Developing Great Teams With Small Investments

Recently I was at a meeting where they brought in various teams from around our Company to showcase the work that they were performing.

Unexpectedly, I recognized someone, who I hadn’t worked with or seen in 13 years, running one of the booths.

We immediately fell back into an old level of comfort with each other, hugged hello and started laughing while talking about past stories, what we’re doing currently and what’s happened over the last few years.

After processing that encounter for a while I found myself wondering why is it that I seemed to have a better and more authentic connection with a person I hadn’t seen in 13 years and only worked with for a shorter time compared to many others I have worked with for longer periods of time or more recently.

There are lots of factors that play into what makes groups work together well and build connections, but looking at the traditional factors didn’t seem to uncover the answer. There had to be more. I really wanted to be able to find the answer so I could try and use that to continue to build great relationships with the teams I work on and people I work with.

That’s when I realized the difference between the strong bonds that had been formed over 13 years ago versus some of the more tenuous bonds today.

When we were working together years ago, there had been many more offsite and not-directly-work-related interactions. Our teams and colleagues would spend more time doing things out of the office together and we had more support for little things like team lunches and offsite dinners.

Great relationships build great teams and great teams accomplish great things easier.

Since that’s the case, why is it that when budget cuts come around some of the first things to go are those very things, like off sites and team meals, that can help build great teams?

The next time you hear about a startup or some other smaller company having happy hours or buying everyone lunch realize that it’s not only a nice perk, it’s a strategic investment in accomplishing great things. The next time someone asks you for budget for what may seem like fun vs. work related activities, realize it will pay off much more in terms of the work.

Matt Kane

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Breaking The Product Expectation Barrier

Until Roger Bannister ran his four minute mile, no one thought it could be done.

Until Bunch O Balloons figured out how to fill and tie 100 water balloons in one minute, no one thought it could be done.

The first time I watched the video on the Bunch O Balloons Kickstarter page, my jaw dropped. It immediately created that feeling within my body that I had to have that product right away.  Until seeing that video, I didn’t realize I had a major water balloon filling problem.  Sure, I knew it took long to fill them up, but I never realized there could be a much better of a way to fill water balloons.

As evidenced by the success of the Kickstarter campaign, lots of people now have a water balloon filling up speed problem and need it solved.

After calming down from my initial excitement though, I got excited again.  Not only is the Bunch O Balloons product great, it’s a whole new expectation and reality.  Just like Roger Bannister’s sub four minute mile went on to inspire other runners to do the same, this is the breaking of a product expectation barrier that will inspire hundreds of new (and probably copycats) approaches. The future products in this category will never be the same.

How did Bunch O Balloons break break the barrier: inspiration from an outsider.

The creator, Josh Malone, of Bunch O Balloons was not someone who worked in the industry or spent time in the pre-existing process of water balloon accessory manufacturing.  Instead, it was a fresh approach and not being bound by current conditions.  Also, it was a big problem the creator had, so put his focus (and family) to work to solve it.

What barriers can you break for your next product introduction or problem you’re having?

Matt Kane

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The Real Healthcare Test For Companies

There’s a lot of debate going on right now about the changing healthcare industry and its impact to organizations large and small.  Instead of going deep into the overall ramifications, here’s an easier method for evaluating healthcare costs based on a stat I heard recently.

The stat: Toyota pays $250 per car sold for the healthcare benefits of its employees, GM pays $1,500.

Now, besides making me think I’ll get a better deal to buy a Toyota, it was interesting to me that the entire healthcare revolution was being boiled down into these two stats. Whether or not $250 vs. $1500 is about which number is right, it was the first time I heard a company break down the costs on a per product basis.  I’ve seen countless companies talk about how much it costs per person, but not per person / per product.

Looking at costs in new ways could open your group up to new ways to improve them. Tying every cost at a company to what the company makes might make an interesting mindset shift too.

Matt Kane

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How To Test If Something Is Worth Your Time

I have an easy barometer for knowing just how excited I am to attend my next meeting or event.  Anytime I’m on my way or thinking about going somewhere I just use the traffic as a guide for whether or not I’m really excited for where I’m going.

Have you ever seen the traffic on the roads to the beach during the summertime?  Obviously, people love going to the beach because if they didn’t they wouldn’t spend all that time stuck behind other cars.  Mandatory obligations aside, compare that to driving towards your next mundane meeting and realizing you’re about to sit in an extra hour of traffic.  Do you turn around right away?  Do you eagerly find alternate routes and call ahead to make sure it’s known you’ll be there.

If you’re not willing to endure an extra hour in traffic, what about an extra 15 minutes?  Seems like an easy way to gauge whether or not you should be having that meeting or going to that event at all.

Matt Kane

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The Power Of Your Previous Work

Have you ever loved a book or an author so much that you anxiously awaited her or his next work?  When that new book came out, did you ever start reading it and come to realize a bit of the way in that it might not be as good as the previous work?

As I’ve found myself in this situation a few times, I noticed that in most cases I would continue reading anyway, expecting that it would get better. The power of the author’s previous work and the respect I had gained for the author from that experience was enough to make me keep going and trust that it would be worth it.

As I’ve come to acknowledge it, I realize this phenomenon shows up in more places that I expected. Whether it’s books, people, companies, restaurants, and just about anything else, the power of previous work definitely influences my desire to interact.

Matt Kane

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Looking At Things From All Angles

There are two brand new houses that have just completed the building phase around the corner and down the street from where I live.  As houses go, they are beautiful looking, huge and seem to be homes that almost anyone would love to call their own.

However, from the moment they started building them, everyone in the neighborhood I  talked to agreed that we had no idea why anyone would want to build a house on those two lots.  They’re right on the corner of an intersection that everyone in our neighborhood passes to get to our houses and they seem to be these two massive houses that will forever be plagued by the sounds of a major intersection since the main road is right on the side of the houses.   Why didn’t the prospective owners see what we had all been thinking about before they started building?

Then one day I made a wrong turn and ended up back tracking down this beautiful street that was lined with trees and passed the local school with open fields on the other side and it felt quiet and serene.

I was surprised when next thing I knew towards the end of that nice little road I was passing by the fronts of those two new houses.  I’ve never had to take that road before so in the 8 months I had been passing by that intersection wondering why they would build there, I now knew.  The experience of coming at the house location from a different perspective completely changed the impression I had.

If looking at a house from a different perspective can change a person’s thoughts on possibly buying it, what could the act of changing perspectives do for your current project, goals, friends, or next endeavor?

Matt Kane

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The Power Of The First Project

“People in new positions fail because they don’t have the network needed to do their new job”

During a recent social network analysis class (not the Facebook type of social network) we were breaking down how work actually gets done in organizations when the instructor stated the quote above.

The quote meant a lot for me because I had just started a new role and because I have led groups that had new people in it many times. Finding out why some people in new roles fail and others thrive seemed like it could be very powerful.

Relationships are key to being able to get work done in many organizations. A great way to set up success for someone starting in a new role then is to make sure that the first couple projects a person has to work on will increase the number of people they get to meet and start to build trust with in the new organization.

Maybe it’s not the most crucial project to the bottom line, but it could be the most crucial project to future success of the person you just hired, or yourself.

-Matt Kane

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