Leading High performing Teams

Thanks you to Jean Carraccio for sharing my story on teamwork on an AmeriCorps VISTA Leader professional development blog found on http://www.VISTAcampus.org:

Want Ad Translation:

Mo’s Restaurant is always seeking self-motivated, hard- working individuals with unusual pride & passion to join our team. Commitment to excellence is required.

Q. Is it remotely possible this ad is talking about dishwashing positions?
Read about one of your fellow VLeader’s experiences on a high performing team. Perhaps the most surprising anecdote I’ve ever heard about on the High Performing Team Webinar.

Hi all! Jean here (the “J”) in JEK
Last month 28 VISTA Leaders participated in the High Performing Team webinar.  The webinar began with an opportunity for those attending to share their experiences on a high performing team. As with all good stories the examples were thought-provoking and inspiring. We can learn about teams by studying teams, in particular studying teams that work. VISTA Leader Chris Anderson shared an example that characterized virtually every aspect of a high performing team. It was also one of the most unusual examples I’ve ever heard and it was such a great example of how a team can find meaning anywhere, anytime.
As you read Chris’s story please think about the powerful work that you and your members do. It strikes me that as a VISTA Leader you have a head start within the context of VISTA. If you ever get discouraged and think that you don’t have the right members or a powerful enough mission to build a high performing team you might want to think about Chris Anderson’s powerful anecdote. Here it is:

“Dishwashing at a restaurant comes in many flavors, but its purpose remains the same. If there are no dishwashers, everything comes to a halt. The restaurant I worked at has a high-level dishwashing operation. The work environment is high-pressure and demanding. The kitchen is hot, it’s loud and it’s crowded. You and a team of four others use a 1,000lb machine that pumps out over 3,000 dishes an hour while simultaneously meeting the chef’s, kitchen staff, and server’s immediate requests. When the restaurant closes, the dishwashers coordinate the cleaning of the entire kitchen with no room for error.

I spent over five years as a dishwasher in that environment as my first job, and was a part of many “A-Teams” during that time. We understood that in order for the entire restaurant to run, we had to all perform in unison. We were all in high school in different groups, yet shared the same values at work (The Breakfast Club?). If someone was having a rough day, they could step outside to give themselves a sort of restart. You could talk one-on-one while taking out the trash, and come back fresh. We would create games and competitions with each other to keep us motivated (if you work in a restaurant, contact me I can offer an entire Olympics for you). At the end of the night, we split into two-person teams to clean the kitchen (with great music). After a strict inspection of our work from the chef, we were free to leave or stick around and eat our meals. In the setting of a more quiet and relaxing state, the chef and our team would go over how the night went. During Jean’s webinar the power and importance of positive feedback was discussed. Receiving positive feedback was truly one of the most important parts of working in our restaurant because it reminded us why we were there, and made it clear that our hard work was valued and recognized.

I can relate this experience towards building a high performing VISTA team. There’s a diverse group coming together for a shared purpose. A VISTA should rely on you to “step outside of the kitchen” with them so they can come back ready to attack. Having your team know the VISTA Leader position is to make their lives better and not to ensure they are doing their job properly will lead to the same shared attitude and more participation in coming together for the whole team getting the job done”.

Chris Anderson is VISTA Leader at AS220, a non-profit community arts space in downtown Providence. Our mission is to provide an unjuried and uncensored forum for the arts.