Team Building and the Three C's

I attended the ICOVA (Illinois Conference of Volunteer Administrators) event this past August, which was a very interesting day full of conversation about recruitment and retention of volunteers. By far my favorite part of the day was the keynote speech by Rev. Fred Nettles, which touched on team building for any organization. 

Nettles, both a Reverend and secular non-profit administrator, was a great speaker (both content and charisma wise!) His talk covered a range of topics about volunteerism in general, but specifically delved into his thoughts on building an effective team in any organization.

Nettles shared his "Three C Rule for Building Teams" with the ICOVA attendees, detailing the importance of:

  1. Character: Compatibility of the organization's culture and mission with the potential team member's integrity.
  2. Competency: Positioning the team member for success and investing in good work through training and professional development.
  3. Charisma: Team members that get along!

Finding a group of people who can work together, feel inspired together and enjoy their time together is a pretty difficult task, but every organizational leader is asked to do it every day. While a lot of the time, a leader isn't given the option of building their own team -- they inherit people who may or may not fit into the leader's ideal organizational vision -- that doesn't mean managers and leaders can't build a team using Nettles' "Three C's."

If you can't change the team, it's important to clearly change the culture of the organization for your team. Create easily shared and spotted physical artifacts that represent the culture you want to create in your organization. If your company is all about integrity, share stories of employees who showed integrity via social media, intranets and blogs. Honor those people or highlight those actions you want others to imitate through specific and branded actions.

As for competency, make sure you know what people are best suited to do in your organization and help them grow and develop professionally when possible. Take stock of your needs and your assets!

Lastly, if your team doesn't get along try to understand why before you take any actions. If you have a real jerk in your organization, they may be enough of a Debbie Downer to prevent everyone else from feeling happy or successful. They may also be a key player in the organization that you don't want to let go. The trick here is making everyone feel heard and adjusting the team dynamics so the Debbie Downer isn't hurting the productivty and morale of everyone else on the team. You could do this by giving them a lateral promotion that moves them out of constant contact with the team or by asking them to adjust their behavior. Or you can do both or neither!

Above all, the Three C's are powerful because they give a leader a jumping off point. They aren't the end all and be all, but they are a simple and easy way to build your team, either through hiring people or through developing your most prized assets (your current employees!).

Taking Chances and Making Mistakes

One of the biggest challenges in the world is to gracefully take responsibility for a mistake. This is the case for personal errors and organizational ones. How we deal with mistakes in our lives can be the difference between personal happiness, getting that new job,  making a relationship work and getting off the phone with IT feeling like you accomplished something.

On a personal level, I always advocate taking responsibility when you should, even when it isn't your fault. If your partner is having a rough day and it's easier for you to take the blame on something inconsequential -- do it. If your little brother forgot to take out the trash or walk the dog and he just can't handle being yelled at -- take the blame and make sure he learns his lesson. You don't want to create a situation where someone cant take care of themselves, but it's also an issue of just moving things along in life. If it's not a big deal and you know it doesn't really matter, then be the hero. Note: this does not apply for huge problems! If your younger sister is getting arrested that she definitely did and you know it -- probably let her take the wrap. 

On an organizational level, I believe that pretty much every mistake (within reason) made by an employee should be assigned to their manager and every accomplishment should be shared out from management on down. In other words, a good manager takes responsibility for the team's errors and pushes any accolades for themselves to their team as a whole. A good manager trains and coordinates people in a way that sets them up for success -- and readjusts when that isn't the case.

Most importantly, everyone should learn from a mistake, not just the person who made it. Assigning responsibility isn't anywhere near as important as avoiding the mistake in the future. First, you need to figure out what went wrong and why. Then assess how you can take your current situation and transforming it into where you want to be. Can you skip the mistake the next time by short circuiting the steps that didn't work? Then do it!

Everyone messes up, but not everyone is able to recover from an error without losing their cool. And, at least in my opinion, losing your cool is basically the worst thing you can do after a mistake happens. How does freaking out, yelling, panicking or making any type of scene really help the situation? 

My solution? Don't panic and remember that everyone who takes chances also makes mistakes and gets messy. And if you aren't taking risks, then you might want to start -- risk taking is important for personal growth, innovation, creativity and happiness!