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12 Commandments

I help develop marketing databases and financial services web sites for a living and I've learned a few things about teams along the way.  Here are a few gems I've collected from various projects.

1.  On day one, agree on how you are going to interact with one another.  Sound silly?  You won't get to first base unless you do.  Check the Team Code of Behaviors for an example of what I'm talking about.  Don't use this one.  Develop one of your own as a team. And live by it!

2.  Get to know each other - quickly!  Quoting my friend John Lucht, "take a direct, personal interest in the people that report to you."  I suggest you start with a wacky survey of likes and dislikes (e.g. favorite TV shows, pastimes, colleges attended, do you believe in UFOs, etc.)   Include questions about technical competencies (i.e. what software packages do you know and how well do you know them.)  Share the findings as a group and eat some pizza.  You'll be surprised at what your team will learn.  The main purpose of this exercise is to understand the technical competencies of the entire team.  You'll find lots of overlap and perhaps a few gaps.  Forget 'team-building' exercises!  They do more harm than good.  They tend to alienate the introverts and create 'clicks' among the extroverts. Spend that money celebrating successes.

3. Train, train, train!  Knowledge workers have zero loyalty to the firm, especially if it's some big (dumb) insurance company.  Knowledge workers do care about keeping their skills up to date, and unless you are prepared to help them do that, expect high turn over.  Cross training is also extremely valuable in building strong teams.  For example, when content developers understand the nuances of relational databases they are apt to provide better content.  It also helps to foster mutual respect for highly developed competencies among team members.

4. Recognize and reward contributions immediately and publicly.  Take the time to be a team and never pass up an opportunity to recognize a team member.

5. Bring the team together at least once a week.  This is so important!  Even if you as the leader of the team, can't attend, the meeting must go on.  Encourage people to share ideas.  Be consistent!

6. Manage team tasks.   Don't rely too much on project management software such as MS Project (especially if your priorities change frequently.)  Instead, focus on task management and metrics.  Use Outlook if nothing else is available.

7. Have fun.  Never, ever, lose your sense of humor!

Know any best practices that have worked for you?  Please share with me!


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