July 10, 2018

Make your next team your most successful ever

Do your teams get off task?

Let’s face it.  We’ve all been asked to lead new teams or working groups charged with a specific task, then watched those teams flounder, wander and meander without accomplishing their goals.

It doesn’t have to be that way. If you lead teams through a clear progression that starts with understanding the mission and gathering information, you’ll set the stage for success. Try this seven-step process for leading a task-based team or working group toward solutions that work for everyone.

Setting the charge

Make sure the team understands its “charge,” that is, what it was created to accomplish.  Be as specific as possible, and ask the leader who created the team to present the charge in a brief sentence or two.  The leader should meet with the team in person to discuss this charge, and answer any questions team members may have.  Make certain a clear timeline is included, and ask for a description of any milestone deliverables to be completed in the interim.

Perspective gathering

Now it’s time to ask the team to begin gathering perspectives about the issue or problem under discussion. This of course means conversations with internal stakeholders who know about the issue, but also with those who are less directly informed. Sometimes fresh eyes can bring a really helpful insight or idea. Finally, move to external stakeholders — clients, customers, stakeholders in the community.

Best practices

Review other organizations’ approaches to the same problem and assemble best practices. Look to institutions that are similar to yours as well as the innovators in your field. Organizations that do what you do yet look totally different may be disruptors capable of inspiring the most effective solutions.

Information synthesis

Next, ask the group to synthesize the information everyone has gathered and distill it into all the possible choices for addressing your problem or task.

Choice sorting

Ask the team to look at each of the potential choices they have synthesized, and describe the pros and cons of each one. Why would Choice A work better than Choices B or C? What are the direct and indirect costs of each? Which is a better fit for internal and external stakeholders? Ultimately, you need to develop a rank-order list of possible solutions, in order of how well they fit the situation at hand.


Ask the team to recommend the best solution and outline the next steps needed to implement it. Be prepared with at least one backup solution, and describe why it is the second choice yet an acceptable alternative. Be explicit about next steps and the timelines and responsibilities associated with each action step.

Parking-lot issues

The team should create a list of “parking lot” issues. These are topics that come up during the discussion but are not immediately relevant to the team’s mission. Capture these issues and thoughts in a “parking lot” to be dealt with separately but not forgotten.

These seven steps will help keep the team you are charged with leading on task, solution-focused and action-oriented. You’ll capture a wide range of ideas quickly, develop explicit recommendations and ultimately solve problems.

Do you have any tips for leading successful task-based teams?

Please share in the comments!