The project was an important one; in support of National Trails Day (the first Saturday in June), the bridge formed a key passage on Connecticut's Cockaponsett State Forest northern spur. In place of the previous structure, which was barely suspended above the stream, now sagging, splintering, and obstructing the water's flow, was to be a feat of engineering so elegant in design that local environmental officials hoped to have its specifications for their manuals. Teams gathered at the commuter parking lot at the designated time. Critical when you consider that all these horseback riders, hikers, and mountain bikers needed to transport their tools of the trade; pickaxes, shovels, pry bars, and various small implements in and out of the forest. Both to make functional and leave the space in a more pristine state than found.
Prepositioning started the week before with tool marking and gathering all supplies and materials needed to construct the bridge. The boards, 12ft in length, were brought in by hand with a cart to carry tools and battery-powered screwdrivers and nail guns. Once into the forest, work begins with the assumption of project roles. This job had the unique and rarely seen benefit of an established, recognized, and respected leader. Tom, a retired architect, master designer, and veteran bridge builder went fast to work. Identifying tasks and guiding volunteers into subteams from gathering roughly cantaloupe-sized rocks to securing the structure on either bank to dismantle the old structure and lay the new foundation. Each of us, whether skilled in a particular task or not, were not immune from his direction, offered more in the way of inclusion than delegating. Assured, we worked steadily and completed the job in a record 1 hr 45 minutes! The bridge, now ready for foot, horse, and bike traffic will provide safe passage for years to come.
This experience reiterated for me the importance of continuing to examine the dimensions of high performing teams. Regardless of where your team is in their life cycle, the following, when used as a guide, will ensure the team remains focused on the business goal while enhancing relationships in the process.
- Alignment: do purpose, values, and vision unify us?
- Strong Communication: do we genuinely talk and listen to each other?
- Strength of Team Relationships: do we take advantage of our differences to the benefit of the team?
- Conflict Resolution: do we respectfully confront and challenge each other?
- Demonstrated leadership: is strong leadership displayed by team members?
- Shared Responsibility: do we succeed or fail together?
- Future Focus: is the team focused on the long term needs of the business?
- Overall: does the team work well together?