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Want a Better Team? Work on the Team - Not Just as a Team


Sep 16, 2019
As a CPA, you’ve probably heard the saying, “you need to work on the business, not just in the business.” Perhaps you’ve given that challenge to a client or colleague at one time or another.

I suggest a similar mantra when it comes to building better, stronger teams: You need to work on the team, not just as a team. Your team can only get so much better while it works together unless there’s also focused attention on the team itself.

This article highlights four practical tips to strengthen your team. All of them require team members to step away from their day-to-day, operational tasks long enough to invest in the team. These actions create shared experiences that will mold your team into a cohesive unit.

1. Help team members get to know each other.

In our deadline-driven profession, it’s easy to get so caught up in the work that we overlook relationships with the people who work alongside us. To combat this tendency, spend time in team meetings to learn more about one another. Share about hobbies and interests outside of work. Or go deeper with questions like, “what accomplishment are you most proud of?”

Assessments are another useful tool to learn about team members. They also provide insights about how the team functions as a group. The DiSC profile, Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, and Strengthsfinder are popular options. I use the Path4 and Path6 assessments from RightPath Resources for team facilitation because they focus specifically on workplace behaviors.

2. Develop your team’s collaborative and critical thinking skills.

Hold periodic meetings to develop skills essential for high-performing teams, such as collaboration and critical thinking. Discuss case studies from news articles about businesses in your industry or geographic area. Choose scenarios that require your team to work together on developing responses to these situations. Or, present a real-life problem from your own business or from one of your clients. Challenge the team to collaborate in exploring potential solutions. These exercises promote healthy communication and build unity as the team focuses on the problem together.

"In our deadline-driven profession, it's easy to get so caught up in the work that we overlook relationships with the people who work alongside us.
3. Play with purpose. 

Plan social events that go beyond dinner and drinks at a fancy restaurant. One of my clients took their team to an Escape Room, where they learned how to work together in a non-business setting. A local cooking school offers events like the Chopped Challenge and Food Truck Wars that foster team engagement. A ropes course or high adventure program may appeal to a physically active group. The key is to plan activities that enable team members to get to know each other and work together toward a shared outcome. 

4. Serve with purpose. 

Provide work time for your team to serve together in the community. Service projects offer a dual purpose as team members get to know each other while making a positive impact in their world. Invite the team to collaborate in finding service opportunities of mutual interest. Consider making it a regular event. This year is the 20th anniversary of Deloitte’s Impact Day when teams take a day off to volunteer in their communities. Real estate firm Keller Williams has a similar approach with its annual RED Day.

Act now to build these activities into your routines through the rest of the year. Work on the team, not just as a team. You’ll end 2019 with a better, stronger team ready to tackle more specific challenges and deliver higher value for your organization and customers.


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Jon Lokhorst, CPA, ACC
About the Author

Jon Lokhorst is an executive leadership coach and consultant. He develops leaders everyone wants to follow and builds teams no one wants to leave. You can reach him at jon@lokhorstconsulting.com.