Teambuilding strategies to optimize talent
Building the foundation for a strong team requires a clear vision and recognizing the unique talents and skills each worker brings and optimizing them for the entire team.
Successful business leaders have a clear vision. They identify specific objectives and strategize the resources and effort required to achieve those goals. One thing is certain: leaders can’t do it alone. Whether managing a project or directing an office or department, leaders need a dedicated and motivated team to help realize that vision.
With that in mind, Dewberry’s 2020-2025 strategic plan identifies leadership as one of our five key goals. Specifically, our leadership goal states:
Identify, cultivate, and promote our current and next generation of strategic leaders at all levels of the organization for continued success and so that Dewberry reflects the diversity of the people we serve.
As Dewberry’s chief information officer, I work closely with leaders throughout the firm to help provide the resources and support they need to enable their teams to operate with maximum productivity. I direct our IT and logistics departments, working with staff members who bring a variety of skills, experience, and interests to the firm. As we serve a 2,200-person firm with more than 50 office locations, our day-to-day operations are fast-paced and demanding. Add digital transformation, cybersecurity issues, and our coronavirus response to the mix, and we’ve got 24/7 challenges to address and a need for our IT team to perform consistently at their very best: with energy, enthusiasm, and a strong commitment to top-notch customer service.
Trust: The foundation for a strong team
Throughout my career, I’ve developed some important tools and approaches to bring out the best in staff resources. It starts with my own ongoing development, through reading, continuing education, and active participation in professional organizations. The next step is to develop that vision: what’s ahead for the next year? The next five years? What is our plan for incremental progress?
The most important challenge a leader faces is to build trust among the team. Once that has been established, with team members not only trusting their leader but their colleagues as well, the wheels are in motion for a successful effort. Building trust takes time and commitment, and involves careful listening, clear communications and transparency, welcoming ideas and input from every member of the team (when it comes to good ideas, titles and roles don’t matter), staying connected, and celebrating accomplishments.
Recognizing superpowers: Everyone contributes in their own way
One of the weaknesses of an organization chart is that it can lead to restricting people within metaphorical boxes. Keeping employees “boxed up” within the strict definition of their title and role can limit their ability to contribute in a meaningful but unexpected way, whether it’s a solution to a challenge or a talent that can expand a team’s ability to assist clients. It’s important to understand the interests and passions of every team member, and take advantage of those “superpowers” that might otherwise go unnoticed. Are staff members introverts or extroverts? Do they have a knack for something that would help the team overall? Communications? Training? Technical problem-solving? Tapping the special talents of each individual benefits both the employees—who are sure to become even more motivated and engaged—and the team.
The most successful teams are also characterized by a “can-do” attitude. There is one word I encourage my staff members to avoid as much as possible: “no.” We are serving customers with pressing requirements, and we want them to see us as partners in their efforts. If we’re too quick with a “no, we can’t do it that way,” or “no, we can’t meet that deadline,” we become barriers or obstacles rather than partners. The “yes, we’ll find a way” kind of positivity has to start with leadership and can only thrive if that all-important trust has been established with the team.
Staying connected: Checking in
It may be cliché but an open door policy is always best. This year, with the coronavirus impacting our daily operations, there have been fewer opportunities to circulate through the office and have those vital walk-by conversations to check in or answer a question. I leave the chat function open on Teams at all times so that staff members can reach me, and regularly schedule virtual meetings to stay connected.