By Kim LaFever, PMP
Over the 4th of July weekend I spent some time with my family and cousins in Indiana. It had been a long time since I’d been home for the 4th and it was pretty clear that not a lot has changed there. My cousin had a cookout (it’s not called a barbecue in these parts) that included the usual 4th of July fixings of sticky weather, hamburgers, potato salad, and plenty of fireworks, pop, and beer to wash it all down. We also spent hours playing a game called “bags” that I had seen a few times before but had never played.
Bags involves tossing corn-filled bean bags at a plywood frame like the ones in the photo except ours weren’t nearly this fancy. You play in teams and score points for getting bags in the hole or on the platform. I have no idea what was so exciting about this but I couldn’t keep myself from playing it.
When I think about it, this game reminded me of what transitions in business teams should be like, yet seldom are. What happens in most teams when they get an opportunity to try something they haven’t done before, when some or all don’t have the skills to win right away, and they’re thrown in to work as a team with people they don’t know? It depends but in many complex organizations we often see chaos, confusion, fear, and frustration begin to play out.
Playing bags remind me that for most of us, how we do anything is how we do everything. For example, even though I hadn’t played this game before, I quickly asked some questions so I understood the goal. Based on that, I wanted to do my best and was very focused on trying to perfect my aim and score. I was playing as part of a team with someone I had never met before yet I found myself excited and pulling for my teammate to do well and also wanted to do well myself as part of this team. The enthusiasm was contagious and even though we ended up getting soundly thumped in the first match, we were laughing, joking and created a strong sense of camaraderie within the first 20-30 minutes. We also, got better at the game quickly and later went on to win a match.
So what can you do when you get a new team or assignment at work? Consider these 5 Steps to Winning at “Bags” or Your Next Great Team Assignment:
- Ask questions to understand the end game.
- Focus on improving your aim, even while you are learning.
- Welcome new team mates and encourage their game as well as your own.
- Have fun – let your enthusiasm to generate skills, trust, and camaraderie.
- Know that a focused, fun, committed team will get better quickly and win!
What are some ways you have had success as part of a new team?
What are some things you would do differently the next time you join a new team?