgotten quickly. If you are going to go to the effort to praise someone – you want it to stick for a little while, don’t you?

Tips for saying than you:

1.            Get past simple words such as ‘thank you’, ‘well done’, great work, ‘top job’. Small throw-away phrases result in small throw-away praise.

2.            Go beyond ‘who’ and remember ‘when’, ‘what’, ‘why’, and ‘how’

  •             When did they do it?
  • What was it that was done so well?
  •             Why did you like it so much? What impact did it have on you?
  •             How will it help in the future? How is your job easier because of it?

Thank you 1:  ‘Great work Ben’ can be changed to,

Thank you 2:  ‘Ben, thanks for the report you submitted last Friday. It was very well written and saved me a heap of time – time I really needed to complete the end of year statistics. The table that you put in the report is fantastic, I am going to use that for future reports. Thanks for your help.’

Yes – it is more wordy than the first. Yes – you need to be specific and think about it for more than 5 seconds. But the effect on receiving the praise has a much greater impact. The first comment might result in a brief smile that lasts for maybe 5 minutes. The second comment will stick for much, much longer – you will appear to have taken the time and effort to really appreciate what was done. Further, Ben will go out of his way to do it again.

What are you doing to appreciate your team?

Do you praise your team enough for the job they do?

Could the praise that you provide be delivered in a more ‘sticky’ way?