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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.


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