Talent Development Centre

Tag Archives: teams

All Talent Development Centre posts for Canadian technology contractors relating to teams.

You Can’t Win a Fight (or succeed at anything) without a Winning Team

Brendhan Malone By Brendhan Malone,
Vice-President, Central Canada at Eagle

You Can't Win a Fight (or succeed at anything) without a Winning TeamThe video below introduces you to this year’s Fight Team in the annual Fight to End Cancer, taking place this year on May 27th in Toronto.  These are brave men and women who have stepped out of their homes and offices and into the boxing ring.  They are doing so to raise money for the Princess Margaret Cancer Centre and the Fight to End Cancer.

I was fortunate enough to step in the ring myself a couple of years ago and I know the commitment required.  Eagle has been a proud sponsor and supporter of this event since its inception.  This event aligns perfectly with our core values of integrity, excellence and TEAM.

When a fighter prepares to step in the ring, they join a large team of coaches and sparring partners.  Everyone is working together, with different responsibilities but towards the same goal.    A fighter cannot do this on their own, no single person is a match for a good team.

Business and sports offer natural parallels, none more so than the concept of team.  As an independent contractor, one of the main parts of your job is to get up to speed with a new team.  Understanding what the team’s goals and overall objectives are can help you align yours the same way.  Just as a fight team prepares the fighter for the ring, an IT team prepares a product or service for launch day.  Independent contractors are often the newest members of a team that may have been together for a long time.  Ensuring you are quickly aligned with the team’s goals and overall objectives will result in quicker cohesion and earlier positive results.

I wrote in an earlier post that it is no longer possible for an independent contractor to live in a bubble.  You must be aligned and aware of the business objectives of any IT project.  Teams need to work together towards the same goal.  It may seem obvious… but every team member has to know what those goals are.

I wish all the fighters and their teams the best of luck as the big day approaches.  To all the independent contractors joining new teams, I hope you can align your efforts and objectives as quickly and effectively as possible with a common goal.

How Google Discovered This Secret to Team Success

David O'Brien By David O’Brien,
Vice President, East Region & Government Services at Eagle

Successful Team CelebratingMost of us, and especially IT contractors, have had a range of experience in dealing with teams, most likely in a work context but not entirely exclusive to work. I would bet we could all cite stories of teams gone sideways and opine as to why. The challenge, though, and hence the real question, is what does make teams successful or work? Why aren’t the best teams just a collection of the top people at the skills needed? Examples abound of this seemingly intuitive notion of “I will simply gather the best developers/salespeople/athletes/actors as needed to make my team win.” As we all know, though, in many of these cases, quite often the whole does not equal the sum of all its parts. Scores of evidence will show the assembly of the highest paid or skilled athletes (see Toronto Maple Leafs, New York Yankees,1980 Russian Olympic Hockey Team vs US) or the multi-chain store that has the same culture, policies and location demographics across its entire chain see huge variances in success in spite of all these commonalities.

Google, arguably the world’s most successful technology company, has a widespread reputation for only hiring the best of the best (just take a look at 41 of Google’s Toughest Interview Questions). In 2012, Google sought to understand what makes teams succeed and created Project Aristotle. The majority of modern work from early education through MBA school, and then on in to the workforce, is done in a group environment, to the extent that time spent in collaboration by employees and managers has ballooned over 50% in the last 20 years.  It is a given today that people are more productive and happier in a collaborative group dynamic. At first, the study, though overwhelmed with data, found that there were no obvious difference makers in terms of types of personality, skills or background that affected successful team outcomes. What they did find, though, as critical were the group “norms”, those unwritten set of criteria, standards and behaviors. There were two very definitive norms that distinguished successful, high functioning teams and they were:

  1. Good teams presented what researchers term a “psychological safety”. That, in effect, means team members on good teams felt free to speak /contribute equally without fear or retribution, and that everyone has an opportunity to speak. As long as everyone had a chance to speak, the team did well; whereas, in teams that were dominated by one person or a small group, “the collective intelligence” declined. This shared safety built by respect and trust was critical to success.
  2. Not surprisingly, good teams all had high “average social sensitivity” or were more empathetic. These teams were made up of people who were adept at reading people’s feelings through things like tone, non-verbal communication and expressions. In other words, the teams had high Emotional Intelligence. Successful team members know when people are upset, whereas people on ineffective teams scored worse, having less sensitivity to others on the team.

What was interesting for the Google researchers was that it was very evident that many of those who may have chosen Software Development as their career did so to avoid “discussing feelings” and were often naturally introverted.

This is a fascinating study that emanated from Silicon Valley, a world dominated by data. These technology professionals now have the data to rethink and reset the course, perhaps in getting away from conventional wisdom.  I encourage you to look into it and draw your own conclusions to perhaps redraw the way you as an independent contractor may operate within teams. As the saying goes: “teamwork makes the dream work.”

The Secret to Climbing Africa’s Highest Peak

Frances McCart By Frances McCart,
Vice-President, Business Development at Eagle

The Secret to Climbing Africa's Highest PeakI just returned from one of the toughest, but also one of the best and most memorable experiences of my life. A little over a month ago, I posted about my preparation and challenges for my upcoming climb of Mount Kilimanjaro. Now that I’ve completed the journey, returned home safely, and had a chance to reflect on the past couple weeks, I’d like to share with you one of the most important take-aways I brought back with me. Something I always knew, but this trip made me see it in a whole other light:  When taking on any major challenge, a solid team with an exceptional leader will make the difference between success and failure.

Overall, our trek up Kili was a very difficult climb — harder than we expected due to some horrible weather conditions. Fortunately, we were accompanied by a team of experienced climbers, including a Chief Guide. Our Chief Guide informed us from that start that every day would be a challenge. She would give us instructions to follow that seem simple, but were critical to making it to the peak (like eating food when we did not have an appetite due to the fact the altitude had killed our appetites).  She kept us on a very short leash, yelling instructions from the minute we got up at 6am until we fell asleep exhausted in our tents at 9pm.  Twice a day we were given information about what lay ahead and what was to be expected.  She was tough on us but we knew what was expected.  She told us over and over again that she and the rest of the team (all 93 of them) were there for us and that everyone wanted to see us at the top!

The most gruelling part of the trip was Summit Night, where we set off to reach the summit starting at midnight. Forming a long conga line of people up the mountain, we had only our headlamps and the night moon to light our way.  As a team, we had to work slowly and take one small step at a time, as anything bigger was dangerous due to the slope of our climb, the darkness and the fear of hitting someone in front of us.  We all had to work as a team to get to the top and we were kept in spirits by Fuso who sang to us to help keep us awake and positive.

It was tempting to let the overall toughness of the challenge consume us but, as our Chief Guide told us, the key is to focus on the step in front of you, and don’t get overwhelmed by the day and its challenges.  It is easier to cope with any problem or task one step at a time. What kept us going was thinking about all the little steps that need to be taken in order to achieve the overall goal of reaching the summit.

Overall, it was a team effort that got us to the top of Mount Kilimanjaro. Every day had its challenges throughout the journey, but we were well taken care off.  We knew what we had to do and it was one step at a time that led to the ultimate success!