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Give groups a chance to gel

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in Leaders & Managers,Team Building

You want your project team to spring into action, so you tell them what you want and when you want it. Bad idea.

Teams work best when they get a chance to gel before they engage in heavy lifting. Once participants develop trust in each other—and feel they know one another as fully dimensional people—they are better equipped to work together.

Begin meetings with less pressing matters that encourage open sharing. For example, go around the room and let each team member raise whatever subject they wish. Some might talk about their proudest moment of the past week; others might point out a lesson they learned or offer a health and wellness tip.

For a more structured exercise, ask each person to discuss his or her best and worst team experience. This works especially well with newly formed teams: Their responses will enable everyone to identify ways that they should—and should not—behave as a group.

As team leader, explain how you will evaluate the group’s performance and what constitutes success. Make sure they understand the metrics you’ll use to assess progress. Define your scope of responsibilities—and their responsibilities individually and collectively.

Review the goals you’ve set for the team. Confirm that everyone buys into those objectives and views them as realistic. If team members question the feasibility of the goals, invite input on how to modify them.

—Adapted from “What New Team Leaders Should Do First,” Carolyn O’Hara, www.hbr.org.

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