Build a High-Performing Team in Just 61 Minutes!

Build a High-Performing Team in Just 61 Minutes!

Awhile back I griped about what I hated about irrelevant team building efforts. So today I wanted to offer up a quick trick I’ve used in the past to provide fast and effective team building to your people with just a few minutes of effort on your part. You don’t have to pay a consultant, and you don’t have to cause your staff to hate you.

I discovered this technique shortly after joining a bank as portfolio manager, and I was overwhelmed with work. I needed to be efficient, but I also wanted to ensure both my clients and my teams were happy (they weren’t).

As I was getting out and speaking casually with my clients, I found out that reports my unit was supposed to deliver each morning were frequently late. Further, the client had to phone my staff each day the reports were missing, to confirm they hadn’t actually been sent (and weren’t lost in limbo somewhere). When I asked around, I found out that overnight batch sometimes ran late, and when it did, another job scheduled to pick the reports up from an area on the server and deliver them abended because the reports hadn’t been created yet.

From my perspective, I had two questions: 1) what are we doing to fix this; and 2) in the meantime, why aren’t we notifying the client as a courtesy (since we’re in a position to know) before they have to call us?

Bad Team Building: It Doesnt Have to Be This Way!

Bad Team Building: It Doesn't Have to Be This Way!
Image courtesy of PaDumBumPsh via Flickr

Morale was pretty weak in the early days. Walking into the office was, quite frankly, like walking into a morgue. No talking, no laughing, everyone was sticking to themselves. So I pulled four people from different parts of the team, and asked them collectively my two questions. They told me they weren’t looking into the problem (although they were aware of it), and that “it was up to the client to call about the delivery failure,” at which point my staff would find the completed reports and send them over.

After I picked my jaw up off the floor, I realized I didn’t have time to get into the details of this problem. But I needed it solved! So I applied the technique outlined in the table below and it worked like a charm.

While daily reports were a very small part of what my division was responsible for, I firmly believe it’s the small things that earn the biggest gratitude. I took the above approach with many more problems I’d ferret out in the years since, and the results were always fabulous.

I still remember the day it happened.

One day, I opened the door to the office, stepped in, and instead of the usual silence, I heard giggling. My people were at a table, working out problems, and enjoying themselves. Of course, they saw me and immediately got all serious. But once I was at my desk, I heard more giggling from out front and quietly smiled to myself. I was pleased.

Every organization, even high-performing ones, have team issues, a lack of follow-up, reactivity and clients they sometimes take for granted. As a leader, you don’t have time to get into every detail, so set your people up to take care of that for you. Create the right culture, and you create a happy proactivity machine that brings you solutions to rubber stamp, and rave reviews from your clients and stakeholders. Try this out–it doesn’t have to take long.

The approach:


Effortless Team Building for the Lazy Leader
Step Description Your Time
1. Meet with your clients and stakeholders casually. Dig for problems, especially the little irritating ones. Lunch some day
2. Assemble some of your team (not enough that will impact other work substantially), and ask them for a complete solution–they should involve the client. 20 minutes
3. Inform your clients or stakeholders about what’s happening. 5 minutes
4. Don’t get involved in the solution. Let them come up with the details on their own. 0 minutes
5. Set a deadline. 1 minute
6. Ask for a presentation when the solution is complete; probe for holes. 15 minutes
7. Inform your clients or stakeholders what’s happening, and insist your team members present to them. 5 minutes
8. Show up for the presentation, and offer support if your people run into trouble. 15 minutes
Total Time: 61 minutes
and a lunch


Here are the benefits you get:


1) Your client sees your team as proactive and solutions-oriented. Both your team and your client will be more likely to collaborate with one another in the future.

2) Your people, having worked through a solution together, are now more prone to collaborate with one another and kick ideas around–without you.

3) With your people empowered to develop solutions, you get less irate phone calls, and less questions you have to deal with.

4) You get to watch pretty presentations. And when your people need your approval on future solutions, they’ll have worked through the details together before they come to you.

So. Think you can find 61 minutes somewhere?

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I’m a professor of project management at the college where I work. My students continually amaze me with their insights, passion and all-around awesomeness. I figure they deserve access to more answers than I can give them by myself. This site is for them.
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  • ninabraschler

    Hi Geoff
    It's a really interesting aticle you wrote. In my opinion building a team is also motivate the team members. And as you write you can do it by giving them the responsibility to optimize a process or coworking or someting like that. If a manager is able to hand over responsibility and trust the team members, people get motivated to do their things better. But attention, not everyone likes to have responsibility. So the manager must know the team members, their targets and skills and must lead them to a successful team by taking the advantages of each individual and put all characteristics to a whole unit.

  • Heya Nina! 🙂 Thanks for the comment!

    The thing I like about the above technique is, groups will create their own dynamics. Someone will take charge, others will offer great ideas, yet others will take care of things like recording and documenting. I don't need to horn my nose into who does what…all I need to do is have faith that the group will collectively take care of the problem I pose them.

    You're correct, however…when forming the group you can't just take random people out of a team and expect them to be able to handle a problem. You need to hand-pick the group members and ensure that sufficient knowledge and skill is present that they'll be successful.

    Cheers, Nina! 🙂

  • derekhuether

    The beginning of your story made me chuckle, as I sip my coffee from an Initech coffee cup. (Office Space) Bill Lumbergh: “So, Peter, what's happening? Aahh, now, are you going to go ahead and have those TPS reports for us this afternoon?” Seriously, you'd have thought ol' Bill would have realized people need leaders not managers.

    I see three things here for your recipe of success. [1] Communications. That's a novel idea. You actually talked with your people, both the stakeholders and the team. [2] Empowerment. After you set the wheels in motion, you got out of the way. You created an environment where the problem could be solved. [3] Leadership. “There are leaders & there are those who lead. Leaders hold a position of power or authority but those who lead, inspire us.” -Simon Sinek.

    You saw there was problem and asked yourself why it couldn't be fixed. You talked to people and found out specifically what the problem was. You enabled your people to figure out how to fix it.

    Geoff, you're no Bill Lumbergh

  • “Yeeaahh….yknow it's just that we're putting new cover sheets on the TPS reports so if you could just see your way to remembering from now on that would be greeeeaaaaat.”

    I'm really gonna have to work on my smarmy if I'm to aspire to be Bill Lumbergh! 🙂

    Thanks for a great comment, Derek!

  • A brilliant article Geoff and a great chuckle, thanks for sharing a very human view on project management

    Regards, Jo Ann

  • Heya Jo Ann thanks so much for those kind words! I'm always happy to oblige! 🙂

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  • Nice approach. In my experience, most people want to be part of the solution but not all people can see the problem. If you can find a way to engage the team in identifying something they think is 'normal' as a problem, the team will likely find the best solution.

  • Hi, Perry, thanks so much for your input! I couldn't agree with you more! 🙂

  • PatrickRichard

    My take on this is that you got the result you got because you cared enough about the problem to discuss it and that got your team to care about the problem too. My experience is that when people stop caring about their work soon they stop caring about their colleagues. The reverse happens too; stop caring about your colleagues and soon enough you don’t care about your work.

    I once showed up on site and within minutes I was being told that the project was hopeless, that managers didn’t communicate or cared, that suppliers weren’t answering, etc. Basically that the end of the world was close.

    I asked what the problems were and then contacted the supplier, asking for a single belly button to press. I spoke to that guy, told him what was up, and by the next day 75% of the problems were gone and spirits were up. Am I a miracle worker? Nope, I just cared.

    Sadly, the managers truly were crap at communicating expectations or at listening to their team. The project did fold.

    Patrick Richard ing., PMP

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