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Go for the Gold! Leading a Team to Victory


July 10, 2008

The 2008 Summer Olympics are quickly approaching, and soon millions of people world-wide will be cheering from their respective corner of the world. Part of the success of each team will depend on individual athletes and on their determination and hard work. The other part will depend on the support and coaching provided to the team as a whole.

There are many lessons to be learned from the achievements of the Olympic participants; these can be incorporated in your daily work successes and management of projects. Here are six steps to consider in championing your players and leading a winning team.

1. Set the Rules

People need guidelines to keep things flowing smoothly. As coach, it is your job to set the ground rules, including how decisions will be made. Will it be up to the leader or will the majority rule? What are the project's objectives and what are the boundaries? How will you measure the project's success? What are the assignments and who will be handling each task?

Brainstorming the rules together with the team can produce great results because it will:

  1. Ensure every detail is covered
  2. Generate excitement about the project
  3. Discuss issues and questions up front so that there aren't any surprises later on

2. Gather the Team for a Huddle

Brainstorming and implementing the rules can be more effective if they are communicated through a well-run meeting. Of course, the meeting itself needs some guidelines to keep agenda items on track and streamline the discussion.

Here are a few points to consider when leading a meeting.

  • Start and end the meetings on time. Sounds simple, but when you follow this rule, people know that you respect their time and that goes a long way in an over-scheduled world.
  • Fill in a meeting checklist and email two days prior to the meeting. Decide on each and every agenda item and only have items on the agenda that are absolutely necessary to this particular meeting.
  • Stick to the agenda and the times for the agenda items. When people get off the agenda, set up a meeting "parking lot" where you can table any issues not on the agenda.
  • Recognize people's contributions, but let them know when they're off the agenda. "Great idea, Karen, but let's put that in the parking lot and we can discuss that at our next team meeting."

Here are examples of a meeting check list and a meeting agenda for you to consider:

Meeting Checklist

Location: Conference Room #1

Date: May 7th

Start - End Time: 4-5p

Attendees Name Phone Number Email Time Arrived
Leader Gary 555-5555 gary@gmail.com 4p
Time Keeper Sakeena 555-5555 sakeena@gmail.com 3:55p
Recorder Melissa 555-5555 melissa@gmail.com 4p

Meeting Agenda

Agenda Item Goal Person Responsible Time (From – To)
Review of competitors' software Compare our software to the competition Sakeena 4-4:20p
Identify our unique value proposition (UVP) Come to a consensus on our UVP Melissa 4:20-4:40p
Discuss best way to present to management team Develop an effective way to sell our ideas and strategy to management Gary 4:40-5p

3. Make a Game Plan

The time keeper needs to alert a two minute warning prior to each item wrapping up. The person responsible for the agenda item should use the remaining two minutes to create action items if a decision for action has not been reached.

Example of an Action Plan

Action Item Person Responsible Due Date
1. Meet with marketing team to share results Gary Jul 21, 2008
2. Get marketing team's input on UVP Melissa Jul 21, 2008
3. Schedule date for meeting with management Sakeena Jul 21, 2008

Once the action plan is written and distributed, have the team initial it.

4. Coach Your Players

Empower individuals to work effectively with one another. Guiding the team with rules and a common understanding of what needs to get done and when will lead to fewer delays and conflicts.

Provide a safe platform to share thoughts, communicate constructive feedback, and ask questions. This will encourage the team to meet their goals together and enjoy a shared sense of accomplishment.

5. Surprise the Team

Sometimes, it pays to shake things up and add some energy to a tired meeting. An executive in a company I used to know would occasionally have meetings with no chairs to encourage the team leader to keep the meeting short and sweet.

Other times, you may want to spend a little more time and do some team building exercises. This is a good idea when you have new people on the team. You can spend five or ten minutes giving everyone a chance to laugh and learn a little bit more about each other.

6. Review the Highlights

One of the biggest wins for an organization is collecting "lessons learned." Think of this as an instant replay in a televised game where a moment is slowed down, reviewed, examined, and analyzed. That data provides valuable groundwork for the next time a similar project is launched.

Identify what worked and what didn't work for a lessons learned report. This can be a living document that evolves as the project moves through its timeline. It can be used for future forecasting and budgeting, planning, and staffing as well as evaluating process and structure.

Go for the Gold!

Okay, you've got your bag of tricks and you're ready to lead your team to victory this summer. Remember, by passing along this information to members at all levels, you're passing the torch and nurturing a team of winners. Good luck!

About the Author

Michelle LaBrosse is the founder and Chief Cheetah of Cheetah Learning. The Project Management Institute, www.pmi.org, selected Michelle as one of the 25 Most Influential Women in Project Management in the world, and only one of two women selected from the training and education industry. Michelle is a graduate of the Harvard Business School's Owner & President Management program for entrepreneurs, and is the author of Cheetah Project Management and Cheetah Negotiations.

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