Permalink to How to Build an Intentional Team from the Start

How to Build an Intentional Team from the Start

There is a process for building an Intentional Team from the start. A former client – let’s call him Rob – joined a mining company as its new global Head of Human Resources. He had worked with us before and had some experience about our Intentional Teams framework. Now with the mining company he wanted to overhaul the HR organization to position the workforce for growth. He wanted to build an Intentional Team in HR and use it to provide the foundation for the company becoming one of the best 100 employers in Canada.

Rob spent six months gathering data to see what his team’s place was in the bigger scheme of things. He interviewed top people in all key functions of the company. He asked these questions:

  • What did they think success looked like for the business?
  • What did the company most need from HR?
  • What was the HR department currently doing that hindered the business?
  • What was it doing that advanced the business and what should it do that it wasn’t doing before?
  • Was there anything HR could do less of, eliminate, or transform?

He had his HR executive group in place, but had to make them an Intentional Team. There is a big difference between a group and a team. Talented performers in a group may be individuals who work in silos with little thought about how they impact other silos. But an Intentional Team sets its own strategy, manages how it works together, and creates the context in which everyone does their work. Everyone sees their work in the overall context of the team.

We came in and did an Intentional Team Assessment using an online survey. For each question the assessment looked at where they are now – at the beginning of the process – and where they wanted to be in one year.

Rob’s group lacked a strategic plan for HR, so they created one. They also made a Team Plan which they would work on together. And a third of the members of this group were new to the company. Rob had positively-intentioned people who, for the most part, bought into the concept of having the team. But some were cynical. You often find that those who have been with the same organization a long time and embody the ‘been-there-done-that’ mentality’ must be won over. A good leader like Rob could do that and trust plays a big part.

He wanted to make HR a strategic partner to the business, but this required a mindset change in the Executive group and among HR practitioners. Too many HR activities were transactional, meaning that the business relied on HR to get the new hire in the door or handle the promotion. But HR wasn’t used for strategic consulting where people are concerned. In many cases, the business leaders didn’t even consider that the HR leaders could provide that kind of partnership. So Rob was determined to change the relationship between HR and the business.

We helped him create the Intentional Team that would provide a well-rounded HR presence that was responsive to the needs of the business. An Intentional Team has four key quadrants or characteristics:

  1. Compelling direction with buy-in from the top of the organization.
  2. Flexible leaders who understand the value of the Intentional Team and work hard to support the growth of team members.
  3. A performance mindset that involves a planning mindset, collaboration and good communications.
  4. A one-team culture with high trust where its members live and display the behaviours represented by the key values of the team.

A trustworthy leader like Rob builds that trust whenever the team meets. He keeps his own commitments and models the kind of behaviour he wants the rest of the team to follow. While doing so, he chips away at the cynicism of those who may resist new ways of doing things.

A good leader must have the right people on board, and together they must develop the right strategic plan for the team. Rob made sure his new Intentional Team met every 90 days to review progress and throughout the process he knew his role. To reduce needless resistance.

In the end his senior management was so pleased they asked the team to accelerate its strategic plan. The team received huge support from upstairs and every member of the team was committed to delivering results together. And they did.

Permalink to Are Your Stronger Team Members Overwhelming Weaker Ones?

Are Your Stronger Team Members Overwhelming Weaker Ones?

Dominating team members

We’ve all been in teams, where some people dominate other members of the team. Are those in the latter group intimidated? Maybe. But it’s a waste of valuable resources when members of a team don’t speak their mind and contribute. The whole team suffers. However, a team that is ‘intentional’ can get around that.

Intentionality requires clarity of purpose about the team, and this isn’t about warfare; it’s about teamwork. To start with, you must think before, during and after the problems set in.

Formal team guidelines

Beforehand, establish formal guidelines for behaviour for the team. This might entail informing all members not to bring general criticisms to meetings, but examples and concrete suggestions for improvement. The team leader must set up the right conditions, and this can be tricky. For example, people who tend to overwhelm others should be coached on how to conduct themselves. This might also involve skills training for the team on how to communicate effectively.

Feeling attacked

During team interactions, where team members overwhelm others with criticism, the team leader should help those on the receiving end by giving them strategies for dealing with bullying behaviour. This can mean helping them reframe their response in an assertive style of communication. For example, use the word ‘I’, be specific, state the impact of their behaviour, and be clear about what needs to change. In the end, it might come out like this in a one-on-one situation:

“I feel attacked and belittled when you criticize me in front of everyone. It would help me if you and I sat down together before a team meeting so you can give me examples of what is troubling you and we can find a solution that works for both of us.”

Taking some time out

Another effective approach is to take a time-out:

“Thank you for the feedback. I would like to think about what you said. Let’s talk about this on Friday afternoon and I would like to invite Janet to the conversation as she was working on that piece of work as well.”

Everyone counts

After meetings, the team leader can follow up and identify potential trouble spots for the team. The team leader can conduct an assessment for the team (or with the affected individuals) to see if any outstanding issues or hurt feelings remain. The key is to not let things fester and, instead, get the issues out until everything is said. Everyone needs to remember that they must work together as a team.

Learn more. An Intentional Team™ produces amazing results with a clear common purpose. It tracks progress, and has both a supportive culture and a leader who knows what it takes to make the team great. The Building an Intentional Team™ Service requires a self-assessment of the team and a two-day workshop, ideally followed by a year of customized programming that can include 90-day milestone meetings and Intentional Leader coaching. The result is a team that runs smoothly and is self-adjusting so it can focus on producing results.


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Permalink to You Can’t Compromise Safety in an Intentional Team

You Can’t Compromise Safety in an Intentional Team

Safety in an industry with tangible dangers

I know of an instance where some very heavy equipment fell all the way to the bottom of a mineshaft. It could easily have been fatal. Fortunately, no one was injured, but closing down the mine until things got rectified was a costly endeavour in terms of time and money. But this particular story had a happy ending. The restoration team that was assembled became a shining example of how a team of individuals that is both engaged and intentional can achieve great success. In fact, this team won an International Safety Award with that organization.

Space travel is another risky business, and NASA learned the hard way after having some horrible accidents that cost the lives of astronauts. Back in the 1980s, the culture at NASA was to do things faster, better and cheaper. This led to an environment where engineers who raised issues about safety were overridden by business managers who had a schedule to keep. The Challenger disaster in 1986, which took the lives of seven astronauts, among them a schoolteacher, was a sign to the whole world that something was terribly remiss. And it was. A commission determined that safety at NASA had been compromised; it had become toxic for engineers to raise safety issue at meetings.

Safety to Speak Up

In any team, whatever the industry, it’s not good if some members are reluctant or fearful to speak their minds.

Going back to mining, companies with international operations often have the problem of trying to do business with different cultures. For example, while the Canadian subsidiary of a company based in eastern Europe made safety a top issue, that wasn’t the case at headquarters where the attitude was that if you got hurt on the job, you weren’t following the rules. So here were two very contrary approaches to a major issue, and within the same company yet.

When it comes to safety, the answer is intentional teams. In an intentional team, everyone is comfortable about raising an issue like the potential dangers to the health and well-being of employees. To paraphrase the words of Al Gore, a culture where “an inconvenient truth” is freely discussed is a much better work environment than one where it isn’t permitted. Then there are no elephants in the room, things tend to get done, and the result is an effective organization that doesn’t compromise safety.

Here are the four characteristics of a highly-functioning Intentional Team:

  1. A shared compelling direction of the work they must do together
  2. Flexible leadership
  3. A performance mindset
  4. An inclusive culture that supports performance.

Sign up for our monthly newsletter to learn more about leading your team to become a highly-functioning Intentional Team.

For more on our Developing Intentional Teams service, click here.

Permalink to The 2 Secrets to Team Success

The 2 Secrets to Team Success

“Your beliefs become your thoughts, Your thoughts become your words, Your words become your actions, Your actions become your habits, Your habits become your values, Your values become your destiny.” ―Mahatma Gandhi

Choice and habit are the secrets to high-performance team success

I’ve been struggling to write this blog post. I’ve been finding every excuse to put it off – it’s summer, I don’t have an idea to work with, the dog’s barking, you name it. I was thinking about this as I drove to work out at my local gym, a good place to let my subconscious work I thought, or was it another avoidance tactic?

Anyway, I was reflecting that on the one hand, I choose to go to the gym every other day and have done so for over three years now, and on the other, I was choosing not to write a short post. That’s when it dawned on me: it’s all about choice and habit. We are not victims when it comes to what we choose to do, to say, to be. It may feel that way sometimes, but we always have a choice.

Perhaps the most compelling story of choice is that of Viktor Frankl, an Austrian psychiatrist and Holocaust survivor. In 1944, Frankl and his wife Tilly were sent into the madness of the concentration camp system – Tilly died in the Bergen-Belsen camp. Viktor’s outcome was different – he survived, despite six months doing slave labour. His story is told in his book Man’s Search for Meaning and was the basis for his therapeutic approach and philosophy.

“Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms—to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.” ― Viktor E. Frankl, Man’s Search for Meaning

Frankl’s philosophy is bigger than a simple blog post, so let me come back to my central insight as I made my way to the gym. I was choosing how to feel and act in relation to writing this post. What I needed to do was to change how I felt and acted. The second part of the insight was that choices quickly become habits, some good and some not so good. My habit had become avoidance.

Behaviour driving team habits

In our work with teams, we see a lot of behaviours being played out, behaviours that are based in choices team members make and habits they build up. Perhaps one of the most important is whether members of the team see themselves as individuals who happen to be in a ‘team’, or as members of a true team that has operates as a unified, intentional whole. This is central to the ability of the team to perform.

If team members commit to being members of a team, if they are prepared to put aside their own individual ego and ambitions, then the team can form and develop. If they don’t, if they pay lip service to the notion of ‘team’, and continue to operate as Lone Rangers, then the team as a whole will struggle to coalesce and perform.

We believe that teams must be formed intentionally, that team members must make choices about being productive members of the team and that they must adopt new habits to foster the health and effectiveness of the team as a whole.

High-performance teams and mindset

Intentional Teams™ are teams that produce results. They get results through consistency of behaviour across the team and by building repeatable habits into their processes. These habits and behaviours are chosen by the team and the team holds itself accountable for making them happen.

What’s going on in your team? What choices are you and other team members making about being part of a team? Are you choosing to talk about what makes this a team and what behaviours will allow the team to be successful? Are you building new habits to foster team performance?

Try this simple exercise at your next team meeting – Have each team member write down what two choices they have made to be a team member. Ask them to share with the rest of the team. Then, ask what habits they and the team have been building together to ensure team success. Identify a couple of areas where the team could do more. Set a quarterly goal to work on these.

Sign up for our monthly newsletter where we provide actionable tips to help you lead your teams into the high-performance category.

As always, we’re here to help with a consistent, repeatable, coachable process that elevates your current team to a high-performance team. All (leader and team) will be equipped with the tools to endure change that your industry, competitors or stakeholders may put in the way of your team’s success. Find out more by an email or phone call to either co-founder.

Permalink to Team Spring Cleaning

Team Spring Cleaning

Team Spring Cleaning

In many parts of North America, spring is creeping up on us. Astronaut, Chris Hadfield (retired Canadian astronaut who was the first Canadian to walk in space), said that from space, almost daily it was possible to track the progress of spring as the planet moved on its axis and the sun’s warmth crept north.

When I think of spring, I think of spring flowers and fresh scents. I also think of spring cleaning. In my mother’s youth, spring cleaning involved washing all the bed linens and hanging them out to dry outside on the line for the first time so that when you brought them in, they had this wonderful clean scent. It also involved taking an inventory of rips or worn holes that would have to be repaired so that they would last another year.

Spring cleaning also makes me think of teams involved in important work, taking the time to do their own inventory of what state the team is in, what habits they have that need to be amended or changed and what relationship repairs may need to be undertaken so that the fresh scent of effectiveness and trust can arise in all its interactions.

Five tough questions to ask yourself about your team:

  1. When you think of your own team, what comes to mind?
  2. Is this the very best team you’ve ever been on or does it falter at times?
  3. Is the level of trust very high or could it be repaired?
  4. Are your stakeholder relationships solid and empowering or do you need a plan to improve them?
  5. Does your team have good self-management routines that ensure that your plans don’t fall through the cracks, that you are tracking your progress and that you are continually learning together?

We can help. Think of us as providing mechanisms for continual spring cleaning. Assess your team with our free team assessment by clicking here. Or contact us by phone, or email


Permalink to Fast Teamwork

Fast Teamwork

Intentional Teams are everywhere. Here is an example of teamwork in action – this is the Ferrari F1 Pit Stop.

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Why not fix your underperforming team?

Many teams operate well below their potential. They are fragile, divided, easily derailed, and often mistrustful. Intentional Teams, by contrast, are robust, aligned, and focused. They achieve great things. They define careers. They become legendary.

Make your team Intentional. Find out more >