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Getting The Right People On The Bus - Interview With Tyler Hayden

10 min read
Vlad Kovalskiy
July 10, 2015
Last updated: July 11, 2019
Getting The Right People On The Bus - Interview With Tyler Hayden
Tyler Hayden is a keynoter, team builder, and author of over 16 books. His business is personal development and non-traditional team-building programs.


A lot of teams nowadays are distributed. People are telecommuting, working from home and relying on other forms of non-traditional employment ranging from (freelancing, temp work, short term contacts). How do you build a strong team when people don’t see each other every day in an office environment?

T.H.: So true the face of todays work teams are so different then they were only a few years ago. Ironically I'm preparing a full day event on this very topic for project managers. Here are a couple tips from that presentation for you to build a strong team when you are distributed:

  1. Where financially possible get your team together at the beginning of the project in a face-to-face environment. This helps to build those essential relationships.

  2. Set clear guidelines with your teams around communication requirements. Agreed to SOP's early on can reduce confusion, stress, and feeling left out … plus will help the manager live "life" too and not receive phone calls at 3am from team members overseas.

  3. Use video conferencing and encourage people to arrive 10 minutes early … have some "water cooler" talk then, and kick the meeting off with a virtual team activity. One I like is "virtual hot seat" -- each team member, one per meeting, prepares a 2 minute presentation with photos of "their life" … pre frame it with specific questions like: where I work, how I travel to work, my favourite place to eat out, my favourite hobby, etc.

  4. Be sure to share the "perk" jobs with those that are distributed. Managers and leaders tend to deliver the most "choice" jobs to those that are in close proximity to the leader. Remember to share the wealth.

A lot of times team building activities provide a short term motivational boost that quickly fizzles out. What can managers do in order to make sure that there really is a long term transformational effect after that weekend retreat?

T.H.: Working with a professional team builder is essential, you will know they are a professional because they will own at least a dozen of their own rubber chickens (lol). The designer should do an intake of your teams learning style, specific learning objectives, and current business environment in your workplace and industry. From there, a high quality program can be designed with your teams learning needs at the forefront. "Fizzle" happens when you go out to play paintball or golf, without a scope of learning behind what your are doing.

Further, the designer will then position you to continue the learning with quick events you can do with your team, possible "gift" drops, or other memory reminders. All these are framed around the learning focus presented at the team event.

What are the most common team building mistakes that companies make in your experience?

T.H.: Oh the wasps nests I've seen… here are a couple biggies.

  1. Putting "1pm to 3pm - Team building" on the agenda … crazy. Any time people are in a room together is an opportunity to team build. When you say 1pm to 3pm we team build sounds silly… it should be happening continuously. That time slot should be the "big learning idea" for the team event that sells it … i.e. "ROI of Blood Sweat and Cheers."

  2. Not planning it … assuming the "hotel" can deliver it … or giving the responsibility of delivering it to a junior person. If it is not run properly, people become disengaged and feel that this is a waste of time. When nothing is further from the truth. There are stats like "motorola returns $3 in profit from ever $1 spent in HR development."

  3.  Not hiring a professional because its expensive… we'll just go golfing, I like golf. OK here there are two inherent problems. Managers who take people to go "do" what they like to "do" only serve to push some people away. That is why we do the educational styles intake. Second, is the team designer is cheap when you consider the aggregate expense of each employees salary or wage, not to mention the hotels fee for the open bar or nice dinner -- which do you think people will gain bigger value from?

Not everyone is an outgoing extravert type. How do you deal with ‘loners’ and ‘lone wolf’ employees?

T.H.: The trick with any employee is introvert or extrovert is to ensure that their job reflects their needs. Jim Collins talks about getting the right people on the bus, and then in the right seats in his book "Good to Great." He's totally right. It's about right fitting the job to the team member wherever possible. This allows them to engage in their work, because they have increased satisfaction levels as they "do" what the like to do in a way they like to do it.

Further, when you are considering rewards, recognition or even communication strategies … look into Howard Gardener's work in to Multiple Intelligences. It is the basis of my team design work. His theory really speaks to how to reach people based on their learning styles. For example, your introvert will be repelled from going above and beyond if you make a huge deal publicly, make them speak, call them out at a meeting … they will think twice about going 'above and beyond again'. Send them a heartfelt note and a gift card for coffee, you will get more traction. While the extrovert, heck bake them a cake, have a party and toss some high fives … that will get their juices flowing to go above and beyond.

You wrote two books. What was your motivation behind ‘Message in a Bottle’?

T.H.: Well 16 actually … my most recent series is "Message in a Bottle". It's a series of letter from parents from around the world to their children of love, leadership and legacy. Each letter contains a meaningful message from parent to child (we will be expanding the series to grandparents, soldiers, kids, etc.). In the cover there is a space for the gifting mom or dad to write their own letter to their kids alongside the other moms or dads.

The motivation was simple. I was swinging my daughter on the swing and thought I should write her a letter … so I did, I reached out to father friends of mine to see if they too would like to join, and within about 10 months I had a book jam packed with amazing letters! I think that the greatest gift we can give others is our time, thoughts and love. That is what this series is all about. In fact, I donate 40% of my royalties to charity.

What resources, books, blogs, podcasts do you recommend to our readers who want to build a productive team and need to learn how?

T.H.: I would start by directing you to Howard Gardner and Jim Collins work. I think combined their educational approach meets business success strategies is a winning package.

There are some great resources online to gather great tools for team building … like Project Adventure and Trainers Warehouse. Both these locations will help you to find the right cool team equipment.

If you are in the market to hire a team builder -- check out Teambonding in the USA and of course, we'd love to help if you want to explore that.

As for "learning to be a better team builder"… The Thiagi Group has a great newsletter that has tons of value.

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