The CommitteeManager Blog

Building a Team to Stand the Test of Time

The sole purpose of any organisation is to bring people together to accomplish things and change their community, whether that be a small group, a school, a company, a suburb, a country, right up to a global scale.

The longer your organisation runs, however, the greater the risk of losing sight of what bought you together in the first place, making it harder to really make a difference.

But how can you prevent becoming a group that drains time, but doesn't accomplish anything?

In this post we will start some concrete, day-to-day, week-to-week tips to keep your team motivated. In a future post, we will discuss some of the long term, big picture strategies.

Below are some of the commonly overlooked ways to keep your group enthused and productive - and accomplishing great things.

Get Things Done

As I mentioned before, groups form and come together for the purpose of changing things. And the only way we change things is, well, by actually doing things. A meeting discussing how you will change the world changes nothing without concrete action to follow it up.

It takes surprising little time for a group that doesn't accomplish anything to disappear - your members will rapidly become jaded and disinterested, and you will lose touch with the communities that you are striving to improve.

So it is essential for any group to plan concrete, actionable tasks that achieve their goals.

Every time you meet, focus on finding the concrete, actionable items that you can use to progress your goals, and make sure they get done. No matter how small the task is, it will build up momentum to help you plan bigger and grander changes.

Hold People Accountable

More often than not, the root cause of not getting anything done comes down to just not making sure that the work is done.

Everyone has more opportunities in their life than they could ever hope to accomplish. Between family, work, recreation and your community, there are an infinite number of ways to spend your time, and how you spend your time inevitably is all that makes up who and what we really are.

So it's important that we hold people accountable for their actions. If someone agrees to do a task, and they never do it, it has several insidious results:

  1. The job doesn't get done, hampering the actions of the group.
  2. You have missed an opportunity for someone else to contribute to the task, improving their skills and letting them contribute.
  3. It sets the tone that the task wasn't important anyway, because it didn't matter if it got done or not.
  4. It sets the tone that any tasks this person takes on are unimportant, because they're "that person who never follows through".
  5. Without a doubt it's going to cause stress and anxiety for the person who knows that they haven't finished the task, draining their willpower and wasting their time.

It's important to remember that it's rare for tasks to go unfinished just because the person is lazy. They may have competing priorities elsewhere. Their personal situation may just not give them the capacity to complete it right now. They might feel so overwhelmed or unsure about what needs to be done that they find themselves tuck unable to proceed (often called analysis paralysis). They might just not want to do the job.

As such, always examine why a task hasn't been completed openly and without judgement or blame, at least until you know the full story.

Given the stress that comes with being responsible for an overdue task, holding people accountable really is the most generous thing you can do for them. If they can't, won't, or don't want to do it, there is little point in punishing them with stress and anxiety until they do it. Either support them to complete the task (perhaps they just need guidance), reassign it, or drop it entirely if it's no longer essential.

Just don't leave it hanging over their head.

Know How You Are Progressing

It's easy for organisations of any size to be so busy doing things that they have no idea whether they're actually making a difference.

First off, this can quickly destroy morale; without any way to see if their efforts are yielding positive results, your members can become disengaged and disinterested.

Furthermore, not knowing how well things are going risks continuing spending resources on projects that simply don't work, or need adjustment to be effective.

Before taking on any project, decide how you will tell if you're doing the right job.

For a company, that might be Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) like profit, turnover or customer happiness.

For community groups, that might be the number of people helped, or the impact on a particular part of the community. It might even be noticing trends at a much larger scale, where a small change in your community has a ripple effect across the rest of society.

Whatever it is, keep track of it, see how well your endeavours match up with your expectations, and keep your members informed. You would be surprised at how often a discussion around progress can yield new ways to improve an existing plan, not to mention keeping morale high.

Don't Try To Do Too Many Things At Once

The longer your group exists, the more opportunities you will find on the fringes of your original mandate. And as you choose which of these you take on, you will inevitably take the legacy of those decisions with you - projects that need to happen every month or year; projects that take years (or decades!) to see fruition; projects that you started, never gained traction, but don't want abandon.

As you continue taking on all these projects your group can become swamped with competing priorities and distractions, making you inefficient, distracted, and unable to really deliver on your core goals.

A group trying to do too many things at once is easy to spot. They often end up doing things half-heartedly, or routinely start a project and then stop soon after.

So how you can prevent falling into this trap?

As a group, regularly review your goals and objectives, and review all of your projects to see how well they match that vision. Look for projects which are on the peripheral of your focus, or projects that you are struggling to make headway on due to competing priorities or lack of resources.

Then, find new homes for all these "second class" projects.

This doesn't mean you have to abandon them entirely. Perhaps you can find another group with goals that better match the project. Perhaps you can shelve the project for a time until it becomes a better fit. Perhaps you can address it with short, succinct action, rather than a long drawn out campaign.

Regardless of how you tackle it, allowing your group to move on from a poorly fitting project will give you more time, resources and crucially - attention - to spend on the projects that you care about the most.

Moving Forward

Putting these tips into practice is not always easy, but the rewards are well worth it when you are able to make the changes you want to see in your community.

Building a culture of accountability can be difficult to start with, but tackle it as openly as possible and without judgement. It's not a personal attack to hold someone accountable, it is simply making sure the group uses their resources most efficiently, and supports those who need some help.

Similarly, cleaning out old projects can be stressful if people have emotional attachments to their pet projects. In these cases, it's important to look at the big picture of what your group is working on and how things are progressing. Often, once people see that their pet project isn't getting the traction they had hoped, they can move on from the emotional attachment.

Interested in tracking concrete action items and keeping your group up to date on progress easily?

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Welcome to the CommitteeManager blog

We are a team committed to helping people work together efficiently and productively.

So much of our lives are spent working with teams and committees; meetings, group emails, conference calls and project planning sessions. But most teams struggle to get the best out of their members due to a lack of organisation and a lack of focus.

This blog has been set up to provide helpful, practical advice on getting the most out of your meetings and groups. We will be covering topics ranging from efficiency tips, new ideas you may want to explore, to long term strategic planning.

When we're not helping provide tips and tricks about efficiency, we build CommitteeManager, an online application that can revolutionise the management of your board, committee and project team obligations.

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