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#595: Consultants Can Build Client Team Solidarity

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Friday, June 24, 2011
Updated: Friday, June 24, 2011
Much of my strategy practice involves helping clients set up teams to help with change. When clients assign staff who don't know each other to the team, it just adds to my job of creating solidarity in the team. Are there any ways you can suggest to help create this solidarity so that the team can continue after I depart?

It seems like there are two issues. The first is how to get staff who don't know each other connected into a real team, and the second is how to help them retain that solidarity after you are no longer around to facilitate that connection. Here's one idea that may help with both issues.

One of the first times you meet as a team, create a notebook sized sheet of paper for each team member with their name on it. If you have a place where you do meet, post these sheets on the wall. It is a good idea to have a fixed physical place, a "war room" if you will, to hold your regularly scheduled progress meetings.

After a meeting or two, you will begin to notice something about each team member that defines them. It could be an expression, a figure of speech, a behavior, a concern, or other type of contribution. These are positive and desirable contributions to the team dynamic (including amusing behaviors that contribute to the unique culture of the team), not negative characteristics.

With you taking the lead, and doing so in front of everyone, declare that you have found a member's contribution helpful and write it on the posted sheet (e.g., their comment "how will this help with sales", or "are we following the agenda"). Once the team gets into the practice, they will feel free to put up their own observations about other members (members shouldn't make notes about themselves). This will encourage members to start thinking about the team as an entity and to focus on positive aspects of the task. You'll know when this is a success when team members really make this their own and actively look for positive contributions. It is OK if people want to note neutral, but obvious, behaviors (e.g., "always has to have the chocolate sprinkle doughnut") as long as everyone recognizes it as a unique behavior.

When the project is over, combine these sheets and make them available to each team member, including, if possible, a public reading of each person's sheet, along with the team leader's thank you for their effort.

Tip: As the consultant, get out of the way as quickly as possible, turning over to the client project leader the responsibility of encouraging and managing the notation process. Your role is to facilitate the development and integration of a positive team culture, but doing so from behind the scenes.

© 2011 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  business culture  client relations  client service  client staff  consultant role  goodwill 

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