Sudden Teamwork: The Voices of Success

Leaders, do team members in your corporation or business speak up soon enough?  Long standing teams often answer yes to this. The comfort of knowing each other fuels, what I call, the voices of success in teamwork and business.

This is no little feat.  Social research in America shows that people often speak up less in groups – even in a crisis (When Will People Help in a Crisis).

Delays in The Voices of Success Image by:KaptainKobold

The common response to this challenge is to get new teams to know each other more quickly and engage the voices of success faster. It’s a start. Yet it still traps success in the time it takes to know everyone.

It also fails in today’s environment of constant change and sudden (ad hoc) teamwork. Can you imagine the business wins possible with the voices of success working in every meeting and encounter — globally? In other words during every instance of sudden teamwork?

Voices of Success Image by:MarkWalthieu

Encourage the Voices of Success
Why not spread these messages with signs throughout your business, with your prime vendors/suppliers, and in your new hire orientations? Add these to your performance reviews and see employee engagement soar.

  1. “If you think of something possible, say something!” For people to speak up with ideas they have for success or with cautions of dangers to avoid, they must feel it’s OK to do so. Throughout airports and train stations, they now announce “if you see something, say something” — to get people to report possible dangers.
  2. “You are getting paid to deliver success. Speak up!” People must feel that they are expected to sound their voices of success. It’s not self-evident in a group setting.
  3. “An idea is a terrible thing to waste. Speak up!”
  4. “For us to succeed, we must all risk and commit. Speak and listen.”
  5. “Respect ideas, even when we disagree.” People fear responses to their voices of success. Reduce the fear by restoring civility and building respect for diversity. Nothing creates silence and lost potential more quickly than rude disrespectful responses to new ideas or key concerns.

If you want true success in your business, encourage your customers to speak their minds too and of course be ready to listen to their voices of success.

Great listening and expressing harvests full potential.

What do you think? What other ways can we tap the creative and innovative ideas of business and corporate teams? Add your voice in the comments section below!

©2011 Kate Nasser, The People-Skills Coach, Founder & President, CAS, Inc. Somerville, NJ. If you would like to re-post or re-publish the content of this post, please email for permission.

Kate Nasser, The People-Skills Coach delivers keynotes, workshops, consultations, and DVDs to turn interaction obstacles into interpersonal success in business, teamwork, customer relations, and leading change.

16 Responses to “Sudden Teamwork: The Voices of Success”

  1. Great thoughts as always Kate! Thanks for sharing with us and being an integral part of our #TChat community.

    Really like this mantra: “For us to succeed, we must all risk and commit. Speak and listen.” Listening without judgment is one of the greatest things we can do to spur innovation for corporate and business teams. I make time to stay open to active listening on a regular basis. Also, making a real effort to read between the lines for emerging ideas and using your natural intuition can be really helpful as well.

    • Kate Nasser says:

      Well I echo your thoughts Meghan that listening without that hair trigger judgment is key to developing innovation. I also think it is critical to developing a culture of employee engagement.

      Many thanks for offering your insight here.

  2. Kate, it’s a tricky process to develop and sustain a team culture where new ideas are generated, shared and given serious consideration – even beta tested or prototyped. Members must all share a clear sense of mission and goals; they must know what roles they need to succeed, who will play each role, and mutually accept and understand one another’s role. They must be playing by the same rules; often this is the most challenging tenet for any team. Finally, relationships must be built on a foundation that accepts conflict as a potentially positive dynamic, which provides the seeds for innovation. If conflict is avoided, or if only a few people have the authority or “right to win”, the whole team loses and innovation is severely limited.

    It is important for teams to consider positive outcomes; quite frankly, most teams are fairly good at this. But in the spirit of “appreciative inquiry”, team members often avoid serious discussion of the obstacles to their goals and preferred outcomes. Thus, teams fall short in their scenarios and action plans, only planning for when things go well, only based on their strengths, or only accounting for some of the obstacles they know the team will face in pursuit of its mission.

    Kate, I think you’ve “heard” me (in my writing) many times emphasize the need to get clear on the mission/goal the team wants to achieve first, THEN consider ALL the possible obstacles that might keep them from being successful in achieving the mission/goal. (Develop solutions and action plans to overcome conceivable obstacles and you’ll “win” the majority of the time.)

    Unfortunately, many team members and leaders discourage discussion of obstacles, focusing only on the so-called “positive” implications and variables. Show me a team that openly discusses all possible goals, obstacles, solutions and outcomes in their course of action – a team that does serious planning around the possible obstacles they might face; these are the teams that are encouraging “Voices of Success.”

  3. Tim Young says:

    Well said and thanks for sharing. I think your point, “For us to succeed, we must all risk and commit. Speak and listen.” hits the nail right on the head. Today people have become almost paralyzed with the idea of “failure” and I think a large piece of this is rooted in our performance oriented culture. This shows up in both professional and personal circles. People struggle with seeing the perspective of “failing forward” The words ‘risk’ and ‘commit’ are scary for people.

    Check out this NY Times article, “Google’s Quest to Build a Better Boss” ( I really like this piece of the article…“In the Google context, we’d always believed that to be a manager, particularly on the engineering side, you need to be as deep or deeper a technical expert than the people who work for you,” Mr. Bock says. “It turns out that that’s absolutely the least important thing. It’s important, but pales in comparison. Much more important is just making that connection and being accessible.”

    It’s about being ‘others-oriented’ It’s about relationship and having the ability to connect with others, even in a small way.

    What type of environment would this create?

    One could get caught up into reading two deeply into this, but I wonder if a missing puzzle piece is ‘trust’ 😉

    • Kate Nasser says:

      Trust is a key piece Tim and for structured teams they have time to develop it. Meanwhile there are a myriad of interactions outside of any structured team (with vendors, with other teams, with consultants, etc…) that team members must handle. Being able to “risk and commit” to contributing even when you don’t have complete trust determines who will succeed more. Your comment about people struggling with this is TRUE. A little self soul-searching may help people to realize that in the grander scope of things — the risk is not that large. Yet it looms large for many.

      Alas, what can leaders do to help overcome this — that’s what my post is meant to probe and encourage.

      Lastly, I appreciate your reference to the Google quest article. This debate about “techie manager” has been raging for years and oh well … still rages on!

      Many thanks for your contribution to this post. I hope you will visit again and share your insights on any post of interest.

  4. Jim Morgan says:

    I support all of your suggestions, Kate. In addition, research by Harvard and Dartmouth scientists shows that team structures have four times more impact on measurable team performance than day-to-day coaching ( You have taught us the way to coach. Here are some structures managers can put in place to encourage open communication, which should be written down in a Team Charter:

    * Team rules—A list of behavior-based rules the team members and manager create for working with each other, plus a self-enforcement method describing what a member should do if they think another member broke a rule. Include rules about people participating in discussions and informing the team about mistakes immediately (before trying to fix them).

    * “Silence equals agreement” rule—This one specifies that if you do not speak up in a decision-making meeting or other appropriate team venue, you are indicating support for the decision. That means you agree to actively help implement the decision and not to “bad-mouth” the team. Introverts who want to think about it are allowed to say simply, “I need more time.” The team agrees to postpone the decision as long as possible until the introvert says they agree or states their objections by some means.

    * Catch-phrase—The team agrees on a saying that creates a “safe zone” for open conversation. Namaste Solar of Colorado uses “FOH,” standing for “frank, open, and honest.” If someone says, “I need to be FOH with you,” the other person is expected to open their ears and control their ego.

    * Formal problem-solving and decision-making methods—As Kate knows, there are tons of techniques for making decisions as a group that can tame emotion and draw out opposing positions without creating conflict. Agree as a team that any member can ask to use such techniques, and get in the habit of using them on any decision that could have a significant impact on team time or money.

    One other compliment, Kate: I really like your title. Of course, given that my team building method is called “The SuddenTeams™ Program,” I have an extra reason to! Thank you for another great post (by any title).

    • Kate Nasser says:

      Jim, The catch phrase idea is GREAT. It helps especially when there is little if any pre-existing relationship between those who are “suddenly teaming”. Many thanks for contributing to this post.

  5. Please don’t limit my earlier comments to formalized or structured teams. “Voices of success” will arise and are more likely to be mutually encouraged when members of a “sudden team” recognize and share a common sense of focus. Further, sudden team participants are more likely to listen and learn from a common focus with shared meaning.

    My earlier comments apply to “Sudden Teams” as well. One of the reasons people don’t listen for other voices or encourage others to speak up is because of the noise of confusion that they ARE hearing…confusion over mission/goals, roles, rules, and “what were we talking about anyway”. Even a “sudden team” is well-served to seek clarification and focus in these areas to get the most (to get anything!) out of divergent ideas. And better served to address them in sequential order.

    Effective leaders will recognize opportunities with “Sudden Teams” to introduce structure and process that lead to clarification while encouraging others to speak up. One of the questions I often ask in the sudden team environment is, “Would you agree that no matter what we try to achieve there will be obstacles? . . . Then would it make sense to get clear on our goal first so we only address our real obstacles?”

    By the way, even a sudden team needs a goal/mission/purpose to be a team; otherwise, it’s just a social circle or an exchange of complaints.

  6. Baron Hanson says:

    Kate, a deeply effective post as always (you asked: What other ways can we tap the creative and innovative ideas of business and corporate teams?). In my view, hiring (and paying for) the most highly qualified, expertly trained, well educated, and experienced front line employees is a fundamental strategy to implement.

    Back in the 80’s, Staples hired Harvard MBAs and tasked them with store clerk and stocking positions prior to C-suite tracts. Point being, an overqualified, over-trained, über-experienced front line team leads to quality ideas, tangible comments, and thought-out strategies spoken during meetings.

    Since SPEAKING UP WELL via front line experiences is a critical methodology for real-time customer listening, new relationship tailoring, and collective transaction-level data/trend reporting upward, it makes sense to hire competent, confident, and fearless front line managers/staff going forward who can do so effortlessly. Baron @RedBaronUSA (.com)

  7. Joe Williams says:

    Kate – I use two lines to encourage the voice of success.

    First, to echo the earlier suggestions (Jim Morgan, Mark Sturgell, et. al.) I use the collaborative development of a Team Charter (purpose, expected outcomes, and rules of engagement) as an initial step in encouraging participation and to show how good ideas feed upon each other.

    The second line is by encouraging team-building conversations about common interests, family, and outside activities – most of which have nothing to do with the purpose of the team, yet provide an avenue of mutual understanding and empathy that might not be readily available by sticking strictly “to business.” For some who may not speak up often in the course of regular team business, I’ve seen time and time again how this line can get the more reluctant to speak up on other activities, which has a carryover effect to normal business and the team.

  8. Hi Kate,

    You present some good points on this topic of effective communication in team settings and it’s certainly spurred on some fascinating comments. I would add to this that we need to recognize that as much as what we communicate is important, we also need to appreciate the variation in how we communicate. For some, they have no problems jumping into the conversation, offering their ideas and insights on the subject at hand. Others, though, will need time to absorb what’s being said and perhaps are more comfortable sending out an email to the participants sharing their thoughts after reflecting on what was being said.

    As such, I think one element that should be encouraged to foster a sense of team commonality and collective success is to recognize this variance in how some communicate. While an above commentator might think “silence equals acceptance”, I disagree and would suggest that creating harmony means providing others with some time after the meeting to reflect and ponder to add their two cents to the equation. After all, what we need to reward is not simply who shows up, but those who are able to help us push ahead in reaching our shared goals.

    Thanks again, Kate, for pointing this piece out. Glad I can add some additional thoughts to this wonderful discussion.

    • Kate Nasser says:

      Very true indeed that communication styles vary and impact results. I do a great deal of work in this area and can attest that style differences are also at the root of many disagreements and disharmony.

      Your example of some people needing time to absorb is one of many variances that — when understood — breed greater results by tapping the insights of a diverse group.

      Many thanks for your contribution,

  9. Great message Kate. A few thoughts:
    1.- a lot of these points speak to “speaking” (ok that was corny!) Seriously though, I think your last sentence which emphasizes listening is key! Listen and learn….without learning and some basis and grounding. You’ll no doubt get tons of ideas (nuggets) but also a lot of “bitching”. Need strong leadership to facilitate acquisition and incorporation of idea
    2. Great organizations have a “process” or “framework in place to harvest ideas in an improvement context. Not talking about “governing” the flow of ideas, as much as I am about teaching people to think and apply their insights within a problem solving context. Lean, six sigma, tqm- i dont really care what the framework is, just that one is in place
    3. Management can’t punish, and should reward good ideas/ feedback. It should also not punish breakdowns when they are reported (look to airlines here…it one of the reasons it’s so safe to fly.) Positive and negative feedback is a good thing
    4. An accountability model that teaches and encourages “conversations” and “dialogue” best practices and performance is key. Outside of just team meetings and the annual appraisal. It also make it part of an employees accountability (as you say) to speak up!!

    Very important topic! Thanks for elevating it to the radar!

    • Kate Nasser says:

      Many great points Bob. As for the need for listening, it is a given in my mind. I stressed speaking up in this post because I encounter many teams where they are listening yet not communicating their thoughts in response. Those ideas, never captured, are a hidden loss to potential and success.

      You also mentioned that often groups need strong leadership and facilitation for the acquisition and incorporation of ideas. Certainly valuable if needed. There are teams where the team members engage very well w/o as much facilitation on this. Quite something to witness and of course high performance results.

      Many thanks for contributing to this post.

  10. jrandom42 says:

    Throughout history, the performance of adhoc provisional units in combat has been almost alway disastrous. A group of disparate individuals thrown together into adhoc units, without any chance to train together and build trust and cohesiveness, nearly always have disintegrated into uncoordinated individuals, fighting bravely, but individually, and have been slaughtered by troops fighting together as a unit.

    “Sudden” teamwork is almost always, either a desperate attempt to retrieve matters from total disaster, or a way to weed out rebels and malcontents.

  11. Scott Messinger says:

    Yes people do speak up less in groups. When responsibility is distributed, everyone thinks the other person will speak up.

    That is why it is so important to have specific explicitly-assigned responsibilities. That way, people know exactly what they are responsibile for and they will speak up about issues within their area of responsibility.

    Unfortunately, many times management expects a team to just magically ‘evolve’, where people take on responsibilities on their own and leaders just ’emerge’ from the fray. It’s great when this happens, but it’s more often a disaster when it doesn’t.

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