Author: TBAE Team

Team Building and Events Management South Africa (TBAE) specialises in coordinating and facilitating interactive corporate team building, with programs designed to promote team spirit and participative culture. TBAE is renowned for the design and delivery of unique, innovative, fun and memorable team building programs, customised to meet each client’s individual needs, agenda and budget. Our experienced and highly skilled facilitators work in partnership with our clients to ensure continuity in existing training or development programs.

Murder Mystery event in Cape Town and Johannesburg

Are you looking for a unique and engaging team building event? Look no further than a Murder Mystery event!

We will explore what a Murder Mystery event is, how it works, the roles involved, and how the mystery is solved.

Discover why Murder Mystery events are a great choice for team building, as they encourage teamwork, communication, problem-solving skills, creativity, and trust building.

Learn about the benefits of hosting a Murder Mystery event and get some tips on how to organize one successfully.

Get ready for a fun and interactive experience that will promote team bonding and improve team dynamics!

TBAE offer a complete turnkey solution for Murder Mystery events in Cape Town, Johannesburg, Pretoria and Durban. 

What is a Murder Mystery Event?

A Murder Mystery Event is an interactive form of entertainment where participants engage in solving a fictitious crime, typically set in a themed environment. These events are popular choices for corporate events, private parties, and even kids mystery parties.

The structure of a Murder Mystery Event usually involves participants taking on roles as suspects or detectives, each with their own backstory and motives. Participants then interact with each other to gather clues, piece together the puzzle, and ultimately solve the mystery. This immersive experience allows individuals to step into the shoes of characters, enhancing their social skills and critical thinking abilities.

How Does a Murder Mystery Event Work?

In a Murder Mystery Event, participants are assigned roles as characters in a scripted scenario where a ‘murder’ has taken place. Through interaction with other participants, clues provided by actors, and the guidance of a facilitator, attendees work together to solve the mystery.

Each character has a backstory, secrets, and motives, adding layers of complexity to the game. As the story unfolds, participants engage in role-playing, trying to uncover the truth behind the ‘murder’. The atmosphere is electric, filled with suspense and intrigue as everyone becomes both a suspect and a detective.

The facilitator plays a crucial role, guiding the narrative flow and dropping subtle hints to steer participants in the right direction without giving away too much. The interactive nature of the event keeps everyone engaged, with conversations, interrogations, and investigations all contributing to the overall experience.

What are the Roles in a Murder Mystery Event?

Key roles in a Murder Mystery Event include characters central to the plot, teams that collaborate to solve the mystery, and the creative use of costumes to bring the story to life.

Participants, embodying various characters, breathe life into the narrative through their interactions, suspicions, and sleuthing. They add depth to the storyline by immersing themselves in their roles, unveiling clues, and engaging other attendees. Each individual’s participation is crucial, as even the smallest detail or conversation can alter the course of the investigation.

Forming teams enhances the thrill and excitement of deciphering the mystery, fostering teamwork, brainstorming, and collective problem-solving. The camaraderie and friendly competition within groups elevate the overall experience and make it more interactive.

How is the Mystery Solved?

The mystery in a Murder Mystery Event is typically solved through the collective efforts of participants gathering and interpreting clues, unraveling the web of innocence and guilt woven within the storyline.

In the process of solving the mystery, participants meticulously analyze the smallest details in search of crucial clues. Each piece of information, no matter how insignificant it may seem, plays a vital role in connecting the dots and revealing the truth hidden amidst the intricate plot.

The twists and turns of the storyline keep everyone on their toes, shifting perceptions and challenging initial assumptions. Innocence and guilt dance a delicate tango, blurring the lines between truth and deception.

As the investigation progresses, suspicions may fall on unexpected characters, adding layers of complexity to the puzzle. It is the keen eye and logical reasoning of the detectives that ultimately bring clarity to the murky waters of uncertainty.

Why Choose Murder Mystery as a Team Building Event?

Choosing TBAE Murder Mystery as a Team Building Event offers a unique opportunity for team members to engage in collaborative problem-solving, enhance communication skills, and foster strong bonds through an immersive and entertaining experience.

Team members immersed in a Murder Mystery scenario are encouraged to work together, share information, and decipher clues to solve the mystery. This interactive format requires effective communication and coordination among participants to piece together the puzzle and uncover the truth.

These events provide a platform for team members to showcase their individual strengths and abilities while also learning to leverage each other’s skills. As they collaborate to unravel the mystery, a sense of camaraderie is formed, fostering trust and unity within the team.

Encourages Teamwork and Communication

Engaging in a Murder Mystery Event encourages teamwork and communication by fostering an environment where team members collaborate, share ideas, and engage in lighthearted interactions that strengthen team spirit.

During these events, participants are immersed in a scenario where they must work together to solve a fictional crime, stimulating problem-solving skills and teamwork. The games often involve communication exercises, where effective information sharing and active listening are crucial for unraveling the mystery. Through this process, teams bond over shared laughter, overcoming challenges, and celebrating achievements. The light-hearted nature of the activities creates a positive atmosphere that promotes camaraderie and collaboration among colleagues.

Improves Problem-Solving Skills

Participating in a Murder Mystery Event enhances problem-solving skills by challenging participants to overcome barriers, think critically, and engage in the process of deduction to unravel the mystery before them.

These events immerse individuals in a captivating storyline where they must piece together fragmented evidence, decode cryptic messages, and uncover hidden motives. Participants are encouraged to collaborate, share insights, and pool their diverse skills to piece together the intricate puzzle laid out before them.

The unique challenges presented in such events often require a blend of analytical thinking, creativity, and effective communication. As individuals navigate through the twists and turns of the murder mystery, they must adapt their strategies, utilize each other’s strengths, and maintain a keen eye for detail.

Enhances Creativity and Critical Thinking

Participating in a Murder Mystery Event enhances creativity and critical thinking as participants immerse themselves in a fictional world, explore new perspectives, and engage in a memorable and entertaining experience.

During these events, individuals are challenged to think outside the box, connect seemingly unrelated information, and put their investigative skills to the test. By piecing together clues, deciphering hidden messages, and playing different roles within the storyline, participants are actively involved in a dynamic and interactive puzzle-solving process. This hands-on engagement not only fosters teamwork and collaboration but also prompts participants to think analytically and strategically in order to unravel the mystery.

Builds Trust and Relationships

Participating in a Murder Mystery Event builds trust and relationships among team members by fostering a sense of connection, encouraging collaboration, and leaving a lasting impression that can positively impact working relationships.

Murder Mystery Events provide a unique platform for teams to bond over a shared goal of solving a perplexing mystery, which requires effective communication and problem-solving skills. The interactive nature of these events prompts participants to step out of their comfort zones, generating authentic interactions that go beyond the confines of a typical work setting. As team members work together to unravel clues and uncover the truth, they build mutual respect and understanding, laying a solid foundation for enhanced teamwork and improved communication. Engaging in such immersive and thrilling experiences helps create memorable moments that employees can reminisce about, strengthening their interpersonal connections and fostering a sense of unity within the team.

What are the Benefits of a Murder Mystery Event?

Participating in a Murder Mystery Event offers a range of benefits, including a fun and engaging experience, enhanced team bonding, opportunities for prizes and awards, and a unique form of entertainment that captivates and engages participants.

One of the key advantages of engaging in Murder Mystery Events is the interactive and immersive experience they provide. Participants have the chance to step into the shoes of detectives, solving intriguing puzzles and unraveling the mysteries in a thrilling and suspenseful setting. This not only fosters teamwork and communication skills but also sparks creativity and critical thinking among individuals. The element of competition adds an exciting edge to the event, keeping everyone on their toes as they strive to crack the case and emerge victorious.

Fun and Engaging Experience

Participating in a Murder Mystery Event offers a fun and engaging experience that immerses participants in a world of mystery and intrigue, providing entertainment that captivates and excites all involved.

From the moment you step into the carefully designed venue, time seems to warp as you are transported to an alternate reality where you become a detective or a suspect, unraveling the enigmatic plot. All around you, the atmosphere buzzes with anticipation, as everyone delves into their roles, concocting alibis and following clues.

The allure of these events lies in the interactive nature, where you are not just a bystander but an active participant in solving the gripping whodunit mystery.

Promotes Team Bonding

Participating in a Murder Mystery Event promotes team bonding by fostering laughter, encouraging collaboration, and strengthening team spirit through shared problem-solving and engaging interactions.

These events serve as a unique platform for team building, as they encourage participants to unleash their creativity, strategic thinking, and communication skills in a fun and interactive setting.

The element of mystery and intrigue fosters a sense of camaraderie among team members, as they work together to piece together clues, solve puzzles, and ultimately uncover the truth behind the ‘crime.’

Laughter plays a crucial role in easing tensions and breaking down barriers, allowing team members to connect on a deeper level and build lasting relationships.

Improves Team Dynamics

Participating in a Murder Mystery Event improves team dynamics by enhancing communication skills, promoting problem-solving abilities, and fostering a sense of unity and cooperation among team members.

These events create a unique platform for team members to collaborate in solving complex puzzles, deciphering clues, and ultimately working towards a common goal. Through this shared experience, individuals learn to leverage each other’s strengths and communicate effectively to unravel mysteries. The interactive nature of the event encourages active participation from all team members, breaking down barriers and facilitating open dialogue. This hands-on approach not only enhances interpersonal relationships but also leads to increased trust and camaraderie within the team.

Develops Leadership Skills

Participating in a Murder Mystery Event develops leadership skills by providing opportunities for participants to take charge, make decisions, and showcase their abilities in guiding their teams towards solving the mystery.

These events serve as a unique platform where individuals can step into different roles requiring leadership qualities, such as problem-solving, critical thinking, effective communication, and team management. Delegating tasks and coordinating efforts to uncover clues and decipher complex scenarios help in understanding the dynamics of leadership in action. By immersing themselves in these interactive experiences, participants learn to navigate through uncertainties, handle conflicts, and inspire collaboration within their teams, all essential aspects of effective leadership.

How to Organize a Murder Mystery Event?

Organizing a Murder Mystery Event involves selecting a theme and setting, assigning roles to participants, setting the scene with appropriate props and clues, and planning for refreshments and prizes to enhance the overall experience.

Once you’ve chosen a theme, it’s essential to create a detailed script outlining the storyline, motives, and character backgrounds for each participant. This will help them fully immerse themselves in their roles and interact convincingly throughout the event.

Consider the logistics, such as venue selection, invitations, and any specific requirements for decorations or special effects that will contribute to the atmosphere.

Another crucial aspect is providing clear instructions to participants, ensuring they understand their roles, objectives, and any rules or guidelines for the game. Distributing character packets in advance can also allow them to prepare and get into character before the event begins, enhancing the overall experience.

TBAE offers all of the above options in our turnkey murder mystery package in Cape Town, Johannesburg, Pretoria and Durban. 

Choose a Theme and Setting

Selecting a theme and setting for a Murder Mystery Event is crucial to create the right atmosphere and ambiance, incorporating elements like venues, themed decorations, and appropriate dressing codes to immerse participants in the experience.

In terms of choosing a theme for your Murder Mystery Event, it’s essential to find an intriguing storyline that captivates the imagination of your guests. Whether it’s a glamorous 1920s affair, a spooky haunted house setting, or a thrilling spy mystery, the theme sets the stage for the entire evening.

TBAE offers 35 different themes that you can choose from. If you don’t see what you want, let us know and we can customise it for you. 

The venue plays a vital role in enhancing the overall experience. Opt for locations that align with your chosen theme, such as a historic mansion, a quirky restaurant, or even an outdoor setting to add an element of surprise.

TBAE has worked with more than 50 venue locations across Cape Town, Johannesburg, Pretoria and Durban. 

Assign Roles and Provide Instructions

Assigning roles and providing clear instructions to participants is essential for the smooth execution of a Murder Mystery Event, ensuring that everyone understands their characters, objectives, and interactions within the storyline.

Participants are typically assigned unique roles that contribute to the intricate web of the mystery, each role offering a different perspective on the unfolding drama. The actors embody these characters with flair, adding depth and intrigue to the event. Personas are carefully crafted to engage participants, guiding them through the investigation with clues and red herrings. As the plot thickens, scripted interactions between characters create an immersive experience, drawing everyone deeper into the narrative. It’s crucial for participants to stay in character, react authentically to developments, and collaborate to solve the mystery.

Set the Scene and Provide Clues

Setting the scene with appropriate props and providing interactive clues is vital to engage participants in the storyline and encourage their involvement in solving the mystery alongside the actors portraying key characters.

By creating a detailed and immersive environment, organizers can transport participants into the heart of the mystery, heightening their curiosity and investment in uncovering the truth. Immersive elements such as secret diaries hidden under lamps or cryptic codes scribbled on old letters add layers of intrigue and excitement, enticing participants to explore every corner in search of clues. This approach not only challenges their detective skills but also fosters a sense of collaboration as they work together to piece together the puzzle.

Plan for Refreshments and Prizes

Planning for refreshments and prizes adds an extra layer of enjoyment to a Murder Mystery Event, offering participants the opportunity to relax, socialize, and potentially win accolades for their involvement in solving the mystery.

Catering arrangements play a crucial role in creating a welcoming ambiance, with delicious food and beverages serving as conversation starters and mood enhancers. The provision of high-quality catering can elevate the overall experience, making guests feel valued and cared for, thus increasing their engagement with the event.

The allure of enticing prizes can fuel participants’ competitive spirit, motivating them to actively participate and strive towards uncovering the truth behind the fictional crime. Recognizing and rewarding their efforts with prizes adds a sense of achievement, making the event memorable and encouraging return attendance.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is a Murder Mystery event?

A Murder Mystery event is an interactive role-playing game where participants act out a scripted murder scenario and try to solve the mystery using clues and evidence.

Is Murder Mystery event suitable for team building?

Yes, TBAE Murder Mystery events are great for team building as they encourage teamwork, communication, and problem-solving skills in a fun and engaging way.

Can I customize the Murder Mystery event for my group?

Absolutely! TBAE offer customizable Murder Mystery events to fit your group’s specific needs and preferences.

What are the benefits of a Murder Mystery event?

Apart from being a fun and unique experience, Murder Mystery events also promote team bonding, improve critical thinking skills, and enhance creativity and collaboration.

Do we need acting experience to participate in a Murder Mystery event?

No, acting experience is not required. The game is designed for everyone to participate and have fun, regardless of their acting abilities.

Can we combine a Murder Mystery event with other activities?

Yes, TBAE can offer packages that include other team building activities or additional services such as catering and venue rental. You can customize your Murder Mystery event to include whatever you want.

Why Team Building is Now More Important Than Ever

Why Team Building is Now More Important Than Ever

There was a time that team building opportunities for companies either consisted of a take- away lunch every other month or it was left up to employees to initiate socialising between colleagues after business hours. Thankfully managers have realised that team building cannot be left to chance or limited to a quick bite during working hours.

The Science Behind Building Strong Teams

A recent study by the MIT Media Lab has shown that the “science” behind strong teams is still good old fashioned, casual face-to-face interaction. As quoted in a recent copy of the Harvard Business Review, the researchers at MIT have shown that the greatest trust and best communication in strong teams are a result of people talking, sharing and interacting in an informal person-to-person situation.

The device invented by the researchers at the MIT Media Lab in the form of a security badge recorded with whom people interacted and how long. By tracking these interactions they concluded that informal socialisation in a face-to-face interaction accounted for a 35% variation in team results with the most interactive teams outperforming all others.

Team Building Activities Encourages Interaction

By analyzing the data obtained, they assessed that relaxed encounters outside of formal meetings is one of the most important factors to ensure the success of a team. The real eye-opener of the MIT study is that great teams can be created when a group of people who don’t necessarily stand out much on their own are given an opportunity to get together informally, i.e. team building.

The ultimate aim of great team building should be obvious: to encourage relaxed, face-to-face interaction in such a way that it encourages trust and more comfortable communication in the workplace. On the other hand a recent article in Forbes implied that team building exercises that excessively try to impress leadership training or functional objectives are shown to be less successful in the long run.

Team Building Events Should Not Be Too Formal

Managers overly concerned with getting a return on investment for every team building event has been shown to result in the teams not fully participating in their corporate events. In order to function at an optimal level, teams need to be given a chance to interact with each other in activities that can be just as outcome based as management needs, but without feeling that they are receiving training to address a specific need.

This is where professional help is required – the benefits of great teamwork cannot be denied and all managers know that great teams are needed for great results. Professional team building organisations know how to design and organise an event that will not only enable casual face-to-face interaction as the MIT study has suggested, but also how to incorporate much needed activities that result in the outcomes required by management without making it feel like the team is on a training session.  

Benefits of Using Team Building Facilitators

The ultimate aim for all team building sessions have one thing in common – keeping teams interactive once the event ends. A professional team building facilitator knows that people are people and especially during these times, team managers need to create opportunities for people to meet, talk, socialise, and relax face-to-face, to ensure that their teams remain resilient and strong.


Subscribe to TBAE’s Blog and Receive Notifications of New Blog Posts

The Ultimate Guide to Team Leadership

The Ultimate Guide to Team Leadership


Welcome to our ultimate guide to team leadership. They say that leaders are born, not made. While it is true that some people are born leaders, some leaders are born in the midst of adversity. Often, simple people who have never had a leadership role will stand up and take the lead when a situation they care about requires it. A simple example is parenting. When a child arrives, many parents discover leadership abilities they never knew existed in order to guide and protect their offspring. There are countless war stories of simple GI’s and sailors who rose to a challenge on their own in the heat of battle.

Clearly, leadership potential exists within each of us. That potential can be triggered by outside events, or it can be learned by exploring ourselves from within. This guide takes the latter approach. Once you learn the techniques of true leadership, you will be able to build the confidence it takes to take the lead. The more experience you have acting as a genuine leader, the easier it will be for you. It is never easy to take the lead, as you will need to make decisions and face challenges, but it can become natural and rewarding.

Leadership is not telling others what to do. Leadership is inspiring others to do what needs to be done. Many people around the world who are in leadership positions are not leaders. Dictators call themselves leaders but they are not – they are tyrants. There have been many presidents of the United States, but few were real leaders. Genuine leaders take a stand and motivate others to join them in a noble purpose. One such leader was Abraham Lincoln, who ended slavery in the United States. Another was John F. Kennedy, who inspired a nation to go to the moon within a decade, and it did. General Patton had a completely different but no less effective leadership style. What is it that makes a leader, and what separates the good from the great? This guide will explore different leadership theories and examine what makes a great leader.

Influence is subtle, yet incredibly powerful. You can order someone to do a task, but you cannot order them to do their best. It simply does not work and usually has the opposite effect. You can influence people to do their best by providing a strong, motivating example in addition to positive reinforcement. Leadership addresses tasks, while influence addresses attitudes and awareness. Influence is the soul of leadership.

We will be covering the following topics in our ultimate guide to team leadership (click on a heading to go directly to that section):

The Evolution of Team Leadership

The Evolution of Team Leadership

As long as there have been leaders, there have been those who tried to determine how and why they were successful. Leadership itself has not evolved, but our understanding of it has. It is important to understand why very different leadership styles can be effective, why the same leadership techniques will not work in every situation, and which leadership style fits your personality best. Everyone has leadership potential within them, but understanding these concepts will help you maximize your leadership ability.

Defining Team Leadership

Simply speaking, “leadership” is defined as “the ability to lead.” Unfortunately, this is not very helpful. A better definition comes from the BNET online Business Dictionary: “The capacity to establish direction and to influence and align others toward a common goal, motivating and committing them to action and making them responsible for their performance.” Although this is more descriptive, it is not substantial. It does not tell us what leadership actually is, but rather what it does.

Characteristics of a Team Leader

The mark of a true leader is not a position or title held, but it is how many people are willing to follow them. Santa Clara University and the Tom Peters group outline the following leadership characteristics:

  • Honest
  • Competent
  • Forward-looking
  • Inspiring
  • Intelligent
  • Fair-minded
  • Broad-minded
  • Courageous
  • Straightforward
  • Imaginative

Team Leadership Principles

The United States Army offers 11 Leadership Principles:

  1. Be tactically and technically proficient
  2. Know yourself and seek self-improvement
  3. Know your soldiers and look out for their welfare
  4. Keep your soldiers informed
  5. Set the example
  6. Ensure the task is understood, supervised and accomplished
  7. Train your soldiers as a team
  8. Make sound and timely decisions
  9. Develop a sense of responsibility in your subordinates
  10. Employ your unit in accordance with its capabilities
  11. Seek responsibility and take responsibility for your actions

You will notice that none of the above actually tells you how to lead in a practical manner. They don’t address what to do or say in any given situation. That is because there is no real formula to being a leader. Leadership must come from within and it is based on your personality. In this guide, you will learn how to develop your innate leadership abilities and build the confidence required in being a true leader.

Back to The Top

A Brief History of Team Leadership

A Brief History of Team Leadership

Historical Leaders

Throughout the centuries, there have been leaders. We are social animals who bond together, but we look for order against the chaos of life. We look to be organized to accomplish tasks as a society that we cannot perform individually. As a result, someone inevitably ends up in charge.

Leaders in the past have generally belonged to one of three categories: Political, Military or Religious.

Political: Around 1790 B.C., Babylonian ruler Hammurabi created the codified laws, which unified his empire in what was seen as a fair order as all people were subject to the same rules.

Military: Sun Tzu was a military general in China from 500 B.C. He wrote the Art of War, and although he was a great military leader, his book is actually about how to not use armies except as a last resort, focusing more on wise political policies and strategies to prevent war.

Religious: It may be said that religious leaders have had the greatest impact on their societies, with results that last for centuries.

Modern Leaders

With the rise of the industrial revolution, a new kind of leader emerged: Economic. The so-called Captains of Industry found they could build an empire based on modern technology instead of swords. Oil Barons, railroad magnates, and factory owners built large fortunes without the benefit of armies; it was often at the expense of the people they employed. This gave rise to Union leaders and various movements designed to promote justice where abuses were perceived to exist.

The Industrial Revolution also increased the number of Scientific Leaders, as scientists now had easy access to a wide range of new materials for their work. Psychiatry and Psychology came into prominence with studies on the workplace, in regards to improving productivity and the effect on the workforce.

Studies have shown consistently that workers are more productive when they are in a “positive work environment.” The attitude and influence of the boss is a major factor in this productivity. If employees feel they are listened to, respected, and treated fairly, they are happier in their work and perform better than those who feel they are disrespected and unappreciated. Which kind of work environment would you prefer?

Back to The Top

Three Theories of Team Leadership

Three Theories of Team Leadership

The Great Man Theory

The Great Man Theory was abandoned in favor of the theories of behavioral science. It’s easy to be inspired by stories of great men and women who did great things in their lives. Alexander the Great conquered the known world. Genghis Khan then ravaged most of it. Abraham Lincoln freed the slaves. Harriet Tubman saved hundreds from slavery in the Underground Railroad. Mother Theresa aided and comforted thousands in Calcutta who were abandoned by society. Theory goes that these people did great things because they were simple great people determined by fate and fulfilling their destiny.

The Trait Theory

It has often been said, “Great leaders are born, not made.” Trait Theory takes this saying literally. If you have the ability to lead, you were born with it, with no way to learning those skills. This theory expands on the Great Man Theory by defining what makes great leaders “great.”

Today, we recognize that true leadership seems to come from a combination of both theories – and more. As we have seen, there are wide varieties of leadership qualities. Everyone has some ability in at least one or more of these areas. This means that under the right circumstances, anyone can rise to a leadership role and be successful based on the leadership style that best matches their personality if they know how to use that ability to properly address the situation at hand. Other leadership skills can indeed be learned, developed, and mastered.

Transformational Leadership

In 1978, James MacGregor Burns introduced the idea of transformational leadership as he researched political leaders. Burns theorized that “transformational leadership” is actually a process where leaders interact with their followers and inspire each other to advance together. His characteristics and behaviors demonstrated the differences between “management” and “leadership.” People and organizations are transformed due to the leadership style and abilities of the leader, who is able to convey a vision and guide the transformation.

Bernard M. Bass, in 1985, added to Burns’ transformational leadership theory buy shifting the focus to the followers. It is not the individual traits and vision of the leader that matter as much as it is their ability to influence the feelings, attitudes, and commitment of their followers. As we mentioned before in productivity studies, if followers feel they can trust a leader (or better yet, if they admire a leader who can stimulate a sense of loyalty and respect) the followers go beyond what was originally expected of them and will do so happily. As a result, productivity and unity increases. The followers are transformed by a charismatic, motivational leader.

Summary of The Team Leadership Theories

Through all of the studies, we have seen that there are a variety of attributes and abilities associated with leadership, and these vary from leader to leader. Some leaders are great orators, others great writers. Some leaders are very quiet, but the force of their logic or passion wins the day. The difference between a good leader and a great leader is partly the number of leadership skills they have developed. The other part is their ability to apply those skills properly to those who would follow. We will address these issues in the next section.

Back to The Top

Situational Team Leadership

Situational Team Leadership

Now we get to the nuts and bolts of team leadership. The definitive leadership style research comes from Paul Hersey and Kenneth Blanchard, which they expressed in their Situational Leadership Model. The Hersey-Blanchard model addresses the key to practical leadership development: the attributes and styles of the followers.

Not everyone is on the same intellectual, maturity, compliance, or motivational level. Different people are motivated by different things, and this must be taken into account if one is to be a great leader. Communications experts consider it critical to tailor your message to your “target audience.” It is the followers that you want to motivate and influence and you cannot do that if you don’t know whom you are trying to motivate or influence.

The Situational Leadership model addresses four types of leadership styles, based on the follower:

  • Telling
  • Selling
  • Participating
  • Delegating

Situational Leadership: Telling

Telling is the lowest level of team leadership style. Most new team members require direct instructions, so this is called the “Telling” or “Directing” style. The follower is characterized by low competence and high commitment, being unable to comply, with possible feelings of insecurity.

The team leader must focus highly on tasks, rather than a relationship with the team member, as a relationship does not yet exist.

When a team member can’t do the job because they are unknowledgeable, the team leader must spend much more time working with the team member, offering clear instructions and regular follow up. The team leader must be encouraging and motivational, offering praise for positive results and correction for less than positive results. The idea is to motivate the follower to rise to the next level of ability.

This is a very leader-driven stage.

Situational Leadership: Selling

Selling addresses the follower who has developed some competence with an improved commitment. The follower is not convinced yet, but is open to becoming cooperative and motivated.

The team leader must still focus highly on tasks and this still requires much of the leader’s time, but the focus now also includes developing a relationship with the team member. Build upon the trust that has begun to develop and the encouragement that has been demonstrated. The team leader must spend more time listening and offering advice, scheduling the follower for additional training if the situation requires it.

The goal is to engage the team members so they can develop to the next level. There is less “telling” and more “suggesting” which leads to more encouragement, acting as a coach. It is recognition that they have progressed and motivates them to progress even further.

This is a very leader-driven stage.

Situational Leadership: Participating

Participating addresses the team member who is now competent at the job, but remains somewhat inconsistent and is not yet fully committed. The team member may be uncooperative or performing as little work as possible, despite their competence with the tasks.

The team leader must participate with and support the team member. The leader no longer needs to give detailed instructions and follow up as often, but does need to continue working with the follower to ensure the work is being done at the level required.

The team member is now highly competent, but is not yet convinced in his or her ability or not fully committed to do their best and excel. The team leader must now focus less on the tasks assigned and more on the relationship between the team member, the leader, and the team.

This is a very follower-driven, relationship-focused stage.

Situational Leadership: Delegating

Delegating is the ultimate goal: a team member who feels fully empowered and competent enough to take the ball and run with it, with minimal supervision. The team member is highly competent, highly committed, motivated, and empowered.

The team leader can now delegate tasks to the team member and observe with minimal follow up, knowing that acceptable or even excellent results will be achieved. There is a low focus on tasks and a low focus on relationships. There is no need to compliment the team member on every task, although continued praise for outstanding performance must be given as appropriate.

This is a very follower-driven stage.

Back to The Top

A Personal Inventory of Your Team Leadership

A Personal Inventory of Your Team Leadership

In 2002, Jossey Bass published a book by James Kouzes and Barry Posner called The Leadership Challenge. Building upon the Hersey-Blanchard model and other transformational leadership models, they went to the heart of what skills are required by the leader to stimulate such a transformation. What abilities are able to influence followers and bring them to accept the leader’s vision as their own?

An Introduction to Kouzes and Posner

James Kouzes and Barry Posner asked thousands of people to rank list of characteristics associated with leadership, including the seven top qualities that motivated them to follow willingly. They gave this survey to over 75,000 people over a 20-year period.

In their book, The Leadership Challenge, the authors identified five abilities that were crucial to successful leadership:

  • Model the Way: You must lead by example. You can’t come into work 10 minutes late every day if you want your employees to arrive on time.
  • Inspire a Shared Vision: If you capture the imagination, you will inspire creative thought and increase loyalty. The vision doesn’t need to be grandiose, but it needs to be communicated effectively for others to adopt it as one of their own.
  • Challenge the Process: Don’t continue doing something just because “We’ve always done it that way.” Situations change, and sometimes a policy or procedure never worked well in the first place. Think outside the box.
  • Enable Others to Act: Truly empower people to act on their own within their level of authority. The famed Ritz-Carlton hotel empowers every employee at all levels to spend up to $1000 on behalf of a guest (who is informed reimbursement will be required for whatever request they make).
  • Encourage the Heart: A positive attitude is infectious. If the leader appears passionate or excited about the vision, others will catch the enthusiasm as well.

Creating an Action Plan for Your Team Leadership

Now that you understand the various concepts, it’s time to plan how to put them into action by incorporating them into your life.

Set Leadership Goals: In leadership, as in life, you will never come to the end of your learning, but you want to rank in priority order those qualities you want to develop

Address the Goals: Determine how you will accomplish your goals. Do you feel you need to learn more about teamwork so you can better lead a team? Join a team sport. Do you want to communicate better? Take a creative writing class or join Toastmasters and get some public speaking experience. Toastmasters are also great if you are shy and want to feel more comfortable in social situations.

Seek Inspiration: Learn about a variety of leaders, including their styles with dealing with challenges. Read books and conduct research on the internet or at libraries.

Choose a Role Model: Based on your research, choose a role model that fits your personality. You might choose a dynamic leader like Teddy Roosevelt, or an intellectual leader like Albert Schweitzer or Albert Einstein. Read several biographies and find videos on his or her life.

Seek Experience: Take a leadership role on a social group or club. Gain experience working with people on many levels.

Create a Personal Mission Statement: Imagine your legacy. How do you want to be remembered? What do you want people to think of you? What typeof leader you determined to be? Write a statement that defines who you will become.

Back to The Top

Modeling the Way with Your Leadership

Modeling the Way with Your Leadership

Remember that the best team leaders are examples of what they want their team members to be. George Washington rode into battle with his troops. You cannot lead from the rear, and sending your team out to take the heat and face the challenges while you remain in an ivory tower will eliminate any possibility of respect.

By definition, a leader is in the lead, right up front, ready to take the heat if something goes wrong. If something does go wrong, a true leader never blames his followers even if in fact they failed. A true leader takes the blame, and then addresses how to correct the problems that arose.

Determining Your Way

Once you have chosen your role model, study what qualities made them successful. Learn about what challenges they faced and how the challenges were met. Learn about the ideas and philosophies that drove them and made them successful. Study again the Hersey- Blanchard model and see how different situations called for different styles of leadership.

Since there is no leader in history who has not had failures, pay particular attention to how your hero deals with adversity. George Washington nearly lost the American Revolution through major hesitations in leadership and in fact, he lost New York to the British general William Howe, but he learned from his mistakes and the rest, as they say, is history.

Being an Inspirational Role Model to Your Team

Leadership is neither for the timid nor for the arrogant. Confidence is often resented or misinterpreted for arrogance. People who lack self-confidence often feel intimidated by a true leader. This should never hold you back. If you have honesty, integrity and deal with everyone fairly, then others will see that. Be willing to listen to criticism, but also consider the source. If you are too afraid of what others might say about you, or you ignore legitimate complaints insisting on respect solely because of your position, you will lose the respect and cooperation of your followers and peers.

President Theodore Roosevelt said it best:

 “It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly; who errs and comes short again and again; because there is not effort without error and shortcomings; but who does actually strive to do the deed; who knows the great enthusiasm, the great devotion, who spends himself in a worthy cause, who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement and who at the worst, if he fails, at least he fails while daring greatly. So that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory nor defeat.”

Influencing Your Team’s Perspectives

You may have heard that perception is reality. You must always present an honest, caring, dedicated attitude to inspire others. To inspire loyalty, you must have a track record of honesty and fairness. If any of your followers do feel they have been wronged, for whatever reason, you need to address the issue immediately. People talk, and a problem ignored is a problem that grows.

Related: Team Building Activities That Helps With Problem Solving

Believe it or not, the most powerful influence you can have is often not trying to influence someone. When people believe you are open to their suggestions and believe they have been heard, they will work harder even if they disagree with the methods or goals. That is the power of listening. Simply listening to others makes them feel empowered, even if you don’t accept their suggestions. If a follower feels there’s no point talking to you, they won’t, and they will disengage themselves from your vision and will only follow your directions begrudgingly.

If you are seen as going the extra mile, your team members are more likely to go the extra mile. If you hide in your office and people never see you, you will be perceived as out of the loop, uninformed, uninterested, and therefore unworthy to lead. Many a successful corporate executive makes it a point to be seen by their employees every day. If an employee is to be commended for something, it is done publicly, often right in the middle of their workplace while they are surrounded by their coworkers. That sends a powerful message to everyone.

Back to The Top

Inspiring a Shared Vision for Your Team

Inspiring a Shared Vision for Your Team

The key to true leadership is to inspire a shared vision among your team. Before you can convey a vision, however, you have to develop it. You must be clear in your vision, live it before others can see it, and model it from your behavior.

Choosing a Vision for Your Team

What do you want to accomplish, and what do you need to do to get there? Determine attainable goals and focus on them. King Arthur sought the Holy Grail. Lewis and Clark mapped much of the United States. NASA took us to the moon. What is your vision?

Your vision will provide a sense of direction for you and your tea,. In the military, focus is on “the mission.” Whatever the mission is, everyone is dedicated to it. Let your vision be like a lighthouse on a hill, guiding ships to safety and warning them away from the rocks.

Communicating Your Vision to the Team

Communication is more than just the words you say or the memos you write. Remember, actions speak louder than words. Take every opportunity to communicate your vision in words and deeds. One of the best ways to communicate a vision is to sum it up in a simple catch phrase.

Post your slogan, catch phrase and mission statement in prominent locations. When you send out emails, list it in quotes below your signature block. Hold meetings occasionally or hand out “Visionary Awards” to people who exemplify your vision. Above all, lead by example.

Identifying the Benefit for Your Team

Answer the question, “What’s in it for me?” as if you were one of your own followers. The answer might not always be obvious. Certainly, performance bonuses and awards work, but most team members enjoy being part of a larger, successful organization. Everyone loves a winner. When the home team wins at the stadium, you would think the fans in the stand were the players by the way they share in the victory and excitement.

We are social creatures who like to feel like we belong. We crave acceptance. If you can get your team to accept your vision as their own, and excite them about being part of it, they will often excel beyond what you (or they) thought possible. Be sure to reward loyalty and performance above and beyond the call of duty.

Back to The Top

Challenging the Process as a Team Leader

Challenging the Process as a Team Leader

Far too often, we cling to what is familiar, even if what we cling to is known to be inadequate. Most large teams are governed by the law of inertia: if it takes effort to change something, nothing will change. As a team leader, you must search out opportunities to change, grow, innovate, and improve.

There is no reward without risk however, so you must be willing to experiment, take risks, and learn from any mistakes. Ask questions, even if you fear the answers. Start with the question, “Why?” Why are things the way they are? Why do we do things the way we do?

Think Outside the Box

A paradigm is an established model or structure. Sometimes they work quite well, but often they are inadequate or even counterproductive. Sometimes it is necessary to “think outside the box” and break the paradigm. Don’t be afraid to ask the question “Why?” Ask questions of your team, customers, former leaders. Answers and ideas can be found in the least likely places. Often the lowest ranking persons in an organization can tell you exactly what is wrong because they see it daily from their vantage points.

Developing Your Inner Innovator as Team Leader

Innovation is more than just improvement on a process or procedure; it is a total redirection or restructuring based upon stated goals and research. While it can be helpful to adapt an outdated procedure or task to today’s standards, often the procedure itself is the problem, not the manner in which it is implemented. Innovators reverse engineer policies and procedures based on the new vision and goals, working from the target backwards, rather than from the status quo looking forward.

To be sure, not all innovative strategies will be feasible or cost effective. Requiring an entirely new computerized network and infrastructure, for example, may cost hundreds of thousands of dollars and produce little improved efficiency over the old one. However, if you don’t start thinking “outside the box,” you will miss many valuable solutions that can and will work.

Note that change should never be made simply for the sake of change. Change can be exciting, but it can also be unnerving and difficult for team members. Constant change causes frustration. Moreover, if you seem to change too many things too often, you will lose respect, as your team perceive you don’t really know what you are doing, so be sure to plan your innovations carefully. There should be solid evidence that a new way of doing things is likely to work before you invest money and everyone’s time.

Keep focused on the goals and be willing to break the rules if they need to be broken. Just make sure they really need to be broken and you don’t break something that needs to keep working! With proper research and planning, you can dare to be bold!

Seeing Room for Improvement

A strong vision does not lend itself to mediocrity. A drive to excellence always seeks improvement. If you accept 95% efficiency as a goal, the efficiency will inevitably slip to 90%. If that’s considered “good enough,” it will become hard to keep it above 85% and so on. A vision is a goal that is strived to achieve.

Goals must not be unrealistic or unattainable, or the followers will simply give up trying altogether, becoming dispirited and demoralized in the process. If 95% of people fail to meet a standard, then that standard is likely too high and must be changed. On the other hand, the bar must not be set so low that little or no effort is required to meet it.

Based on your vision, set high goals that are attainable but with some degree of difficulty, and reward those who meet the goals. If a large number of followers are meeting the goal, raise the target. If only a very few are meeting it, lower it somewhat.

Investigate any potential bottlenecks that might be stifling progress and resolve them. Talk to your team about possible solutions. The people who actually do the work are far more likely to be able to tell you why they are having difficulty accomplishing a task than their supervisors.

Lobbying for Change as a Team Leader

To lobby for change, you need to influence people and excite them to your vision. You may need to persuade a reluctant boss or fight a corporate culture that doesn’t understand what you are trying to do. In that case, you need to demonstrate why your requested change needs to occur.

Do your research, and always enter a meeting by being prepared. Study the situation and present all of your findings in a short report, preferably with simple charts or graphs. Give them something they can easily understand. Have the details ready in case you are asked a question, but don’t overload people with facts. Show as clearly as possible how your plan will effect positive change.

If you are lobbying your own followers, the same is true. You may want to revolutionize a cultural change. Perhaps you are a shop manager and people are unmotivated. You may need to bring about change slowly, rather than with one big dramatic gesture. On the other hand, you may need to shake things up in a big way. Whatever the situation, you can successfully lobby for change if you attack the problem with a plan, sound reasoning, and infectious enthusiasm!

Back to The Top

Enabling Your Team to Act Through Leadership

Enabling Your Team to Act Through Leadership

As mentioned before, you cannot do your team’s work for them. Besides, if you do their work, what are they getting paid for? You have your own work to do. This is the ultimate goal of the Hersey-Blanchard situational Leadership model: to develop your team members to the point where you can delegate tasks without a lot of oversight.

To be a true leader, you must enable others to act responsibly and not encourage bad worker habits by compensating for them or overlooking them. At the same time, you cannot berate a team member for trying hard but making an honest mistake. The goal of a team leader is to empower others to work. To the extent that you can do this is the extent that you will be successful.

Encouraging Growth in Your Team

A positive attitude is essential to encouragement. No one likes to fail and many take it very personally. While failure should never be rewarded, an understanding attitude and positive outlook can work wonders. A child only learns to walk by falling down many times. The focus is not on the fall, but on getting up. The goal is to walk…then to run.

Meeting with a team member one-on-one is important to positive motivation. Here again, you must use the power of listening. Avoid blame when something goes wrong and focus on the reason for the failure. You may learn someone needs more training, more self-confidence, or more freedom. You may learn someone does not have the tools needed to be successful. You will never know if you don’t ask questions and listen – or worse, if you berate someone for a failure.

If a team member is willfully defiant, then feel free to be stern and resolute. Take disciplinary action if necessary and document the conversation. If you allow a team member to be defiant or lazy out of a misplaced concern for his or her feelings, you will be performing a great injustice against the rest of the team who are working hard. In most cases, people really do want to do a good job and they have a sense of pride when they meet a challenge.

Creating Mutual Respect in Your Team

You will never be worthy of respect if you don’t give respect. Respect should be given to everyone at all levels unless they deliberately do something to lose that respect.

You need to build respect in other ways as well. Be visible to your team. Show them you are available and interested in knowing everything about what they do. Develop and demonstrate your knowledge of the organization and details of the product, service, or operation. If you are perceived as being knowledgeable and can answer questions, you will not only earn respect, but will motivate others to learn as well.

The Importance of Trust

Respect inevitably leads to trust. Do what you say and say what you mean. Under-promise and over-deliver can help manage expectations. If you are given a task you know will take you one hour, say you “should” have it done in two hours. You never know when you’ll get a phone call that eats into your time or when an emergency may pop up. If you get done in less than two hours, you will be perceived as a hero. If not, you can call and apologize that it will be “a little later” without much trouble because you said you should have it done. You didn’t promise that you would have it done. If people feel they can rely on you, they will trust you.

Also let people know that you are not asking them to do anything you would not do yourself, or have done in the past. Work hard and be seen working hard. If you come in early and see others who are there early as well, stop by and simply mention that fact positively. A simple word of recognition will go a long way to earning respect. Without respect, you will never have loyalty and without loyalty, you cannot trust your team. Without mutual trust and respect, you cannot accomplish great things.

Remember: while your team need to be able to trust you, you need to build them up to the level where you can also trust them.

Back to The Top

Encouraging the Heart as a Team Leader

One of the worst developments in the workplace was the creation of the term “Human Resources.” Formerly known as the “Personnel Department,” the focus was on dealing with people as persons. At a time when industry was supposedly focused on making the workplace more humane in order to increase job satisfaction and productivity, it took a major step backwards.

No one wants to be considered a “human resource.” A resource is something you use as long as it is functional. When the shelf life expires or is no longer as effective as it once was, you throw it away without a thought. It would be a glorious thing if every Human Resource department was abolished and the name Personnel made resurgence.

Employees, workers and team members are not robots. Human beings have intellect and emotions. Failing to deal with them on those levels will ultimately backfire. You cannot program loyalty.

Sharing Rewards with Your Teams

If your team members are going to share in the work, make certain they share in the rewards. If you are going to get a bonus for a successful task, share at least a portion of it with your team. More than one team member has felt betrayed by leadership when the boss gets a big bonus and those who do all the work get nothing. You don’t need to give them half or divide it all up among all your team members, but you should at least throw them a party, provide a free lunch, or give everyone a pair of movie tickets or a lottery ticket. Do something to show they didn’t work hard only to see you take all the credit.

Celebrating Team Accomplishments

Set both personal and team goals and milestones. Nothing motivates team members like public recognition. Although some may seem somewhat embarrassed by a public display, inside they are proud they have been recognized. There has never been a recorded study that quotes an employee who was honored in public with them saying that they never wanted that to happen again. Celebrate team milestones as well. It breaks up the routine of the workday, gives a well-deserved break, and motivates people to work harder when they return to work refreshed.

Making Celebration Part of Your Team Culture

You don’t need to decorate the office each day or have morning pep rallies, but the workplace should never be dreaded by employees. People spend most of their waking lives at work, with substantially less time for family, friends and activities they would much rather be doing. By the very definition, they come to “work” and you have to pay them to be there. People have to feel motivated by more than just a paycheck.

Be sure to have a welcoming environment where people feel respected. Celebrate special occasions to break up the routine, but don’t make celebration itself the routine of no work will get done.

Back to The Top

Basic Influencing Skills for Team Leaders

Basic Influencing Skills for Team Leaders

The best team leaders are able to influence others to do something and think it was all their idea. Don’t worry about taking credit for every good thing that happens on your watch. As the leader, you get credit whenever your team succeed because you created the environment that allowed their success.

The Art of Persuasion

Aristotle was a master of the art persuasion, and he outlines his thinking in his work, Rhetoric, where he identifies three important factors: ethos, pathos, and logos.

Ethos (credibility) persuades people using character. If you are respectful and honest, people will be more likely to follow you because of your character. Your character convinces the follower that you are someone who is worth listening to for advice.

Pathos (emotional) persuades people by appealing to their emotions. For example, when a politician wants to gain support for the bill, it inevitably is argued, “it’s for the children!” Babies, puppies, and kitties abound in advertising for a reason. Although a car is neither male nor female, they are sometimes called “sexy” in car commercials. Pathos allows you to tie into emotional triggers that will capture a person’s attention and enlist their support, but it can be easily abused, leading to a loss of Ethos, as described above.

Logos (logical) persuades people by means persuading by appealing to their intellect. This was Aristotle’s favorite and his forte’, but not everyone reacts on a rational level.

Of the three, Ethos must always come first. Ideally, you want to appeal to Pathos, back your arguments up with Logos, and never lose Ethos. President Bill Clinton appealed to people using Pathos, saying often, “I feel your pain,” but there were serious questions raised about his Ethos, and he often did not back up his appeals with Logos. There is no doubt that he was a successful, but there is also no doubt that he was not as successful as he could have been.

The Principles of Influence

Robert B. Cialdini, Ph. D. once said, “It is through the influence process that we generate and manage change.” In his studies, he outlined five universal principles of influence, which are useful and effective in a wide range of circumstances.

Reciprocation: People are more willing to do something for you if you have already done something for them first. Married couples do this all the time, giving in on little things so they can ask for that big night out or a chance to watch the game later.

Commitment: You cannot get your team to commit to you or your vision if they don’t see your commitment. Once you provide a solid, consistent example, they will feel they have to do the same.

Authority: If people believe you know what you are talking about and accept your expertise, they are far more likely to follow you. Despite the rebel cry, “Question Authority,” when people need help with something, they will seek out an authority figure. If you place a man in a tie next to a man in jeans and a ratty T-shirt, people will invariably ask the man in the tie for advice on a technical subject first simply because he looks like an authority.

 Social Validation: As independent as we like to consider ourselves, we love to be part of a crowd. It will always be a part of us, that school age desire to be accepted, no matter how many times our parents tell us, “If everyone jumped off a cliff, would you join them?” People will always jump on a bandwagon if their friends like the band.

Friendship: People listen to their friends. If they know you and like you, they are far more likely to support you. A pleasant personality can make up for a multitude of failures. More than one leader has been abandoned at the first sign of trouble because they were not very well liked.

Creating an Impact as a Team Leader

As mentioned before, communication is accomplished with more than just words. The more of the previous team leadership skills you develop, the more you will make an impact. In addition, the bigger the impact, the greater the positive change you can create.

Impact is created by a number of intangible factors:

  • A confident bearing, tempered by a kindly manner
  • A strong sense of justice, tempered by mercy
  • A strong intellect, tempered by the willingness to learn
  • A strong sense of emotion, tempered by self-control
  • A strong ability to communicate, tempered by the ability to listen
  • A strong insistence on following the rules, tempered by flexibility
  • A strong commitment to innovation, tempered by situational reality
  • A strong commitment to your followers, tempered by the ability to lead
  • Above all: maintain a strong personal commitment to your vision.

Back to The Top

Setting Goals for Your Team

Setting Goals for Your Team

A vision without specific, targeted goals is just a wish or a hope. Without targeted goals, how will you ever know if your vision is being accomplished? A vision needs a project roadmap with milestones, but how do you determine what those goals are? First, we will discuss goals themselves, then how to determine what your goals should be and how to support them.

Related: Goal Setting Team Building Activities

Setting SMART Team Goals

SMART goals are:

Specific: The vision itself is general while the goals are specific targets to be met. Specific goals answer the questions of who, what, when, where, why and how questions as specifically as possible.

Measurable: Goals must be measurable in terms of progress and attainment. They must be tracked according to the amount of time or money spent, or results achieved as appropriate.

Attainable: A goal which cannot be met, is not a goal, it is an ideal. If you know you need certain infrastructure in place to accomplish your vision, you should break down your goals into attainable steps you can monitor as each step is put into place.

Realistic: A goal may be attainable, but not with the resources at hand. In that case, you need other goals to build up to the level where the attainable goal becomes realistic. A goal may be possible, but you need the right people with the right amount of time and support to make it happen.

Timed: All goals need to be accomplished within a given time frame. Deadlines may indeed be missed, but without any timetable, there will be no sense of urgency and no reason not to put it off until “later.”

Each goal should lead to the “next step” in the overall plan until the ultimate vision is reached.

Creating a Long-Term Plan

Also called Strategic Planning, the long-term plan is the road map that guides you to the ultimate realization of your vision. As discussed in the previous module. A goal may be possible, but not attainable or realistic – now. You may be missing a quality person for a key position, you may lack the funds, or time to achieve the higher-level goals, so lower level stepping stone goals must be planned.

If your goal is to unify a modern computer network throughout your organization, but you only have a few outdated computers and older shared printers, your ultimate goal will be possible and attainable, but not realistic. If you do not have the money for the new equipment and do not have a strong IT person on staff, your goal will be unattainable. If you need everything done in a week, your goal cannot be timely, as it will take much longer. Intermediate goals, however, can make your ultimate goal realistic, attainable, and timely.

You might first want to increase your revenue through increased sales, a fundraiser, long-term business loan, or by other means. You can make a goal to hire a network guru for a reasonable cost who can analyze your current systems and determine what needs to be upgraded according to modern networking technology. That analysis will provide you the information to set new goals of buying, configuring and implementing the equipment, then adding the infrastructure to network it all together. In the end, the goal that seemed impossible will become a reality, according to your original vision.

Creating a Support System

Once your goals are established you need a way to ensure they are set into motion. Duties must be assigned and documentation must be established to support and track progress. A Gantt Chart is a great way to track milestones over a period of time. You need to establish the tools necessary to track progress or development as appropriate. These might include a simple checklist for some tasks and complicated advanced software tracking systems for others.

Monitoring and oversight are the keys to achieving all goals.

Back to The Top


To be a leader, you must first see yourself as a leader. Based on what you have learned so far, you now know what qualities are important in a leader and you have prioritized them as they apply to you. Experience is the greatest teacher, however, and there is no substitute. If you ever had a team leader that infuriated you and made you want to quit your team, you know what not to do. If you ever had a parent, teacher, coach, or supervisor who inspired you, you have a good example to follow.


Subscribe to TBAE’s Blog and Receive Notifications of New Blog Posts

The Ultimate Guide to Team Building and Teamwork

For most of us, teamwork is a part of everyday life. Whether it’s at home, in the community, or at work, we are often expected to be a functional part of a performing team. This guide will encourage you to explore the different aspects of a team, as well as ways that you can become a top-notch team performer.

We will be covering the following topics in our ultimate guide to team building and team work (click on a heading to go directly to that section):

Defining a Successful Team

Defining Success as a Team

Success is determined by a wide range of factors. When we are given a project or an assignment we are also usually given a metric to which we can gauge the success of it. Having a strong team will benefit any organization and will lead to more successes than not.

What is a Team?

A team is a group of people formed to achieve a goal. Teams can be temporary, or indefinite. With individuals sharing responsibility, the group as a whole can take advantage of all of the collective talent, knowledge, and experience of each team member.

Team building is an organized effort to improve team effectiveness.

An Overview of Tuckman and Jensen’s Four-Phase Model

Educational psychologist Bruce Wayne Tuckman, Ph.D. was charged by his boss at the Naval Medical Research Institute, Bethesda MD with a review of 50 articles about team behavior. From this body of work, Dr. Tuckman conceived his theory of group developmental processes in 1965.

The Forming Stage:  Groups initially concern themselves with orientation accomplished primarily through testing. Such testing serves to identify the boundaries of both interpersonal and task behaviors. Coincident with testing in the interpersonal realm is the establishment of dependency relationships with leaders, other group members, or pre‑existing standards. It may be said that orientation, testing, and dependence constitute the group process of forming.

The Storming Stage: The second point in the sequence is characterized by conflict and polarization around interpersonal issues, with concomitant emotional responding in the task sphere. These behaviors serve as resistance to group influence and task requirements and may be labeled as storming.

The Norming Stage: Resistance is overcome in the third stage in which in-group feeling and cohesiveness develop, new standards evolve, and new roles are adopted. In the task realm, intimate, personal opinions are expressed. Thus, we have the stage of norming.

The Performing Stage: Finally, the group attains the fourth and final stage in which interpersonal structure becomes the tool of task activities. Roles become flexible and functional, and group energy is channeled into the task. Structural issues have been resolved, and structure can now become supportive of task performance. This stage can be labeled as performing.

In 1977 Dr. Tuckman, collaborating with Mary Ann Jensen, proposed an update to the model, termed Adjourning.  It describes the process for terminating group roles, task completion, and the reduction of dependencies.  This stage has also been called “mourning”, especially if the team’s dissolution is unplanned.  The first four stages are the most commonly used parts of the process.*

* Smith, M. K. (2005) ‘Bruce W. Tuckman – forming, storming, norming and performing in groups, the encyclopedia of informal education,   © Mark K. Smith 2005

Back to The Top

Types of Teams

The Merriam Webster Dictionary defines a team as a number of persons associated together in work or activity.   Teams are formed for many purposes.  Examples include project teams, ad-hoc teams, quality improvement teams, and task forces.  Sometimes the team is formed to work on a goal as an adjunct to a traditional hierarchy in an organization.  At other times, the team is designed to replace the hierarchy.

Several roles help to keep a team operating smoothly.

Team Leader

  • Moves the team to accomplish its task
  • Provides a conducive environment for getting the work done (location, resources)
  • Communicates with the team

Team Facilitator

  • Makes things happen with ease
  • Helps the group with the process
  • Enables the group to produce the “how” decisions

Note:  Facilitators may be members or non-members of the team.

Team Recorder

  • Writes down the team’s key points, ideas and decisions
  • Documents the team’s process, discussions, and decisions

Time Keeper

  • Monitors how long the team is taking to accomplish its tasks
  • Provides regular updates to the team on how well or poorly they are using their time
  • Collaborates with the team leader, facilitator and others to determine new time schedules if the agenda has to be adjusted

Team Members

  • Displays enthusiasm and commitment to the team’s purpose
  • Behaves honestly; maintain confidential information behind closed doors
  • Shares responsibility to rotate through other team roles
  • Shares knowledge and expertise and not withhold information
  • Asks questions

Self-Directed Teams

A self-directed team is a team that is responsible for a whole product or process.  The team plans the work and performs it, managing many of the tasks supervision or management might have done in the past.  A facilitator (selected by the team or an outside individual) helps the group get started and stay on track.  The facilitator’s role decreases as the team increases its ability to work together effectively.


An e-team is a group of individuals who work across space and organizational boundaries with links strengthened by webs of communication technology. Members have complementary skills and are committed to a common purpose, have interdependent performance goals, and share an approach to work for which they hold themselves mutually accountable.

Geographically dispersed teams allow organizations to hire and retain the best people regardless of location.  An e-team does not always imply telecommuters, individuals who work from home. Many virtual teams in today’s organizations consist of employees both working at home and in small groups in the office, but in different geographic locations.

The benefits of an e-team approach are:

There are a few caveats when using e-teams.  They frequently operate from multiple time zones, so it is important to make sure that there is some overlapping work time.  In addition, unless a camera is used for meetings, working virtually means that there is no face to face body language to enhance communications.  Therefore, intra-team communications must be more formal than with a team whose members meet physically.  Care also needs to be taken to make sure no one is left out of the communications loop just because he or she is not visible.  E-teams demand a high trust culture.

Back to The Top

The First Stage of Team Building – Forming

The First Stage of Team Development – Forming

What makes up a good team? Well, that question is open to interpretation, but we will start with the first step in the team building process which is forming. We will discuss what makes up that stage and how each person in the team fits into the process.

Hallmarks of This Stage

When a new team forms, it concerns itself with becoming oriented.  It does this through testing.  It tests to discover the boundaries of interpersonal and task behavior. At the same time, the members are establishing dependency relationships with leaders, fellow team members, or any standards that existed when the group formed. The behaviors of orientation, testing, and dependence become the process called Forming.

Members behave independently when the team forms.   While there may be good will towards fellow members, unconditional trust is not yet possible.

What to Do As a Leader

Strong leadership skills are essential in the Forming stage.  The team leader must:

  • Provide an environment for introductions
  • Create a climate where participants can begin to build rapport
  • Present a solid first agenda so that the goals for the team are clear.

What to Do As a Follower

Because the members of a new team may experience uncertainty and apprehension, it’s important to help team members feel comfortable and that they are a part of the group. In addition, helping team members enhance their listening skills will allow them to focus more clearly on the objectives, thereby helping to maintain interest and enthusiasm for the work of the team.

Back to The Top

The Second Stage of Team Building – Storming

We will look at the Storming phase where the team focuses on their objective. This is the reason the team was created, and we will break down where the leaders and followers fit into this stage. Team members will now begin to fill certain rolls and the team is starting to come together.

The Hallmarks of This Stage

In the Storming phase, the team starts to address the objective(s), suggesting ideas.  It empowers itself to share leadership. Different ideas may compete for consideration, and if badly managed, this phase can be very destructive for the team.  Egos emerge and turf wars occur. In extreme cases, the team can become stuck in this phase.

If a team is too focused on consensus, they may decide on a plan which is less effective to complete the task for the sake of the team. This carries its own set of challenges. It is essential that a team has strong facilitative leadership during this phase.

What to Do As a Leader

Team conflict is normal in this phase, and is a catalyst for creativity. But the leader must address any conflict immediately and directly so issues don’t fester. Once you understand two sides to an issue, you can help the team generate a win-win solution.  Assertive communication is an important skill during this phase of the group’s evolution.  It is also important to help team members continue to build trust.

Back to The Top

The Third Stage of Team Building – Norming

The Third Stage of Team Development – Norming

By now the team should be in place and everyone has their role with progress beginning on the objectives. Goals have been set and people are now beginning to work on their tasks.

The Hallmarks of This Stage

As the team moves out of the Storming phase, it enters the Norming phase. This tends to be a move towards harmonious working practices.  Teams begin agreeing on the rules and values by which they operate. In the ideal situation, teams begin to trust themselves during this phase as they accept the vital contributions of each member toward achieving the team’s goals.

What to Do As a Leader

As individual team members take greater responsibility, team leaders can take a step back from the leadership role at this stage.  It is an opportune time to provide team members with task and process tools, or even an energizer to keep enthusiasm levels high.

What to Do As a Follower

Because team members have gained some mutual trust, they are freer to focus on process and task. Being a link in a chain is a great way to visualize followers in this stage. If one link is not pulling its weight, or is not as strong as the other links the chance of success is lessened. Everyone needs to work together.

Back to The Top

The Fourth Stage of Team Building – Performing

The Fourth Stage of Team Development – Performing

The team should now be well into their work and progress made on their objectives. Communication is going well and team members are sharing knowledge and working well together.

Hallmarks of this Stage

Once teams move from Norming to Performing, they are identified by high levels of independence, motivation, knowledge, and competence. Decision making is collaborative and dissent is expected and encouraged as there will be a high level of respect in the communication between team members.

What to Do As a Leader

Since the team is functioning in a highly independent way in the Performing phase, the leader shifts partially into a support and mentoring role to provide task or process resources to help the team complete its objectives.

What to Do As a Follower

Because the Performing stage implies high interpersonal trust, knowledge, and competence, participants can perform higher level analyses to support decisions toward team objectives.

A SWOT analysis (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats) is a simple tool that allows specific ideas to be easily categorized to help support the adoption of a solution to an objective.

Back to The Top

Team Building Activities

Team Building Activities

Team building is an organized effort to improve team effectiveness.  All members of the team must be committed to the idea in order for the effort to be effective. Team building can be indicated for any team or for a work team that is considered to be” in trouble”. Team building implies hard work that continues on after the initial training session.

The Benefits and Disadvantages of Team Building Activities

The Benefits of Team Building Activities:

  • Teambuilding improves productivity and motivation.
  • Teams will gain and increase ability to solve problems.
  • Teambuilding helps break down personal and political barriers and allows for rapport building.
  • The process can help level the playing field between outgoing and shy team members.
  • Participating in teambuilding can help teams overcome performance problems.

See more benefits of team building here

The Disadvantages of Team Building Activities:

  • Teambuilding requires expert facilitation in order to be successful. Not every team leader has innate facilitation skills.
  • Activities can be time-consuming for teams with a short-term charter.  And if team members are part-time, they may have conflicting feelings about the time the teambuilding takes.
  • If several levels of management are on the team, those members may be reluctant to open up.
  • Conducting teambuilding activities electronically or by conference cannot be as effective face-to-face sessions.
  • Some teambuilding exercises involve touching or physical movement, which can make some people uncomfortable.

Find out what to do when team building activities go wrong

Team Building Activities That Won’t Make People Cringe

There are many choices of activities and techniques to foster team building.  Which you choose depends upon your assessment of the team, the skill sets of the members, the amount of available time, geographical considerations or constraints, and the team’s objectives. 

Choosing a Location for Team Building

A teambuilding session can be intense, and often involves games or other physical exercises.  It’s important, therefore to select the location carefully to promote the best possible learning outcome.  Regardless of whether you hold your teambuilding session on or off site, there are some important considerations to explore.

Click here for the best team building venues in South Africa

Back to The Top

Making the Most of Team Meetings

Team meetings are extremely important in team building and facilitation.  It is very important that they are well structured and have a set purpose and time. When a meeting is run well it is a fantastic tool as it provides a forum where a lot of information can be given to a lot of people in a short amount of time. Issues can be addressed and action plans set into play.

Setting the Time and the Place

Giving thought to time and place considerations for a team meeting can go a long way toward producing a more effective meeting outcome.  Below are some elements to think about.

  • Is the location convenient for participants?
  • Quiet.  Is the meeting going to be held in an open environment?  Near the plant?
  • Is this an e-team meeting?  Or a meeting with members in remote locations or different time zones?
  • What time of day is best?
  • Are there time zone considerations for e-teams or remote participants?
  • For what other interruptions and distractions can you anticipate and plan?

Trying the 50-Minute Team Meeting

In some companies, meetings are stacked up on the hour like planes in the landing pattern at O’Hare Airport. The 50-minute meeting concept is simple; instead of a full 60-minute meeting, why not give people time for a bio break, a fresh cup of coffee, and “commuting time” to the next meeting?

50-minute meetings also help manage:

You can’t always have a 50 minute meeting, but if you’re meeting will run several hours, you could have a connected series of 50 minute meetings. The extra 10 minutes in each hour — set at a consistent clock time such as 50 minutes after the hour — could allow for stretches, breaks, or a quick e-mail session.

Using Celebrations of All Sizes

The team just finished a ten-month project to implement SAP in a small manufacturing company. The project delivered on time, and under budget.  It’s time to celebrate! Celebrations can take many forms.  A checklist of elements to consider can help you decide how best to say thanks.

Back to The Top

Solving Problems as a Team

Solving Problems as a Team

One of the most common objectives of a team is to solve a certain problem. It is usually why a team is created. Team members bring a diverse set of skills to the team and this provides a great scenario and the best chance in finding a solution. Because the team is comprised of individuals that bring a unique skill set, it provides the team with a “the whole is greater than its parts” setup which is a valuable tool.

Read: Problem Solving Team Building Activities

The Six Thinking Hats

In 1999, Dr. Edward de Bono published a book entitled Six Thinking Hats.  He theorizes that the human brain thinks in a number of distinct ways — or states — which can be identified, deliberately accessed, and therefore planned for use in a structured way, allowing team members to develop strategies for thinking about particular issues.

Six Thinking Hats is a powerful technique that helps teams look at important decisions from a number of different perspectives. It helps them make better decisions by pushing members to move outside their habitual ways of thinking. It helps them understand the full complexity of a decision, and identify issues and opportunities which they might not otherwise notice.

In order to make it easier to clearly identify and work with these states, colored hats are used as metaphors for them.  The act of putting on a colored hat allows individuals to symbolically think in terms of the state, either actually or imaginatively.

White Hat:  Neutrality: Participants make statements of fact, including identifying information that is absent — and presenting the views of people who are not present — in a factual manner. 

Red Hat:  Feeling: Participants state their feelings, exercising their gut instincts. In many cases this is a method for harvesting ideas; it is not a question of recording statements, but rather getting everyone to identify their top two or three choices from a list of ideas or items identified under another hat. This is done to help reducing lists of many options into a few to focus on by allowing each participant to vote for the ones they prefer. It is applied more quickly than the other hats to ensure it is a gut reaction feeling that is recorded. This method can use post-it notes to allow a quick system of voting, and creates a clear visual cue that creates rapid if incomplete agreement around an issue.

Alternatively it may be used to state ones gut reaction or feelings on an issue under discussion – this is more common when using the hats to review personal progress or deal with issues where there is high emotional content that is relevant to discussion.  Finally, this hat can be used to request an aesthetic response to a particular design or object.

Black Hat:  Negative Judgment: Participants identify barriers, hazards, risks, and other negative connotations. This is critical thinking, looking for problems and mismatches. This hat is usually natural for people to use, the issues with it are that people will tend to use it when it is not requested and when it is not appropriate, thus stopping the flow of others. Preventing inappropriate use of the black hat is a common obstacle and vital step to effective group thinking. Another difficulty faced is that some people will naturally start to look for the solutions to raised problems – they start practicing green on black thinking before it is requested.

Yellow hat – Positive Judgment: Participants identify benefits associated with an idea or issue. This is the opposite of black hat thinking and looks for the reasons in favor of something. This is still a matter of judgment; it is an analytical process, not just blind optimism. One is looking to create justified statements in favor. It is encapsulated in the idea of “undecided positive” (whereas the black hat would be skeptical – undecided negative).  The outputs may be statements of the benefits that could be created with a given idea, or positive statements about the likelihood of achieving it or identifying the key supports available that will benefit this course of action

Green Hat:  Creative Thinking: This is the hat of thinking new thoughts. It is based around the idea of provocation and thinking for the sake of identifying new possibilities. Things are said for the sake of seeing what they might mean, rather than to form a judgment. This is often carried out on black hat statements in order to identify how to get past the barriers or failings identified there (green on black thinking). Because green hat thinking covers the full spectrum of creativity, it can take many forms.

Blue Hat: The Big Picture: This is the hat under which all participants discuss the thinking process. The facilitator will generally wear it throughout and each member of the team will put it on from time to time to think about directing their work together. This hat should be used at the start and end of each thinking session, to set objectives, to define the route to take to get to them, to evaluate where the group has got to, and where the thinking process is going. Having a facilitator maintain this role throughout helps ensure that the group remains focused on task and improves their chances of achieving their objectives.

Encouraging Brainstorming

Brainstorms are a simple and effective method for generating ideas and suggestions.  They allow group members to use each other as creative resources and are effective when a subject is being introduced. The goal is to rapidly generate a large quantity of ideas. Subsequent sorting and prioritizing of the ideas is usually needed to refine the results.

Building Consensus

Consensus is a point of maximum agreement so action can follow. It is a win-win situation in which everyone feels that he or she has one solution that does not compromise any strong convictions or needs. To reach consensus, group members share ideas, discuss, evaluate, organize, and prioritize ideas, and struggle to reach the best conclusions together.

A good test for consensus is to ask the question “can you support this decision?” If everyone can support it, the group has achieved 100% consensus.

Consensus is not always the best strategy. In some cases, reaching consensus does not result in a better decision or outcome. For example, group members are capable of unanimously agreeing on a completely incorrect solution to a problem. But generally, reaching consensus remains a highly desirable goal.

To make consensus work, the leader must become skilled at separating the content of the team’s work (the task) from the process (how the team goes about doing the task). But the process should get the most attention.  A facilitative leader helps a team to solve its own problem.  The problem-solving process is as follows:

  1. Identify the problem or goal.
  2. Generate alternative solutions.
  3. Establish objective criteria.
  4. Decide on a solution that best fits the criteria.
  5. Proceed with the solution.
  6. Evaluate the solution.

Everyone involved in the process should understand exactly which step is being worked on at any given point. When team members sense a problem, they are usually reacting to symptoms of the problem. But they are side effects of the real problem which usually lies below the surface.

Back to The Top

Encouraging Teamwork

Encouraging Teamwork

For every team member that believes and works for the team the chances of success go up exponentially. That is the reason why it is so important in teamwork and team building, as it provides the greats chance of success.

Some Things to Do

  • Promote an active learning climate for the team
  • Try to relate the team building strategies to the team’s work
  • Don’t be afraid to experiment with new strategies
  • Constantly evaluate both your output and your process. In short, ask regularly, “How are we doing?

Some Things to Avoid

  • Being aggressive — instead of assertive
  • Failing to let others express their opinions
  • Inadequate planning

Some Things to Consider

Encouraging teamwork means making a commitment, and requires practice. The process is not instant and take some time, so be patient. Do not be discouraged by mistakes, learn from them.

Back to The Top


Subscribe to TBAE’s Blog and Receive Notifications of New Blog Posts

Why Self-Management is Important for Virtual Team Members

Why Self-Management is Important for Virtual Team Members

Access our ultimate guide to building and managing virtual teams

While self-management can mean different things in different fields, for virtual team members it means being able to manage your job duties and responsibilities on your own, with little supervision from management. This requires a lot of self-discipline and a sense of self-awareness as to what the employee is capable of and accomplishing it. Remember that while many things can be managed by the virtual team member, nothing replaces the manager’s role in their professional development.

Self-management can cover a wide range of aspects and situations. Self-discipline plays a large factor in how we handle our everyday activities and actions. Often we may ignore what needs to be fixed first since we do not want to admit our own faults or shortcomings. But a part of self-discipline is being able to realize what has to be done to correctly manage ourselves and succeed.

Virtual Team Building Events - Remote Team Building
TBAE will customize a virtual team building event for your remote team in line with the desired outcomes, values and ethos of your company and number of remote staff to participate in the event.

Solving Problems on Your Own

Virtual team members often face many obstacles and problems when working in an office away from the central location. Since they are not always in reach of management, these workers will have to learn how to solve many problems on their own. For minor problems, such as computer malfunctions or even an unhappy customer, you should be prepared to solve the problem and possibly prevent it from happening again. The key is to make sure that you have the resources needed to solve problems can and will arise. Lay out action plans with your teammates regarding what to do when a problem arises. Determine how much they should handle on their own and at what point they need to reach out for help.

Questions for solving problems:

  • “What has happened?”
  • “What would it take to resolve this?”
  • “Can I do this on my own – or do I need help?”
  • “What is the next step I should take?”

Being and Staying Motivated

Motivation is one of the key aspects of being successful at work, especially on a virtual team. It has been shown that employees who are motivated in their work are happier, more enthusiastic, and more productive. If you are not motivated in your work, you will not be able to function in your home office, much less with the rest of the group. Sometimes at the beginning of an assignment, you can feel highly motivated, but that motivation can wane if you do not take action. Review what has happened so far and realize how far you’ve come and how far you need to go. While periods of low motivation can happen now and again, it is important to make sure it is only temporary and do not sink into a permanent situation.

Keys for staying motivated:

  • Establish your goals
  • Create a plan of action to achieve these goals
  • Feel good about your achievements and build on them
  • Review any mistakes made and learn from them

You Have More Freedom – Don’t Abuse It

Any truthful employee will tell you that when management is not present, they will be more lenient in their current assignments or duties – similar to “when the cat’s away, the mice will play”. But teleworkers will not always have a member of management around them, so they must avoid that feeling of wanting to play and should remain focused on their work.  Whether a manager is present or not, assignments will still be due and the employee will still be subject to reviews and evaluations. Company supplies still belong to the company, so the employee should not be using them for personal use, such as making personal calls or printing flyers with the company copier. You should be able to manage your time and activities in the same manner as you would in any other office and not abuse the new freedom you’ve been given.

You and Only You are Accountable

Working from home can seem like a leisurely job with few problems, but that is not always the case. You are working as an individual entity (when not working as a team player) and are held accountable for your work, or lack thereof. You cannot fade into a sea of faces or cannot pass the blame to a member of management when a mistake is made. Do not allow outside distractions or problems to hinder what you do inside the office. You are the only one that can be held accountable for the actions you take and what you do in the office. Because of this, you should focus on all duties, job performance, and ensure that you keep a ‘clean nose’ at all times.

Recognize and Remove Bad Habits

Honestly, when someone asks us to name one of our bad habits, many of us will answer that we don’t have any. But this type of attitude does not help us improve or develop through goals and work. When we look at our typical work day, make a list of the bad habits you have been exhibiting, such as procrastinating or taking short cuts when writing a report. Identify ways these bad habits have been hindering either how assignments are completed or how they are affecting your overall work. Then create an action plan as to how you can remove these bad habits from your work routine. Plan ways to finish work ahead of time or how you can improve how long it takes to enter a report. Sometimes admitting what we do wrong can be a challenge, but once we do and take the steps needed to fix them, we’ll not only feel more confident about ourselves, but our job abilities as well.

Ask yourself:

  • “What am I doing that is hindering my work?”
  • “Is this something I can change?”
  • “How does this habit affect me?”

Reflect on Mistakes and Learn from Them

Many of us have been led to believe that making a mistake is a bad thing and should be avoided at all costs. However, the opposite is true. Making mistakes is something that will always happen and can serve as a learning tool when viewed in the right direction. In the office, when we make a mistake, one of the first steps is to see what happened to cause the mistake. Was it something you did or something that could have been changed? Then, reflect back on it and determine what you can do to learn from the mistake. Is this something you can avoid in the future? Is this something that you can handle differently the next time it happens? Don’t let mistakes make you feel like a failure – instead view them as a method of continued learning and growth.

Establish Good Habits

After determining our mistakes and bad habits at work, we are definitely ready for some positive thinking! Establishing good habits at work can be just as important as simply identifying the negative ones. The key to establishing good habits is in knowing how to control yourself in your environment and sticking with it over time. First, determine what habits you want to establish and would benefit you at work, such as trying to complete projects on time and remembering to run software checks on your company computer. Determine what you need to do to make this a habit (write it down or add it to a routine). Then don’t be afraid to put your plan into action. Repetition is the key to all learning, so by repeating your new action plans and improving old behaviors, they will eventually become good habits that you will not have to remind yourself about.

Tips for creating good habits:

  • Identify what you want to change
  • Write reminders to follow in the beginning
  • Fit new actions into your routine until they become habit
  • Give yourself ample time to adjust, usually between 30-60 days

Be Assertive with Yourself

You will not always have a manger or supervisor present, so it is important that you are assertive enough with yourself to ensure that your work is done. When planning out your work schedule, make decisions about what needs to be done and how you will do it. However, if you fail to be assertive and make yourself focus, all of your assignments, tasks, and duties will fall apart and will not be completed. You can only control your actions, so you are the only one that can make assertive decisions and ensure that you are managing your time well enough to succeed.

Keys to being assertive:

  • Say what you are going to do and stick with it
  • Remember to focus on the task at hand – don’t get side-tracked
  • Hold yourself accountable for these actions or mistakes that can occur

Subscribe to TBAE’s Blog and Receive Notifications of New Blog Posts

How to Be an Effective Virtual Team Member

How to be an effective team member.

Access our ultimate guide to building and managing virtual teams

As with any job position, certain skills and abilities are needed to be a successful member of a virtual team. Common skills needed are ways to manage your time and organize all assignments and duties. When building your virtual team, remember to find employees that can work well under minimal supervision and can function with different types of technology.

Virtual Team Building Events - Remote Team Building
TBAE will customize a virtual team building event for your remote team in line with the desired outcomes, values and ethos of your company and number of remote staff to participate in the event.


More employees are choosing to work from home or outside the standard office. It not only saves the company money, but it allows them to expand into other areas and cover more ground. But when working outside of a standard office, you must learn to self-manage. A manager cannot always be present and cannot always watch over your shoulder. You must be able to monitor your progress and be able to keep track of your assignments and deadlines.  If you do not have basic skills of self-management, then you won’t be able to function in a virtual office.

Common tools for self-management:

  • Make a schedule and stick to it
  • Keep a calendar of important dates and deadlines
  • Check-in with team members periodically to stay in the loop

Time Management

When you work with little supervision, you must be able to manage your time on your own. This does not necessarily mean you must manage every minute or try to force yourself to stay focused. Time management means recognizing when you have deadlines and knowing how long it will take you to finish a project or assignment. Sometimes you can let in too many distractions or try to take on too many duties at once. This in turn can cause you to manage your work time poorly and fail to do a good job. Your manager cannot completely manage your time and resources for you. Instead, they will give support and offer advice on ways to stay focused and on track. Many employees know good time management skills and methods but may need a reminder on how to use them.

Organizing and Planning

When a virtual team member has to work in their own office, you need to be sure that all files and assignments (paper or electronic) are fully organized, which is a form of self-management. Ensuring that the office is always organized can boost productivity and reduce errors made by misplaced files or a forgotten assignment. Planning is also an important part of organization because you need to be able to manage your time and resources – especially since you do not have a manager to supervise you at all times. Be encouraged to adopt a universal or adaptable filing system to organize your work for easy access. Also feel free to utilize different methods of planning and organizing your time, such as day planners, email timers, or reminder systems.

Common tips for better organization:

  • Create a pattern in your day to organize and plan different tasks
  • Keep a calendar or planner with important dates and reminders
  • Plan ahead and know what assignments or deadlines are approaching
  • Set up your email account to remind you periodically of important dates
  • Use a filing/storage that can be adapted in case there are any changes or modifications


Communication can be a difficult aspect to master with a virtual team. You will not only deal with traditional communication issues among team members and management, but you can face additional problems that can cause you to feel additional stress.  With your peers not being able to directly come to you when they need to talk; this extra time to reach out to teammates can be a cause of friction. Everyone needs to be aware of the various methods of communication available to them, including email, phone, fax, mail, etc. Employees should know how to use each method of communication and what kind of information they can be used for. Be open and clear about what you want from your teammates and let them know of ways they can reach you if they have a problem.

Example forms of communication for remote workers:

  • Email
  • Instant messaging
  • Phone call
  • Text messaging
  • Video call


For some people, working from home can seem like a dream opportunity. But they may not realize that this kind of position comes with a great amount of responsibility and challenges. Since these employees are not working in a centralized office, they may have the advantage of having flexible schedules and shorter or no commute, they can have disadvantages when it comes to receiving feedback and being able to communicate with teammates. To be a successful member of a virtual team you must learn to self-manage and manage your time on your own. Ensure your home office is organized and all files are properly stored for easy retrieval. Communication can be the most challenging part of being part of a virtual team and you will have to be clear about what you want from your teammates and when and where they can reach you.

One of the most effective ways to overcome challenges that virtual teams face is through a virtual team building activity. TBAE offers interactive virtual team building events that will help your virtual team to bond and enhance communication among remote workers.

Subscribe to TBAE’s Blog and Receive Notifications of New Blog Posts

7 Communication Barriers That Virtual Teams Must Overcome

Communication Barriers That Virtual Teams Must Overcome

Access our ultimate guide to building and managing virtual teams

Effective communication is the key to the success of virtual teams. The nature of remote working teams is such that your team members will likely face many communication barriers which they will have to overcome.

Poor communication in virtual teams can cause low employee morale and a decrease in productivity. Encourage your remote working team members to engage in two way communication and ask questions when they receive new information.

Related: Communication Strategies Workshop for Teams

The following are 7 communication barriers that your remote working team will have to overcome:

  1. Team Members Not Contributing During Virtual Team Meetings
  2. No Communication Outside of the Virtual Team Meetings
  3. Lack of Communication Ground Rules
  4. Too Many Virtual Team Meetings
  5. Not Being Aware of Digital Body Language
  6. Redoing the Work from Remote Working Team Members
  7. No Agenda or Structure for Virtual Team Meetings
Virtual Team Building Events - Remote Team Building
TBAE will customize a virtual team building event for your remote team in line with the desired outcomes, values and ethos of your company and number of remote staff to participate in the event.

Virtual Team Communication Barriers

Team Members Not Contributing During Virtual Team Meetings

One of the big challenges in virtual team meetings is to get all the team members to contribute to the discussion. Unless it is addressed, the same team members will be the ones that are speaking up at every team meeting. In virtual team meetings, this communication barrier is more pronounced since everybody is not together in the same physical location.

When leading a virtual team meeting you must ensure that all the remote working team members are contributing. One effective way of doing this is to ask each of the team members to answer a question in turn so that everyone gets a chance to speak.

Related: How to Be an Effective Virtual Team Member

No Communication Outside of the Virtual Team Meetings

Although remote working teams can go days without talking to each other, it is a sign that the virtual team isn’t communicating well. The more your team members talk to each other, the more they will trust each other.

Encourage your team to communicate with each other during the day, even if it is something quick like a GIF to the group chat. Checking in with each other is an important part of building camaraderie and better communication in the remote working team.

Lack of Communication Ground Rules

Without some ground rules for communication in your virtual team, communication will not happen as freely and effectively as you want it to.

This will include rules about everybody’s work hours and breaks. For example, everyone could be on the same Google calendar and update the rest of the team when they are not available. Whatever the method, make sure that it is communicated to everyone.

You could also set ground rules for email communication. Such as getting the team members to make it clear when an email needs a response and when it does not.

Setting expectations and ground rules will help improve communication among your remote working team.

Too Many Virtual Team Meetings

Having too many meetings can sometimes be a symptom of poor communication. On most occasions, virtual teams shouldn’t have to meet several times a week. Much of what is shared in meetings can be sent in an email.

As the team leader, before scheduling a meeting, consider whether the meeting is necessary, or will it waste time. Will everyone that you invite be able to attend? Can you make the meeting shorter?

Be intentional when you plan a virtual team meeting.

Related: How to Conduct an Engaging Virtual Team Meeting

Not Being Aware of Digital Body Language

The importance of body language is oftentimes forgotten when you’re communicating through video conferencing. You will have to pay more attention to body language as nothing on camera is subtle and it can feel like you have a spotlight on you.

Some of the body language basics to keep in mind are maintaining eye contact, speaking clearly, and having video on during remote calls.

Redoing the Work from Remote Working Team Members

If you find that you are redoing work done by your team, it could be a sign that you are not communicating effectively. If assignments come back with errors, it is likely that that the expectations weren’t communicated clearly.

If you redo a team member’s work, it may be a sign that you feel comfortable sending the edits. This again points to a communication problem.

No Agenda or Structure for Virtual Team Meetings

Effective communication during a virtual team meeting is difficult if you don’t have an agenda or meeting structure. To host a productive online meeting, the meeting should be organized and structured. An agenda will ensure that your meeting is kept on track.

Try and send the agenda before the start of the meeting if it is not a scheduled meeting. You can implement five minutes of informal chat before the meeting starts for team members to catch up with each other. This will help keep the focus on the meeting agenda when the meeting formally starts.


For all the benefits of remote working teams there are also challenges that your team will encounter. Communication is one of them and your team will need to find ways to overcome the barriers to effective communication that exists in a virtual team setting.

We have found that a virtual team building event is a very effective tool to promote effective communication in remote working teams. These activities help your team members to get to know each other better, get all the team members to participate, and help to get everybody comfortable with the online conferencing software that the team uses.

Subscribe to TBAE’s Blog and Receive Notifications of New Blog Posts

Digital Etiquette for Your Virtual Team

Digital Etiquette for Your Virtual Team

Access our ultimate guide to building and managing virtual teams

Like any other community, etiquette needs to be observed in the digital realm. It is easy to forget that actual human beings write the words we read on the computer screen. When your virtual team interacts with others online, they should treat them like we would if they were standing in front of them. Keeping the topic and tone respectful will help the community run smoothly.

There is more to etiquette than being polite in conversation. It requires continuing education for your virtual team and the ability to evaluate what is posted online. It is equally important to understand why people behave the way that they do and that everything posted online does not automatically become public domain. Finalizing your team’s education in etiquette will give them the tools to be effective digital citizens.

Virtual Team Building Events - Remote Team Building
TBAE will customize a virtual team building event for your remote team in line with the desired outcomes, values and ethos of your company and number of remote staff to participate in the event.

Respect and Tone

Your virtual team needs to be respectful when communicating online. They should remember that they are talking to a person, not the embodiment of an idea. They may disagree with someone, but rudeness and personal attacks cross the line of respectful dialogue. It may be easier for them to read the words aloud before drafting a response to someone. This will help them understand the writer’s tone.

It is important to note that tone does not easily translate in written text. You cannot hear tone when you cannot hear the speaker. Many digital misunderstandings occur because a joke was taken seriously. You can misinterpret the tone of a text, and someone else can misinterpret the tone of something that you write. Encourage your team to reread everything that they write before posting online. It is also a good idea for them to have someone else look over their correspondence to identify potential misunderstandings before they occur.

Related: How to Be an Effective Virtual Team Member

Speak Up, Not Out

Your team members are entitled to speak up when the occasion arises; this is much more effective than speaking out. Speaking up is done when there is an issue or problem, and it requires a level head. It is tempting to speak out rather than speak up. When speaking out, logic and clarity go out the window. This occurs when we trash people anonymously. This type of communication is ineffective and only succeeds in escalating the argument.

How to Speak Up:

  • Be honest
  • Be calm
  • Be direct

Topics to Avoid

Your virtual team must always consider the topics that they discuss online very carefully. If they want to create controversy, bring up the topics: politics, religion, and sex. These topics are all guaranteed to polarize their audience and bring on a tidal wave of biased comments. It is best to avoid these topics in the workplace and on their professional networks.

Remember that digital media should be used to build the team’s brand. They should focus on personal and professional growth in their social media posts. Share ideas and discuss changes in the marketplace. Ask for feedback on new products and strategies. When they choose helpful topics, they invite dialogue that is not distracted by hot button topics.

Keep Private Messages Private

Sometimes private messages make their way into very public settings. It is easy to have complete conversations in the comments of a post. Accidentally hitting reply all when addressing a single person is a mistake that many people have made. Public forums, however, are not places to rant or publicize personal issues.

What your team should avoid in public forums:

  • Negativity
  • Personal problems
  • Drama
  • Conversations

If your team members would not discuss something with strangers, they should never put it on a social media network. There is no such thing as privacy when they are online. Your virtual team should keep rants and personal conversations in the ears of their friends.

Educate Themselves

Technology is ever-changing and evolving. Your virtual team members are likely to see something new every day that they will not recognize. There is no reason for them to be embarrassed by their lack of knowledge. They should simply ask about the new technology or look it up online. There are numerous ways to lookup technology. They can read technology journals, go-to company websites, read books, and look at product reviews online. This type of education needs to occur regularly. To be part of the digital community, your virtual team members must be familiar with the tools necessary to access it.

Information Processing

Your virtual team must exercise critical thinking when they go online. They will read false, misleading, or partially true information. A large percentage of information is not true. Unfortunately, people are quick to believe what they read online. Even journalists and news broadcasters have shared false information because they did not think critically and question what they saw. The key to information processing is to consider the source.

Your team should ask the following questions to determine if the source is reliable:

  • Is the information biased?
  • Can you verify the information?
  • Is the source reputable? (For example, the Mayo clinic)
  • Is there a copyright?
  • What is the purpose of the information?

Even if your team uses reliable sources, they are only effective if the complete posts are read. Many people only read the title before they comment. This is obvious in the comments, and it highlights the fact that they are not willing to read a few hundred words to be informed before making judgment calls.

Internet Boldness

The Internet makes people bold because it offers some anonymity. It is possible to interact with strangers and they would not recognize us if we met in the real world. Many experts believe that this type of anonymity is what empowers Internet trolls. People often behave differently online than they do in person. They say things that they normally would not say and become bolder than normal. This boldness can cause problems when it remains unchecked. For some people, however, Internet boldness can be helpful. For example, shy people can often communicate better online than in person. Your virtual team members need to keep a close watch over their boldness. There is a line between confidence and behaving like a troll.


Subscribe to TBAE’s Blog and Receive Notifications of New Blog Posts

Keep Your Team Digitally Secure and Safe

Keep Your Team Digitally Secure and Safe

Access our ultimate guide to building and managing virtual teams

Every member of your team must be responsible for their own digital security and safety. Cyber crimes happen every day. When they are online, team members need to practice the same level of vigilance that they do when they are interacting in the real world. They must be slow to trust new people, and implement security software and other precautions to protect their information.

Digital security and safety requires users to monitor email attachments, use strong passwords, back up files, and update software. Taking these steps will make your team proactive in their digital citizenship and protect their personal information online.

Virtual Team Building Events - Remote Team Building
TBAE will customize a virtual team building event for your remote team in line with the desired outcomes, values and ethos of your company and number of remote staff to participate in the event.

Don’t Trust Anyone You Don’t Know

The Internet is just like any other place. It is possible to meet wonderful people and develop useful contact online. There are, however, many malicious people who are looking for opportunities to steal and exploit personal information. When your team is online, they must not put their trust in anyone they do not know. Internet scammers are professionals, and are very good at manipulating people.

Signs of a scammer:

  • You are asked to download something.
  • You are given a link to something.
  • An offer seems too good to be true.
  • You are asked for money.
  • You are asked for personal information.
  • You are promised money.

Enable 2-Step Verification Processes

Password accounts are commonly hacked, and you do not have to be a computer genius to hack emails. In fact, there are numerous online tutorials on how to hack an email account.

There are precautions that your team can take to limit their risk online. Many email accounts and other sites offer a 2-step verification process. If your team has access to this service, they must use it. The process is simple, and it helps prevent the theft of your passwords. After signing up, you will enter your password, and a verification code will be sent to your phone. You will only be able to access your account after entering the code. It is possible to establish your home computer and request that the code not be needed to log in on it. The code would still be required from other locations, making it difficult for someone else to hack your account.

Public Wi-Fi

Public Wi-Fi is great for the person on the go. Your team members must, however, take extra precautions when using public Wi-Fi. This type of connection does not have the same security that a personal Internet account does because there are numerous users. When your team uses public Wi-Fi, they must avoid accessing sensitive information, like their bank account.

Public Computers

With the popularity of laptops and smartphones, it is often possible to avoid using public computers. There may be times, however, when team members find themselves using public computers. There are a few tips to help your team keep their information secure:

  • Do not save login information: Always choose the option not to save your login name or password, and make sure that you log out when done.
  • Erase your history: Disable settings that save passwords and delete your Internet history when done.
  • Be aware of your surroundings: Do not leave the computer unattended, and keep an eye out for people watching your screen.
  • Mind what you do: Never enter personal or sensitive information, like credit card info, on a public computer.

Email and Attachments

We use email for work and personal reasons every day. Emails and their attachments, however, are regularly used to hack computers. Just because you receive an email from someone you know, does not mean that the email is safe. Once an account is hacked, it is used to send messages to the contact list. If any of your team members receive an email that seems odd, they must contact the sender before clicking on any links or opening any attachments.

Once you download an attachment, the damage is done. Before downloading or clicking on anything, they can hover over the link and check to see that the link they see and the link they are being directed to match. They should never click a link or download an attachment unless they are sure that they are safe. If they accidentally click something, they must run a virus scan, preferably in Safe Mode.

Password Rules

Hacking often occurs because people choose the wrong passwords. Using the same password for everything, using easy passwords, and keeping the same passwords for years will put your account at risk. There are a few key points to choosing strong passwords. Typically an eight character password minimum with ten characters a normal recommendation. They must include:

  • Uppercase letters
  • Lowercase letters
  • Numbers
  • Symbols/characters

Back Up Your Files

It is essential for your team members to back up their files regularly. You never know when a computer will crash, or if your computer will be stolen. Backing up files protects their information. How often they back up your files will depend on how regularly you use their computer. Files should be backed up daily, weekly, or monthly. There are different backups.

  • Full back up – This type of backup takes the most time and storage space. It is the fastest to restore.
  • Incremental backup – These backups changes made after the latest backup. It is faster to backup, but it takes longer to restore.
  • Differential backup – The backup occurs after the latest full backup. It does not take long to backup, and it restores slower than full and incremental backup.
  • Mirror – Files deleted in the computer are also deleted on the backup.
  • Local – Backups in the same building such as external hard drives, etc.
  • Online – It is possible to backup files online. It is safe in the case of natural disasters but it is slow to restore.

Update Your Software

It is important for your team to update their software regularly. Software companies frequently update their programs to fix bugs and address security threats. If your team members do not update their software regularly, they risk their programs running slower than normal and contracting malware and viruses. They should check for updates regularly. A good rule of thumb is to check for updates every time that they turn on your computer for the day. This way, they will have any updates completed before they begin their work.



Subscribe to TBAE’s Blog and Receive Notifications of New Blog Posts

How Your Team Members Can Become Good Digital Citizens

How Your Team Members Can Be Good Digital Citizens

Access our ultimate guide to building and managing virtual teams

Good digital citizenship in its essence is using technology responsibly and appropriately. Anyone on your team who interacts regularly online automatically becomes a digital citizen. Like any other community, digital citizenship requires your team members to behave in a mature and civil manner. Good citizens ensure that digital users have safe and pleasurable experiences.

Being a good citizen is important both online and off. The rules of citizenship for each are similar. When using digital technology, encourage your team members to be positive and helpful, and apply what works in real life in the digital realm.

Virtual Team Building Events - Remote Team Building
TBAE will customize a virtual team building event for your remote team in line with the desired outcomes, values and ethos of your company and number of remote staff to participate in the event.

What Is Digital Citizenship?

Digital citizens all belong to the digital society, and they need to adhere to the norms and rules that have been established. There are nine elements that people experience when they interact online. These interactions define what occurs in digital citizenship.

Nine Normal Elements:

  • Access – Citizens have different levels of access. Full access should be a goal of citizenship.
  • Commerce – Buying and selling online is increasing, and consumers need to be aware of what the purchase and the legality of their purchases.
  • Communication – There are numerous ways to communicate online, and citizens need to make wise decisions in what and how they communicate.
  • Literacy – Technological literacy requires people to keep up with digital changes.
  • Etiquette – Citizenship comes with a responsibility to follow etiquette when communicating with others.
  • Law – Citizens have a responsibility to behave ethically and be aware of laws governing them.
  • Rights and Responsibilities – The rights of users are shared equally. These rights come with responsibilities.
  • Health and wellness – Physical and psychological issues can occur when ergonomics and other problems are not addressed.
  • Security – Citizens must take action to protect their information online.

Engaging with Others

Digital media allows your team members to communicate, collaborate, learn, and share online. When engaging with others online, it is important to behave as though they are in the room with you.

Tips to Engage:

  • Be patient – Build relationships slowly. Aggressive attempts at communication can make people uncomfortable.
  • Dialogue Ask and answer questions to begin discussions.
  • Share sparingly – It is important to share information, but be careful not to spam people.
  • Maintain relationships – Build new friendships, but be sure to pay attention to existing relationships.
  • Be respectful – Unless you are video chatting, it is difficult to convey tone. If you are not sure if something is respectful, do not type or say it.

It’s a Moving Target

Our digital lives are constantly evolving. The changes in technology are rapidly occurring, and our lives are shifting at a great pace. Over the past few decades, technology has changed the way we work, shop, and communicate. Social media is relatively new, but it is an integral part of society. As technology changes, the way your team interact change along with it. It is imperative that we pay attention as our tools change in order to remain relevant in our work and social lives. The target of technology is constantly changing, and we need to change with it.

Belonging to a Community

The ability to communicate is easy, inexpensive, and instantaneous in a digital world. Distance no longer limits our communication.

Methods of communication:

  • Text
  • FaceTime
  • Email
  • Social media
  • Instant messaging

Because communication is essential to any community, the digital world can help improve communities. Digital citizens are citizens of the Internet, and they are citizens of their personal and professional communities. When you are part of any community, you have a responsibility to communicate respectfully and expand relationships. Your team member must invest in their digital relationships with their time and interest. Remember that it takes time for a strong community to develop.

Build It Up

Your team members’ tone will define their digital presence. No matter the content that they produce or communication they make, it is essential that they attempt to remain positive. Build up their community, and avoid negativity. Positive content generates more traffic than negative content. This is because people will share positive content with their friends and family, which grows your community.

Your team will draw people if they feel that that team is able to help them. Provide useful information and tips. Invite people to ask questions, and develop a respectful dialogue. This cements relationships and leads to repeat viewings and communication. When your team members are good digital citizens, they encourage good citizenship in others.

Real World Influences

Real world influences are useful when examining your digital citizenship. If your team members are good citizens in real life, they will be good digital citizens. Consider what makes a good public citizen. Examples include participation, civility, meeting responsibilities, and obeying laws. Translate real world ideas into conduct online.

Use Technology Appropriately

Technology needs to be used responsibly. All activity needs to be both legal and ethical. How you use technology will depend on where your team members are and what they are doing. For example, it is unethical to download and play games at work, but it is perfectly acceptable to do so at home.

There are basic rules and laws that govern digital citizenship. For example, the Internet is not free. Using a neighbor’s connection is not only illegal; it is inconsiderate because it slows the Internet speed for paying customers. Additionally, your team should avoid pirated software, music, movies, etc. These downloads are illegal, and some questionable websites increase their chance of contracting a computer virus.

The Golden Rule

Treating others the way that you would like to be treated is the golden rule. This should be applied in all areas of life, including digital life. Encourage your team members to treat themselves and others with respect. They should not communicate in a way that they would consider rude or disrespectful as the receiver. Obeying the golden rule sounds easy, but many problems occur because this rule is ignored. Your team members should think before they communicate; they should not act out of emotion.



Subscribe to TBAE’s Blog and Receive Notifications of New Blog Posts