Go Team!: Take Your Team to the Next Level

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Coauthored by the legendary, bestselling author Ken Blanchard, Go Team! (over 22,000 copies sold) explains how too many people operate in teams that perform well below their potential. Go Team outlines a 3-step process that can benefit work teams, project teams, problem solving teams, leadership teams, and more.

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ONE Understanding Next Level Teams a picture of your future

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You’ve no doubt heard about teamwork and its importance in today’s workplace. Perhaps your organization has even tried to do more with teams and has preached teamwork.

But most people are much more familiar with the idea of a work group. It’s the front line of an organization where the product is made or the service is provided. The idea of work groups is based on a view of work that is rooted in the old notion of an organization with rigid lines of managerial control, authority, and responsibility. In other words, those in leadership positions tend to assume they should make most decisions about the work, and employees tend to assume they should do what they are told by the leaders.

In today’s rapidly changing business environment, concentrating decision-making authority with a few people no longer gets the kind of results that are needed. Additionally, centralized decision making places an undue burden on those making the decisions and is frustrating to those who cannot act until the decisions are made. Communication in the traditional work system simply moves too slowly. Because decision making is slow, people are inhibited from taking action in a timely and responsible fashion. 6

 

TWO Use Information to Build Responsibility

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How do you move your team to the Next Level? The change begins as you learn and apply Next Level skills. This chapter will get your team started as you learn how to use information to build responsibility.

In any process of change, there has to be a starting point. Let’s pretend that you are an architect and have been asked to design a house for a family. You need to know a few things first before you can develop a concept of what the house should look like. But let’s also pretend that you have been told you cannot speak with the family about their wants and needs. You must design the house based on your own assumptions.

Puzzled, you proceed to design a house for the “average” family of four, located in a moderate climate. When you finally meet the family, you learn that there are seven children and that the house will be located in a coastal village in Iceland. Needless to say, you are surprised. You are also disappointed because you will need to do the work over again. You did your best but still wasted valuable time and energy, and the house you designed does not work for the family. 20

 

THREE Clarify Boundaries to Create Focused Action

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When we begin to operate as a Next Level Team, the freedom associated with new responsibilities and authority may seem unclear. What can we do and what can’t we do? This is where boundaries become valuable because they help us define our authority clearly and thus allow us to make good decisions and take independent actions.

A boundary is a limit or dividing line. It is a border that defines a territory. For example, the line that divides our property from that of our neighbor’s is a boundary, and we know not to cross it when planting trees and shrubs. Because this boundary is clearly defined, we can make decisions on our property without fear of “overstepping our bounds.”

When a boundary is not clearly defined, people must attempt to decide for themselves where it is, and history is full of examples of how people have struggled over unclear boundaries.

Independent actions need boundaries so that people can take them with a sense of direction and autonomy and without fear of reprisal. The intent of boundaries in a Next Level Team environment is not to restrict action but rather to create the responsibility and freedom to act. The old system narrows the boundaries, whereas the Next Level approach is to widen them. 30

 

FOUR Act Like a Team to Promote Shared Involvement

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At this point, it’s time for your group to begin operating as a true team with a genuine sense of shared involvement.

The quality movement of the 1980s ushered in widespread use of employee involvement. People at all levels of organizations, especially those on the front lines, became involved in how to think about organization improvement. One of the primary methods for maximizing this involvement was the use of teams. It was shown repeatedly that collaboration in teams resulted in significant breakthroughs in problem solving and innovation, so teams were established as a means to achieving great results. Their use has continued to grow.

EXAMPLES

The power of a team

In 1983, a management team of a large organization was struggling with a severe traffic problem on the road leading to the organization’s location. The road crossed four miles of protected wetlands, so it could not be widened without significant environmental impact Each morning the traffic leading to the site backed up the entire four-mile length of the road, adding an hour to commuting time. The resulting aggravation caused productivity to drop significantly. 42

 

FIVE Share More Information to Enhance Trust

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You have now completed step 1 in becoming a Next Level Team. You have begun to use information to build responsibility, clarify boundaries to create focused action, and act like a team to promote shared involvement.

In any process of change, frustration is inevitable. It is at this point that people sometimes feel like giving up on the change. Yet we have learned that it is at this very point that the energy of frustration can be refocused and used to accelerate the change to Next Level Teams.

We often hear people express frustration at how long change takes. Once a commitment is made to move forward with creating a Next Level Team, everyone wants to get there fast. We want to accelerate the change and get to the goal.

The problem is that changing from the traditional view of the manager as decision maker and team members as doers to collaborative Next Level Teams means using different skills. Along the way you are also learning a new way to view responsibility, decision making and teamwork. Feelings of frustration and discouragement are typical during such a significant change process. The excitement people feel as they begin to learn Next Level skills is almost always replaced with questions: How long will this take? Can we really do this? Will these changes actually work? This is the time to explore ways to use the energy of frustration to accelerate the transition to Next Level Teams. 56

 

SIX Widen the Boundaries to Promote Greater Freedom for Action

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As the team moves forward and encounters frustration, it is easy for team members and leaders to lose sight of the vision of a Next Level Team and how it contributes to getting great results. They tend to see only the problems of taking on more responsibility and forget about the rewards of involvement and ownership. At this point, teams need to be reminded what Next Level Teams do and to be inspired by their benefits. This is the time to review the team’s goals. Organizational goals—even department goals—can be too broad for practical use by most teams and their members. Such broad goals must be converted into images more directly related to the team’s work.

Well-defined team goals help define boundaries and reenergize the team, especially if the goals are developed in a collaborative manner. With more information, team members can see the need for goals that yield important results, fix problems, create innovations, or move projects along. By being involved in a collaborative process of setting clear team goals, people begin to feel a real sense of freedom and responsibility that translates into a feeling of ownership for accomplishing tasks in an efficient manner.68

 

SEVEN Make Team Decisions to Create a Sense of Power

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At this point your team is probably beginning to feel a sense of power that may be new for most team members. You have information that has never before been in your hands, and you have begun to work with clearly defined team goals. With these two skills developing, the change to a Next Level Team is ready for real acceleration. What is needed to make that happen is for your team to begin making team decisions. That means actually making decisions together, not just recommending and then having the team leader make the decision. Let us consider the elements and power of team decision making.

As we have noted in the two previous chapters connected to step 2 of the change process, moving to Next Level Teams is often beset with feelings of discouragement. These feelings of discouragement tend to arise from the fact that people can feel alone with their self-doubts, even though others on the team have the same feelings. Even with more information and wider boundaries, some of the concerns that may still be going through people’s minds are 78

 

EIGHT Use Information to Drive Great Results

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When teams get through step 2, the joy of acceleration often becomes a problem for making the final step to the Next Level. It is tempting for people to take their eyes off the vision of a fully functioning Next Level Team. As we have learned, these teams focus not only on more involvement for team members but also on expanded responsibility for achieving great results. Next Level Teams have important responsibilities for everyone on the team. In Next Level Teams, people voice their opinions, disagree with one another, argue for their positions, and feel the pressure of performance responsibility. People also feel a sense of ownership, are listened to and understood, make and implement team decisions, and make use of and further develop every member’s talents.

As you move into this last step of the journey, a number of questions remain:

Let’s consider how information can be used to help address these questions and move the team closer to its ultimate goal.

At this point in the change process, teams are really beginning to use the information that they have received during the first two steps of the change. They have also seen how the information they have begun to share with management is valuable in better managerial decisions. Because of this better utilization of information and the two-way sharing of information, they are now in a better position to know what additional information they need to enhance their performance.

 

NINE Replace Boundaries with Vision and Values

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Now that your team has the information to drive results, your journey to becoming a successful Next Level Team needs to focus on shifting the boundaries of behavior so they come from within the team members. The intent is to incorporate boundaries into the belief systems of team members so they can exercise good judgment and make decisions that support and uphold the organization’s vision, mission, and values.

This is not to imply that direction and boundaries are not needed from the leadership. It is to suggest that the broad boundaries that guide team member behavior need to be moved as much as possible into the hearts and minds of the team members. Full Steam Ahead! Unleash the Power of Vision in Your Company and Your Life by Ken Blanchard and Jesse Stoner provides an excellent framework for organizing your vision, mission, and values.

The decisions that we make each day in our personal and professional lives are determined by those values and beliefs that we have acquired since birth, plus additional operating values that we have learned in our organizations. These values help us determine what we believe to be right or wrong, good or bad, and normal or not normal. These values are a key factor in any decision-making process. 102

 

TEN Be a Next Level Team and Get Great Results

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At this stage of the journey your team possesses information that used to be almost exclusively in the hands of management. Team members also have a clear vision and a set of operating values. By combining information with clear boundaries and team skills, your team can now draw on its collective knowledge, experience, and motivation to achieve impressive results.

More specifically you and your team members can now make many of the decisions that your supervisor or management previously made. For example, you can handle new team member interviewing and hiring, conduct team member performance evaluations, handle individual performance problems, prepare and monitor budgets, and arrange for equipment purchases. With information and clear boundaries, your team can identify problems or potential problems and initiate plans for resolving them before they become severe.

What you need now is to continually encourage one another as team members so that you can actually reach the Next Level. As a Next Level Team, you will have achieved total team competence. Your team members will feel confident about fully using everyone’s collective talents to achieve great results. 112

 

ELEVEN Congratulations your team has made it to the Next Level

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What a journey this has been. When you began this book, you did not even know what a Next Level Team was, much less how to become one. You most likely have had some good experiences in team settings but also some bad ones. Now you can appreciate what we mean when we say that Next Level Teams

Take a moment and give yourself credit for knowing more now than when you started reading this book. You know what to expect from a Next Level Team and how good it can feel to be a part of such a fantastic team of people.

But you know a lot more than just what to expect. You know how to use the skills that make a team a Next Level Team. By working through the three steps outlined in this book, you 122

Your persistence has paid off big time because you and your team are better off now than you were before. So give yourself and your teammates a big pat on the back for sticking to the process and seeing it through.

Because you chose to stay the course, you and your team know how to function as a Next Level Team. You know how to use the three skills that put your team way above the average work group. You have learned to

 



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