Monday, October 24, 2011

Drifting Away

"Building the team" is a guiding principle of the Wildland Fire Leadership Development Program. So, how do you know when your team begins to drift apart? Jesse Lyn Stoner presents the following warning signs of team drift in "Diagnose and Cure Team Drift," a blog entry on the HBR Blog Network.

  • You leave meetings feeling like they've been a waste of time, or you decide to stop having team meetings because they're not productive.
  • You have to redo work or discover there's been duplication of efforts.
  • There is increasing interpersonal conflicts within the team.
  • Team members don't have access to the information they need to do the job right and end up having to redo work.
  • You are inundated with day-to-day demands. Everything is a priority.
  • Crisis management has become a way of life. As soon as one problem is solved, another appears.
  • Your team is not getting the recognition and respect it deserves from the rest of the organization.

What can you do to build the team? Here is some sound advice from Leading in the Wildland Fire Service.

Fire leaders set the stage by creating an environment in which cohesive teams thrive: establishing a foundation of trust, enabling healthy conflict, requiring commitment, setting an expectation of accountability, and bringing focus to the team result.


Leaders start by building a foundation of trust in teams.

  • Communication is the key to building trust.
  • Communicate openly with teams and make sure to convey the essence of your values, mission, and vision.

Healthy Conflict

Leaders create teams that engage in healthy conflict.

  • Enable a dynamic exchange of ideas, the voicing of diverse viewpoints, and, ultimately, innovative solutions.
  • Focus on the what not the who.


Leaders create teams committed to the mission.

  • Seek input and delegate appropriately
  • Involve team members from the start and actively solicit contributions
  • Make people responsible, give them enough authority to accomplish their assignment, and hold them accountable.

Peer Accountability

Leaders create teams in which team members hold each other accountable.

  • Set the example by demonstrating that team members can hold us accountable.
  • Encourage peers to give feedback on our own performance in meeting stated goals.

Team Results

Leaders create teams that focus on the team result.

  • Articulate a clear end state
  • Specify success criteria so that team members can turn intent into focused and decisive action.


Leaders create an atmosphere that fosters resilience: teams taht can bounce back when problems or errors threaten cohesion and synergy.

  • Establish and expectation that people at all levels communicate effectivly by practicing the Five Communications Responsibilities.
  • Communicate clear leader's intent, making sure all team members understand the end state and the objectives needed to reach the end state.
  • Define roles and responsibilities so all team members have a clear picture of what they are supposed to do and how they fit into the bigger picture.
  • Track situation status so team members understand what progress has been made and can alert others when deviations occur.
  • Develop contingency plans to extend decisional space. Maintain the advantage over the environment by planning for error or unexpected evetns and calculating responses in advance.

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