Working With Expanded And Improved Teams

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How do you view your work environment and teams? In many companies, team organization and team building is centered and focused around tightly knit internal silos, although I believe this is changing at light speed. Well, they’re sometimes more geographically tight-knit than they are tight-knit in an effective and emotionally compatible manner. Do you know what I mean? I think that at one point or another we’ve all been assigned to a team, or work group, that just didn’t click as a team or was undermined by one or more toxic or incompetent team member.

As businesses downsized because of the Great Recession - although I would argue that this would’ve happened sooner or later, regardless - everyone lucky enough to be employed, from owner right down to employee, has had to take on ever increasing workloads and responsibilities. Some of you might individually be doing so much more than ever before required in your job, like solo-surveyors using robotic total stations, that you could easily be fooled into believing that you’re a team of one! Sure, you’re doing a lot of work on your own, but if you look at “team” as everyone (and their resources) that you work with, including those outside of your company, I think you’ll see that you are in fact part of a team.

Expanding The Team Concept

And, as I alluded to before, the concept of “team” in the business world is increasingly transforming how we work to include partnering outside of companies. Just in Time (JIT) business concepts, minimizing overhead and leveraging the talent of others, with a heavy reliance on coordination and interconnectivity through technology, is how business in the post-recession era is getting done. This, however, does add to the complexity of your project management, increased need for effective communication, and requires partner integrity.

I’ve been trying out a few different cloud-based project management tools, and while I think there will be huge advancements (and lower prices) in the coming years, I’m not entirely in love with any I’ve tried, so far. But, I can see that if you embrace these technologies you could effectively manage your projects, work processes, documents and clients. In the next email, I’ll share more about my experiences in this area.

Whether your team consists of the people within the 25-foot radius around you, or they’re separated by miles, time zones or continents, miscommunication will scuttle any project. While there are many communication tools available to assist you, let’s face it, if any team members or partners are communication challenged, no amount of technology will help. I think we would all like to point fingers at who we believe to be communication challenged, but this is the one area that all of us can show improvement. Furthermore, self-improvement in this area is completely under your control and you can monitor your own improvement.

Teams Thrive With Integrity, Honesty & Execution

Team member and partner integrity cannot be underestimated. Honesty with everyone that relies on you, that you rely upon and honesty with yourself is paramount for success. This is particularly true as our “teams” spread beyond our own organizations. Serious problems happen when promises get unlinked from the responsible party.

I just read where Starbucks is suing a former business partner over spoiled ham used in breakfast sandwiches a few years ago. It seems that Starbucks partnered with a company to supply ham for its new line of breakfast sandwiches, but after problems cropped up with the ham supplied, the truth came out that it was a third-party used by Starbucks’ supplier that was actually supplying the questionable ham products. Starbucks asserts that they expected their supplier to supply the ham, and not a third-party. How happy would you be to discover, only after problems became public, that your partner was not truthful with you?

Closer to home and more industry related is a recent interaction with a client of mine looking for a specific professional services provider to partner with us on a few projects. I don’t want to disparage anyone in this specific discipline, so let’s say we were looking for a “cobbler” to work with us. In the past, we’ve had troubles working with “cobblers” that lacked important values, like: integrity, engagement, communication skills and business skills.

This client, frustrated with the “cobblers” he’s partnered with in the past, asked me to suggest one he could work with. Immediately, I could think of three “cobblers” with good technical skills, but lacking other key qualities. One has issues with self-truth and often over promises while under delivering. Another shows little problem solving imagination and project engagement, particularly between payments. The third tries very hard, but lacks basic communication and business skills. Sadly, I’ve worked with many “cobblers” over the years, and these three are probably the best, even with their significant faults.

Team Improvement Begins With You!

Now, before we all get up on our high horses and look down on the “cobblers” of the world, I think we can identify similar failings among many within our industry, perhaps even with ourselves. So, while I’m not suggesting that you ignore the failings of your team members, I would like you to consider this: Give what you expect to get!

Before we criticize others, let’s be better team members by:

  • Being organized
  • Communicate well, and often
  • Show integrity in your character and work
  • Be truthful, both with yourself and others
  • Under promise and over deliver
  • Demand and deliver excellence, but employ understanding and forgiveness, as necessary
  • Engage and be engaging
  • Offer help whenever you are able
  • Don’t be afraid to ask for help when you need it
  • Expand the concept of your team

Building better teams or improving existing teams has to be a high priority for you, regardless of your position. If you’re an owner, then having a great team, or teams, makes your life a lot less stressful, improves your business, and potentially gets you more profit. Managers with great teams also have reduced stress and can focus on mission excellence. Non-management team members know full well that getting stuck on a dysfunctional, poorly performing team does not help one’s career. So, anything you do to improve your team’s performance will, ultimately, improve your opportunities for career advancement.

In Closing

In closing, I’d like to thank you for being part of my extended team! If you have a moment, I’d like to hear your team and collaboration stories - both the good and the bad. Feel free to leave a comment, send me a recorded message at, or leave me a message and record your story at 401-484-0757.

Thank you, work smart and be brilliant!

Eric D. Colburn, PLS

Land Surveying & AutoCAD Civil 3D Consultant



Eric D. Colburn, PLS, "The Geo-Business Innovator", helps geo-professionals improve through innovative solutions, mastery of marketing and business growth strategies, and coaching/training. Eric is a successful, serial entrepreneur, podcaster, industry writer, product development consultant, and RI licensed professional land surveyor.

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