Team Initiatives

I. When is a Team Initiative Needed?

There are a variety of times when a focused initiative is required or beneficial. Generally they fall into the four categories of Alignment, Intervention, Development or Issue Driven. Any initiative may be singularly focused or may be a combination of the categories listed.

Team Alignment

The focus of the team initiative may be to assure all team members are in alignment. Alignment is when a team is moving in the same direction, at the same speed, striving for the same goals, and clear on the same priorities. The power of any group to excel resides in unity of a common passion and clear priorities.

Nothing robs potential and productivity more than competing energy moving in different directions with different priorities.


Team Intervention

A team initiative may be designed to address destructive team relationships and dynamics. Your management team may be faced with issues that require decisive and timely resolution. These are issues that if not addressed, will impact productivity, morale and overall team success and potential.

Intervention is the targeted initiative that addresses the hard problems by aggressively implementing a resolution process. All too often difficult issues are ignored, hoping they will sort themselves out or just go away.


Team Development

Many teams function very well with a high level of success. Some management team initiatives are designed to enhance future performance by means of a defined process that stretches, develops and challenges current thinking and mindsets.

Team growth and development is the discipline of engaging in a process that creates an environment, opportunity and challenge for team and individual improvement. Teams and individuals alike can be entrenched in old thinking, processes and procedures that hinder success.


Issue Driven

There are times when a management team is faced with a significant business or organizational challenge requiring focused attention and the support of external, objective facilitation.

These issues are clearly identified and tend to be singularly focused. Issues may range from a business or market challenge demanding a major shift in strategic direction to a merger or acquisition requiring significant discussion and examination of cultural or structural challenges.


II. Steps of Team Initiatives

Step One: Project Definition

Defines project with leadership and details scope and expectations.

   Meet with leadership to whom the team reports and others deemed appropriate
   Assure buy-in and support of leadership
   Determine level of involvement and availability of leadership
   Clearly understand leadership priorities and agenda to assure process reflects

Identify desired corporate direction.

   Define scope, goals, expectations and deliverables
   Identify how initiative will be positioned and announced
   Preliminary process draft outlined

Step Two: Project Foundation

Lays the foundation for the team initiative. It is important to note that this step is much more than a data gathering process. The team initiative and change process begins at this point.

   Conduct one-to-one interviews with team members
   Use any other information sources deemed appropriate to gain insight and relevant data
   Develop rapport and build relationship
- to assure highest level of trust and openness possible
- understand their individual needs and personal agendas
- openness or resistance to change and the team initiative
- level of team functioning and awareness
   Gather data
- identify issues that need to be surfaced
- learn about the corporate culture and pressures
- understand individual personalities and team dynamics
- sort through the team alliances and possible adversaries

Step Three: Process Defined

   Information in Step Two organized and analyzed
   Detailed process plan is designed outlining the initiatives and methodologies recommended
   Approval of the planned process by appropriate leadership

Step Four: Process Implementation

   Plan initiated
   Ongoing dialogue and updates with appropriate leadership

Step Five: Process Follow-Up and Momentum

   Individual and team action steps reviewed and monitored
   Periodic updates on progress and assistance with hindering issues


III. Components of a Successful Process

A successful team initiative requires a balanced combination of components that are both logistical and philosophical. Listed below are some of the elements we have found important to any successful team initiative:

   Have leadership buy-in and defined criteria for success
- clear goals, expectations and priorities
   Be structured yet living
- defined process which adapts to the team developmental needs as they arise
   Practical; not too theoretical and fluffy
- address real issues, real needs, real change and provide real application
   Promote and expect healthy, candid exchange
- process that models spirited dialogue with civility
   Create personal ownership and accountability
- place responsibility on individual to change vs. waiting for others
   Be forward focused vs. backward focused
- forward looks at impact, potential and results while backward places blame
   Model the desired corporate culture, values and priorities
- use the opportunity to reinforce and experience corporate ideals
   Meet the team where they are
- knowing where a team is and creating a process that is neither beneath them nor too advanced
   Motivate by stretching and creating positive tension without breaking
- the team must be stretched beyond themselves but avoiding too much too fast


IV. Methodologies

The objective is to design a process that achieves the defined goals and deliverables in the most impactful, expedient, and value-added approach as possible. The following are some of the methods used by NorthStar:

360-Degree Team Feedback

Just as an individual 360 gets feedback from individuals with whom they work, a team 360 obtains feedback from groups and individuals within the organization.

This tailored survey helps teams clearly identify their group strengths and weaknesses and learn organizational perceptions which potentially impact their effectiveness.

For example: If we are working with the operations leadership team we would secure feedback from other departments such as accounting, sales and marketing, research and development, and the Executive Committee.


OptionFinder is a computer aided keypad and software program that provides immediate and confidential feedback. The OptionFinder approach adds a powerful dynamic to executive and management meetings by surfacing "hot" issues that many times evade conventional facilitation methods.

This input tool helps define reality by providing a clear picture of how the members of the group feel and view particular issues and priorities.

Individual Assessments

At times an evaluation of individual styles and skills is called for. The selection of the assessment tool is dependent upon the need. NorthStar employs a variety of instruments, such as Highlands Inventory, Watson-Glaser Critical Thinking Inventory, Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, DISC and LIFO.

Team Profile

Assessment instruments are used to create a team profile. Team profiling enables a team to clearly see the group strengths and gaps. This enables the team to target their action planning.

Individual Executive Coaching

Occasionally an individual team member may require focused assistance. This is an in-depth process where an individualized development plan is developed and an ongoing monitoring and support process is implemented.


Most team initiatives require focused time away from the pressures and distractions of the office. Although retreats are one of the most common methods of addressing team needs, the retreats themselves need not be common. The power of a successful retreat is the combination of meeting design, facilitation and group activities.

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