Monday, October 17, 2011

5 Tips for Work Teams: Lessons from Ethel the Dog

It was only a matter of time before Ethel infiltrated this blog.

We adopted Ethel, a black lab mix, as a 7-month old pup this past summer from the Alcona Humane Society up near our cabin in Northern Michigan.  

Before she came into our lives, Ethel spent her entire life in the shelter, lovingly cared for by the dedicated staff and volunteers at that well-run organization.

Ethel is a wonderful office-mate.  She listens when things get tough, and she shares her wisdom to keep me focused and on task each day.

Although still a puppy, Ethel knows a thing or two about the business world,  with specific wisdom for work teams.  

5 Lessons 
To be effective, any team - whether a department, a project team, or even a team of volunteers --  must set and maintain shared goals.

For marketing teams, one shared goal might be to expand market awareness for the product/service. Another shared goal might be to deliver quality leads to the sales team.  Yet it’s easy to get off course. 

Thus, here are five lessons from Ethel about being effective in our work lives.

1) Keep your focus – Nowhere is focus more clearly displayed than right before Ethel receives a bone or treat, or during a game of fetch with her ratty Frisbee.   Work teams must cultivate and maintain this same quality of focus to be effective.  Ignore those daily distractions, and keep a consistent focus on overall business goals.

2) Run, romp, and play daily – Ethel is a lot easier to be around when she gets to have 'fun time' each day.  Work teams are wise to keep those countless projects humming along, but don’t forget to insert some fun into each day.  There’s a lot of value in making fun a priority for a high performing work team.

3) Never pretend to be something you’re not – With Ethel, what you see is what you get. Not sure of how to perform a task or meet the next project benchmark?  Come clean, do the work needed to get up and running, and be authentic with your teammates.

4) Avoid biting when a simple growl will do – We encourage Ethel to think before she acts. When things get stressful, keep your cool!  Certainly speak up for yourself and be assertive, but tone down the aggression.

5) If what you want lies buried, dig until you find it – Ethel is a tireless digger when she’s exploring the sandy beach on the big lake. Sometimes teams can get off course; a project goes awry due to an underlying issue.  Work hard to dig into a solution, discover the underlying cause, and remedy whatever process issues there are in order to work more effectively.

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