One of the great things about agile working/work-from-home is the ability to set your own hours. When your performance is measured based on what you actually do, you are liberated from the need to simply tick a timecard.
There is a downside to this flexibility. When your peak productive hours vary dramatically from those of your colleagues, you lose the ability to leverage each other effectively. The misalignment of these hours leads to a reduced ability to ask questions, longer time between back and forth responses, and less ability to brainstorm outside of the day-to-day tasks.
My favorite part of being part of a team is learning from the people around me. I love to learn and ask questions and get an insight into areas I’m not intimately involved in. I definitely try to work on the timezones and schedules of those around me to take advantage. Are you doing the same to ensure you are not just a cog in the machine?
A good team is comprised of members that make each other better. Teams built to shore up individual weaknesses while also having broad capabilities will generally have greater success.
The thing about teams is that they are built from individuals with all of their strengths, weaknesses, quirks, idiosyncrasies, personal lives, and future plans. Over any given period of time, individual motivations and capabilities will change – sometimes dramatically and unexpectedly. Dealing with this reality is what will make teams successfully over the long run.
Great team dynamics start with self-reflection (yet another idea that I love). Understanding your personal shortcomings and areas for growth gives you the ability to ascertain that your team is there to help cover those areas. Asking for help is a sign of maturity, not a sign of weakness.
Similarly, your strengths can become the strengths of others through your ability to support and lift up others. Your value gets maximized because you can share it with others. Life and work are not zero-sum games. One person’s success does not mean that someone else failed. One team’s success does not mean that another team failed. When things are hitting on all cylinders it is entirely possible for every team to be winning simultaneously.
We are used to hearing about team chemistry when it comes to sports. Coaches apply some mystical spell on their team and suddenly everyone is moving in the same direction or no one buys into it and the team falls apart. It’s binary and all about the coach. Sometimes there’s the “on-the-field leader” who is bringing the team together as well but it’s just a branch of the same logic about the coach.
The reality is much messier. Teams aren’t successful simply because of their leader. They are successful because each individual on the team understands the job, strengths and weaknesses of the people around them. They are successful when they pick each other up and play to their collective strengths. They are successful when they can communicate effectively when the “leader” isn’t around.
Simply put, success starts with each person on the team knowing what needs to get done and how they can best do that while taking into account how everyone else is doing the same. There are no duplicated efforts, there are no useless activities, there is no faulty communication, there are no incorrect assumptions.
The job of the leader is to ensure that the team is given an environment to thrive in. No two teams thrive in the same environment because the work and individuals are different each time. Even the same team that was successful in the past can fail in the future if their approach no longer matches the work that needs to be completed.
True leaders understand these variables and can adapt to make it work. They understand that sometimes you need to make your team uncomfortable while other teams you need to hold their hand. The way you treat one member of the team is not the same way you interact with others. There’s planning and thought put into every interaction.
Teams are what get things done. How are you helping build your team to get the right chemistry?
I love the theory of failing fast. If you are going to get something wrong, it’s best to know what it is so that you can get the solution put together just as quickly. When trying to get a solution to market time is often your enemy.
But there are many moments when time is your friend and a quick solution can actually work against you – even if it is the right one. When dealing people and organizations, some things just do not move quickly. When you need consensus and support from others, it is easily possible to move too quickly and alienate the support that you need. Maybe your priorities are different from theirs. Maybe the solution is less urgent than you believed.
When you move quickly there will always be people that were not ready to move as quickly as you did. If you don’t need their support for success, or you can get them bought in after the fact, there is no problem. But if they are going to cut off all of your oxygen because they don’t like how you did the work, you could be in trouble.
Basically, how you solve a problem can sometimes be more important than the solution itself. It’s important to know what success looks like – a standalone answer, team building, organizational consensus, greater coordination, or something else entirely. The answer may not actually be the result.
Control and responsibility go hand in hand. Some people see that they have responsibility and then try to control everything around them through micromanagement. Some people see that they have responsibility and become paralyzed by the inability to choose a path forward.
Then there are those that realize responsibility and teamwork go together and that the only way to really move forward is to delegate out the responsibility to those around them. The reason that micromanagement rarely works is because it maintains control while taking accountability away from those doing the work. When you have people doing work with no accountability you often end up with people not caring about the results of their efforts.
The entire philosophy of teamwork is that everyone is responsible for their individual part. To have everyone move forward effectively make sure they all understand their responsibilities, how they fit in with everyone else and how to ask questions and raise issues. Rarely can people pull off the Steve Jobs and go total dictator. Figure out how to build your team and make sure you account for how the people around you are most effective.
In any business you need to match the people you hire to the skills that you need. Every business venture is slightly different and the real estate world is often more different than just about any other in corporate America. With that in mind here are the roles you need if you are going to build a kick-ass CRE team:
- Head of CRE. Need someone who is politically savvy within the organization and willing to take on battles with the business that go against what has always been done. The Head of CRE should be willing to delegate the day-to-day to her team while holding them accountable for results. If you combine someone that understands what needs to happen and is willing to fight for it (while able to win) you can get amazing things done. Key trait: Willingness to fight for the right solutions.
- Controller. It is a law that real estate is ultimately all about the numbers. You need to have a strong financial controller who understands every penny that moves through the function. This person must hold fast on how the numbers work across the business. Too often this is the role missing in many corporate real estate teams. The best candidate for this position is someone that one day may want to be a CFO and has big ambitions. Key trait: Making sure all costs and investments make good business sense – even if they were made 3 years ago.
- Financial Analyst. Every team needs that go-to for number crunching. All decisions these days should be data driven and this person is the go-to for justifying them all. The Financial Analyst should not just be someone 3 to 5 years out of school that is good with Excel. The best financial analysts are those with enough ambition to eventually want to be running the entire CRE organization. Yes, they must be good with Excel but ultimately they understand what makes a good CRE decision. Key trait: Keeping the team honest on which decisions actually make sense; willing to challenge the rest of the team.
- Project Lead. At the end of the day real estate results are measured in completed projects. If you aren’t driving progress by implementing projects then nothing else matters. Anyone can just renew the existing space for 3 years and not worry about improving. The Project Lead should be someone who can delegate all projects out to the team and keep track of everything going on but at the same time they should be wanting to jump into the middle of the big projects and get their hands dirty. The best leads can tell you all the projects they are pushing the business on while also managing the day-to-day local office politics. This person is often the heir apparent to the Head of CRE. Key trait: Understands the bricks and mortar of real estate and can manage large number of projects with a team.
- Operations Lead. Ultimately real estate is about the ways that the business utilizes space. The Operations Lead is responsible for ensuring that the space is used correctly and where it isn’t fixing it or making sure no other spaces end up that way. This should be where most of the technology and metrics are created and maintained. In some ways this is almost an in-house consulting or QA role as you need someone who is constantly trying to push the boundaries of how things are done. They should be constantly innovating, tracking new technology, capturing new information and seeking out best practices wherever they may exist. Key trait: A desire to innovate and push everything forward – often in dramatic ways – and able to put together a winning pitch for making it happen.
What often happens is that the CRE team has one person filling multiple of these roles and doesn’t have the time to really put the time into what each would do if it was full time. Without each of these roles fully realized the result for most CRE teams is stagnation and less than desired results – usually just because there were not enough hours in the day to achieve everything they wanted.
A few weeks back I was participating in a work team building activity. You probably know the type – 5 people who are mostly recently acquainted have to work together to solve some problem. In our case we had to build a car out of PVC pipes, 4 wheels, a handful of balloons and a rubber box. All seemed to be going fairly smoothly as we went through iterations of a design up until the moment we all heard a *crack*.
Looking back it feels as if we all slowly turned to look at the man with the hammer in his hands. As one we realized that one of our four wheels had just broken and was laying in pieces on the ground. It could have happened to any team I suppose. We were trying to remove the wheel from one piece and put it into another. It got a bit stuck and the hammer seemed a wonderful way of prying it loose. It certainly came loose.
As you can imagine, having only three wheels available for use when building a PVC car that a person has to ride is a clear handicap. The situation occurred to us that we had suddenly lost all ability to really compete. But there was something amazing about this particular group – it was only about 5 seconds before we got right back to work trying to find a solution to this new problem. There was no complaining, no whining, no hopelessness. We all just started trying to figure out a solution that could work with just three wheels.
It was quite the contraption but we ultimately put together a surfboard style approach with a person standing above two wheel while being pushed sideways with the third wheel offering some stability. Amazingly we almost made it through the entire course with no issues and at a surprisingly quick pace. We had an oustide chance of actually pulling off a victory simply because we didn’t quit when the opportunity to do so presented itself.
That’s the best lesson to me – even when given a perfect opportunity to quit and hand something in incomplete don’t take it. If you don’t get a solution even after giving it your best effort then so be it. But to quit in the face of adversity is to underestimate your potential. The best comebacks are all based on extreme adversity. People remember those who come back from long odds, the don’t often remember when the favorite wins as expected. Never give up because losing when you are supposed to is nothing to hand your head at – but winning when you didn’t have a chance never leaves you.