Forming a Team: The Winning Combination

I am trying to make the most of my return to college by getting as involved as I can. So far this means getting into a lot of competitions. The business school professors also like assigning group work. Between these competitions and group assignments I have gained some insight into what makes the teams I am in work.

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  1.  Get people smarter than you – I have heard this before but didn’t understand. There are things I am good at and things I am not good at. This can apply to most everyone. It so happens I am not good at accounting. I happen to know a guy that is good at accounting. Welcome to the team. He isn’t very good at presenting, I am. Neither of us are great at market research, but I know a lady that is. Each person has their specialty. We ended up with a lot of overlap in skills which also worked to our advantage. No one person was the only person capable of a needed skill. This keeps the pressure from being too much on one person. Making allies of people with skills you don’t have serves you in the long run.
  2. Don’t team up with your friends – This one can be hard. Sometimes you need the skills your friends have or you eventually make friends with team members. The key here is to treat time spent with your team professionally. You want to hangout and have fun with friends which can be detrimental to team projects. If you start with friends on your team, establish rules from the first meeting. Keep yourself on track and reward yourselves for keeping to your task.
  3. Meet often – I see a lot of teams struggling because they don’t meet up very often. The project is easily broken into parts, so each person works alone on one aspect of the project. This can be an efficient way to get work done, but if you don’t meet with your team you won’t detect problems, duplicated work or missing components until the end. These meetings don’t have to be long, just a quick update of where everyone stands and a quick peer review of each others work. This keeps everyone on task and identifies issues while there is still time to fix them.
  4. Set up the group rules – Each group needs rules and these should be set up from the first meeting. How are decisions to be made? How is feedback handled? What is the role of each person? Getting the group rules set up early will save time and frustration later.

Hopefully these tips will make your teams run smoother. Got any more team tips? Comment below.

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Trust is Essential

There really is no shortcut to gaining the trust of another person, but you can become a person who gains trust quickly. I have noticed in many of my business dealing I gain the confidence and trust of people I just met very quickly. I examined these relationships and have found some common traits.

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  • Gain the trust of someone trustworthy – It takes a long time to build up trust in any environment. In business it is sometime vital to your job to gain someone’s trust. You may need confidential information. You may need a favor. The reasons are many but the method is the same. Be a trust worthy person. Do what you say you will. It will take time, but once you have this person’s trust things can go faster the next time if the two parties know each other. The endorsement of a trustworthy person is gold when it comes to gaining trust quickly.
  • Point out ways they can keep you honest – When I demonstrate I want to be held accountable for my honesty, the people I deal with are more comfortable trusting me. I show them how to protect themselves from a dishonest person and it increases my value as an honest person. Of course if someone isn’t honest, they basically just turned themselves in so it works well in gaining credibility.
  • Don’t hide mistakes – Report and correct. If you can manage to correct things before you are able to report them, all the better, but don’t delay reporting just to try and fix everything. Be honest about your mistake and have a plan. If you don’t know how to fix it, ask to be shown so you can be part of the solution and not the problem.
  • Be honest to a fault – There is no need to be mean, but white lies drive down trust. The classic example (which hopefully won’t show up at work) is “does this dress make me look fat?” You can avoid the question or answer it, but don’t say something that isn’t true. Be honest about why you won’t answer the question if it comes to that (you’re uncomfortable, you were told something in confidence, it isn’t appropriate work conversation). Keep yourself tactful but honest. As long as you don’t lie (or stretch the truth) you won’t have to remember who you lied to and what you lied about.

Trust is slowly gained in the business world and it is quickly destroyed. Build up your trustworthiness. People talk and a good reputation spreads. That is how to gain trust quickly in a new situation, by already having the reputation that you are worthy of that trust.

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