10 Steps to Successful Teams – By Renie McClay

Review by Gary Summy
Director of Sales Development
Trane Commercial Systems

I read 10 Steps to Successful Teams (ASTD Press, 2009), which addresses this exact topic. Author Renie McClay brings a lot of practical sales and account team experience to this book, having been in various sales, sales management, sales effectiveness, and training roles throughout her career. Here are her 10 steps:

Step 1: Form the team. The team makeup is perhaps the process’ single most important step. If the team doesn’t possess the right skills and drive to accomplish the goals, the team will be painful and often unsuccessful. The right leader can either help or hinder the process.

Step 2: Clarify roles. If team member roles are not clear, one of two things will happen. The team will be either inefficient because time is wasted on duplicity of effort for given tasks or ineffective because crucial tasks won’t be done at all. It’s critical upfront to clarify who is responsible for what.

Step 3: Encourage communication. Healthy, effective communication builds trust. Giving positive, constructive feedback helps keep things on track and eliminates errors. Managing conflict assists a team to focus on the goal rather than interpersonal or interdepartmental dynamics that can slow down things and deteriorate the team’s morale.

Step 4: Build strong relationships. People getting to know each other will be one of the most important parts of building team morale. Your team is not a collection of robots, and engaging on both the business and personal level builds trust and commitment. Build those solid relationships and an environment of trust so people can focus on the work to be done.

Step 5: Follow processes and track progress. Building processes and tracking progress helps teams take advantage of efficiencies and replicate success. It also helps to keep stakeholders informed and the entire team current on tasks, results and what needs to happen next.

Step 6: Assess the team. Ideally everyone needs to be aware of his strengths, then support fellow team members’ development areas. No one possesses every skill and all knowledge, so self-awareness coupled with strong leader assessment is helpful to ensure progress, growth and success.

Step 7: Develop creativity and innovation. Teams can accomplish tasks, but it is energizing to develop creative solutions. Creativity and innovation may save time and money internally and deliver differentiated value to the account. Teams can be innovative about the end-product or how the team operates. A mix of left- and right-brain thinking is very powerful in the team environment.

Step 8: Create effective virtual teams. Working remotely and participating virtually on a team is often challenging and part of any team’s reality. Connecting without personal contact can make it harder to build trust and learn to rely on team members. Leveraging media and technology and working at the people skills can help smooth this out.

Step 9: Solve problems. All teams face problems. Perhaps a team’s single most important quality is to see how the team works through them. Following steps one to eight puts you in a position to identify and solve the real problems and not just symptoms.

Step 10: Reward and celebrate. Many teams do not celebrate victories. Many organizations do not properly reward team successes. There are ways to reward teams that do not cost much and even some that cost nothing.

The book includes tips for all the roles on team. While there is a lot of content out there on leading teams, and that is certainly an element of McClay’s book, her focus is on the entire team. All the team members, not just the leader, have responsibility for a smooth-running, productive team. McClay writes, “Make sure you are part of the solution, not part of the problem.” She consistently offers ideas and suggestions that ensure that common sense is top of mind for everyone on the team. She reminds us, “A team is often a place where people develop a reputation. Make your reputation as someone who can be relied on to get tasks done—completely and on time.” There is an assessment chapter I recommend to all. One self-assessment exists for team members and one for team leaders. The chapter helps show strengths and improvement areas. This is a good exercise for new or established teams. (You can see this for yourself at http://tinyurl.com/ykyqeew.)

For many employees, delivering value requires working effectively with others in multiple team environments. This book will help position your team – or any team – to ensure that timelines are met, objectives are achieved and value is delivered.