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Great Teams Make for Great Performances

December 22, 2010

Last week I took part in one of our company’s volunteer opportunities. I was on a team of toy sorters for Captain Hope’s Kids*. Our job was to sort through toys donated to the charity and prepare them for the “shoppers” the next day.

Our Captain Hope’s Kids leader gave us a quick overview of what we were to accomplish that afternoon. There were several huge, giant, really big! boxes of toys that all needed to be sorted, priced and staged. He quickly divided us up and gave us our assignments. The “valuators” would pick up a toy and determine its value ($1, $10, $20, $30, $40 or $50). The “pricers” would put a price sticker on the toy. The “runners” would place the toy in the counting area by price. The “counter” would put a tick mark in the appropriate column on a ledger for each toy. Then the toys would be picked up by a “placer” and placed on a shelf by category (dolls, games, trucks & cars, crafts, etc.). A quick 3 ½ hours later, we had valued, priced, counted and placed over 2,500 toys. 

Just putting people together and calling them a team doesn’t mean they will be able to perform well together. It takes a bit more planning than that. Consider the following:

  • Everyone on the team needs to know what the expected results will be. Our team leader made sure of that when we first arrived for our toy sorting duties.
  • People have to know how their work effort contributes to the success of the project. By assigning us the various roles, we were able to see how we could quickly process through the 2,500 + toys.
  • Everyone on the team needs to communicate well. Talking and listening to each other is important. I was assigned the “counter” role and it was important that I not miss a single toy. When the runners put the toys into the counting area – they would say “5 $10s” and I would repeat and then make 5 tick marks in the $10 column.
  • A good team is often a diverse team. If everyone on the team had the same strengths, we probably wouldn’t get as much accomplished. You need different perspectives and different skills. We couldn’t all be “counters”. 
  • A good team is flexible and can adapt well to changing circumstances. When we ran out of price stickers, we simply rearranged the boxes and started sorting the toys into the boxes by price so we could continue working until stickers were available to finish pricing.

I love that I work with a great group of talented people that come together in ad hoc teams for special projects. We have discovered that forming teams for specific needs in our organization allows us to get things done faster and keep things on target.

In fact, at our company’s Christmas party we had people divide into teams, pick a team leader, blow up 12 balloons, stuff them into a pair of panty hose, and then have the team leader sing “Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer” to the rest of the company.  Here’s the winning team’s leader. It was a great performance. 



*   Captain Hope’s Kids provides more than 40 homeless service agencies with diapers, wipes, toiletries, birthday boxes, school supplies and children’s clothing for more than 1,100 children who sleep homeless in North Texas each night.

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