Dream team or scream team?

 The simplest formula for success requires five things: a team leader, a topic monitor, a time monitor, an agenda, and ground rules.

The team leader
Team building is the process of developing a cohesive group of individuals committed to working cooperatively, and achieving high performance in pursuit of organisational aims. Given assignments, the team members go off and work on their own. But, when they come together, there is a chance for conflict.

In the process of building a team, conflicts will inevitably occur. But, conflict can work for you. Conflict can lead to greater team commitment and cooperation. A cohesive group that has weathered the storms of conflict together will invariably achieve greater success than the team that founders and sinks in the seas of conflict.

Initial team meetings are the most important, for they set the tone that's likely to remain throughout the course of the team's life. Members will have questions when a team is forming. The team leader must addresses them and answer unasked questions about mission, commitment of resources, sponsorship, and the elements that constitute both success and failure.

Topic monitor
People compare bad team meetings to agony because discussions meander and then, the meeting is over and nothing has been accomplished. The best way to keep focused is to appoint a topic monitor who can interrupt and say, ‘I’ve been asked to keep us on topic and we need to return to the question of __________.’

Time monitor
The time monitor will keep in mind the amount of time that the leader has allocated for each item on the agenda. Then, when appropriate, the monitor can point out that there are just a few minutes left for discussion.

The agenda
After the first meeting, agendas virtually form themselves. But the first meeting is the most critical, for it establishes the construct within which future meetings will take place. Questions are answered at that meeting, of course, but before that occurs, the team leader should spend time on these considerations:

1. The social
A warm-up activity may be used to break the ice. Introductions should be given of each member, of the agenda, and of the sponsor.

2. The statement
The mission statement should be explored at length and questions relevant to it answered in-depth.

3. The structure
Administrative issues are covered, ground rules are established, roles are defined, questions answered, expectations clarified, the sponsor's role explained, housekeeping matters attended to, assignments distributed and dates confirmed for reporting the results of those assignments.

In addition, be sure to allocate the amount of time that will be given to each item on the agenda. The time monitor can, as a result, easily keep the meeting on track.

Ground rules
Just as the macrocosmic society establishes laws to govern collective and individual behaviour, so, too, must the microcosmic team society have governing principles. These are finite in number and must be agreed on by the whole team if they are to abide by them.

Ground rules are the ‘norming’ part of the Bruce Tuckman description of how a team functions: Form, Storm, Norm, Perform. The team meets (Form) for the first time and depends on the leader to establish parameters. Inevitably, conflicts will arise (Storm) but a leader can assuage them and ensure all members have a chance to express their opinions. The ground rules and the input from a time monitor and a topic monitor, when needed, helps ensure a Norm regulates the meeting. Finally, the team can Perform, achieving the goal stated on the agenda.

Ground rules specify what the team considers as acceptable behaviour. This might cover attendance, discussions, assignments, administrative matters, participation, how voting will be conducted, and decision-making.

Refute the cynics
There are those who cling to the belief that meetings are necessary when you don’t want to accomplish anything. Following the preceding suggestions will enable you to refute this cynical view and to achieve your team’s purpose.


Dr. Marlene Caroselli is an author, keynoter, and corporate trainer whose clients include Lockheed Martin, Allied Signal, Department of the Interior, and Navy SEALS. She writes extensively about education, business, self-improvement, and careers and has adjuncted at UCLA and National University. Her first book, The Language of Leadership, was named a main selection by the Executive Book Club. Principled Persuasion, a more recent title, was designated a Director's Choice by the Doubleday Book Club. Applying Mr. Albert: 365+ Einstein-Inspired Brain Boosts, her 62nd book, will be released by HRD Press in 2018.