Kevin Wong

Solution Focused in Building a Great Team – “Growing Importance of Teams”

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A team is a group of people, usually between 3 and 12, with diverse experiences and complimentary skills, and who work together to achieve a common purpose, goal or task. The latter is what really separates a group from a team.  

Teams meet to share information and perspectives, make decisions, and solve problems through the joint efforts and contributions of all committed members. Members rely on each other to achieve mutually defined results, share a common purpose and performance goals, and hold each other accountable.

When team difficulties arise, they are considered “team problems” not an individual’s problem. Team accountability requires living up to the promises that each member makes to another. Members share the excitement and sense of accomplishment that comes from working and struggling together towards a common goal. Good teams will talk openly about their ideas, look to members for suggestions, and feel “safe” sharing their ideas.

Peter Honey, leading industrial psychologist and learning says that teams have always been important but now they have become essential. This is because of a number of inter-related factors:

  1. The whole quest for Total Quality, continuous improvement and improved customer service means that the functional barriers are breached and people forced to co-operate between functions, not just within a function. 
  • The need to respond more rapidly to market forces and changes external to the organization, means that organizational structures are more complex (matrix management is just one example) and more flexible. This increases the need for collaborative decision making (more ‘we’ decisions, less ‘I’ decisions).  Our guests’ expectations, for e.g., are constantly rising and getting more complex. We no longer can satisfactorily meet their expectations if we do not have effective teams in place.
  • Raised expectations about participating in, or at the very least being consulted about, decisions that affect people and their work practices. This automatically increases the demand for more group/team decision making.  
  • The increased use of project teams and task forces, often multi-disciplinary, to come together rapidly to tackle a major issue or problem and then disband.
  • The empowerment movement and the changing role of managers from director to facilitator or a coach, inevitably puts greater emphasis on the group/team and less on ‘divide and conquer’ management styles.
  • Last but not least, the attempts to create Learning Organizations. This is only possible if learning teams (mini Learning Organizations) meet frequently to trawl their experiences for learning and agree what to do better/differently in future. The key to creating a Learning Organization is to have lots of overlapping Learning Teams.

Due to the current COVID-19 pandemic situation, a new trend has emerged, which is the formation of a Remote Team, and the latest concept of leadership to lead the remote team is known as Distant Leadership.  As leaders in today’s highly volatile environment, how do you lead from afar and still maintain the team’s productivity and performance level is the big question. I shall explore more on the topic of how to lead remote team effectively in my next article.

Kevin Wong, Powerwoosh Asia Bhd.

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Solution Focused in Building a Great Team – “Group vs Team”

Kevin Wong

Think of 20 people riding on a bus, just like what you see in the picture.  They are together in the bus heading in the same direction, at the same time and speed, and under the direction of a leader (bus driver). Do these 20 people make up a team?

In reality, these 20 people are most likely to be strangers to each other, with their own purposes for being on the bus.  They are also likely to get on and off the bus at their stops, and are unlikely to speak with each other during their ride.  At best, these are a group of random people who appeared at the same time. What are the dynamics, or driving forces, for a group then? A group is characterized by members driven by individual goals and the need to accomplish them as quickly as possible. The group atmosphere is usually one of mutual suspicion and reluctance to share personal feelings and thoughts.  The group is also likely to be unstable with members joining and leaving at will.  Should group members interact (which is unlikely), one or more members will attempt to dominate to protect his/her self-interests. 

What are some examples of groups that you are familiar with?  Well, people at public parties, spectators at a game, attendees in a conference, and etc. In some ways, a new group of colleagues who get together for the first time for a project may also exhibit some of the behaviors just mentioned.

There is often a great deal of confusion as regards to groups and teams. This is due to the fact that, in common usage, we use the terms interchangeably. We refer to a group as a team and sometimes vice versa too. However, it must be emphasized that a team is not the same as a group. In fact, team is a special kind of group; something more than a group.

Now, think of footballers riding a bus…do the members form a team?  Why do you think that?

Think about what characterizes most football teams – members share a clear mission (to win the match) and have specific roles and responsibilities that are related to each other. You will also find them mutually motivating each other along the way and celebrating successes after each win.

Effective teams are characterised by a number or driving forces:  members share a common goal, are accountable for and committed to their interdependent roles, and work at building mutual respect and trust through open communication.

So, would it be right to say that teams are good and groups are bad? Absolutely not. A better question to ask is: when do you use a group and when do you make the extra effort to develop a team? The reality is that groups are far easier to create than teams, so it makes sense to be a group when the following exist:

  • outcomes have been defined by the management
  • the decisions and process are already been determined
  • buy-in is not necessary
  • time is a critical factor and there is minimal management support for teaming

To form the group, identify a strong, effective leader and empower the person to recruit group members, formulate the goal and approach and drive decision making. This approach would be practical for short-term projects with outcomes already defined, such as planning for the company’s annual dinner and dance event or team-building program.

Teaming, on the other hand, should be used when you need broad buy-in for the best results, when no one person has the answer and when shared responsibility is important to the success of the goal. To achieve a real team is difficult and time-consuming. There is no magic bullet that will transform a group into a team overnight. It takes time to develop the skills to work well together and understand how to solve problems and make decisions effectively. To learn more about how we can build effective and high performing teams, we need to first start with understanding what a team is. I will explain in greater details in my next article.

Kevin Wong, Powerwoosh Asia Bhd.

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Solution Focused SMARTEST Goal Setting Principles

Goal-setting is a very important part of our lives because the whole human endeavor is geared towards setting and achieving goals. Goal-setting provides a sense of direction for every aspect of life.  It helps us to stay focused and achieve what we want in life – getting into better shape, live more healthily, build a successful career, venture into business, and meet our financial goals. Without setting goals, you lack focus and you are drifting through life and you will be subjected to a series of haphazard events. Remember, success is about goal setting and the rest is just a conversation!

A lot have been written on the goal setting principles and one of the most popular ones is SMART Goals. Today, I want to share with you an improved or upgraded version of the SMART Goals known as SMARTEST Goal-Setting Principles. The objective of the SMARTEST Goal-Setting Principles to help you to achieve absolute clarity on the goals you set, whether is for personal, team, department or for your organization.

Now, let’s take a closer look on SMARTEST, an acronym that stand for Specific, Measurable, Action-Oriented, Realistic, Timely, Ecological, Signed, Thorough.


How clear are your goals? Are your goals specific enough that a 5-year old child also understand? What exactly do you want to achieve? The clearer your goals are, the higher chances you will achieve them. When I run sales-related training, I always heard people said “I want to make more money” or “I want to achieve financial freedom” or “I want to improve my lifestyles” or “I want to be healthier” or “I want to be a Millionaire.” All these goals are not achievable because they are vague and not specific enough. To set a clear and specific goal, you could ask yourself the following questions:

  • What specifically do I want to achieve?
  • What outcomes do I want?
  • How do I know I have achieved the goal?
  • Where, when, how, and with whom do I want to achieve my goal?


A goal that fulfill this principle means that at all times you know where you are in terms of reaching your goal. Measurable goals mean that you will be able to answer the question of “What will you see, hear, feel when you reach your goal. It means breaking your goal down into measurable elements. You’ll need concrete evidence.  To set a measurable goal, you could ask yourself the following questions:

  • What will I see, hear, and feel when I achieve my goal?
  • Where are you now in terms of reaching your goal?
  • What is my next milestone?
  • How will you know when you have it?
  • What are some concrete evidences to suggest that I have achieved it?

Action Oriented:

The goals you set must be tangible and actionable. To ensure your goals are actionable, it’s important to break down your goals into smaller steps or sub-goals. This will enable more focus and help prevent pushing the goals to the side due to lack of clarity. To set an actionable goal, you could ask yourself the following questions:

  • What is my next baby step?
  • What action can I take to move one step closer to my goals?
  • What needs to change in order to move forward?
  • What can I do differently to move up one point higher on the scale?
  • What do I need to do more and better to achieve a positive result?


To increase the chances of achieving your goals, your goals must be achievable and realistic. A lot of people set themselves up for failure as they set lofty goals which are unrealistic. This is one of the most common mistakes that people make when they set goals. Setting unrealistic goals may destroy your confidence and generate negative emotions. Setting realistic goal doesn’t mean you have to set an easy goal, but rather the goals must be challenging yet achievable. To set a realistic goal, you could ask yourself the following questions:

  • Are my goals attainable?
  • How can I differentiate between an ambitious goal and an unrealistic one?
  • Realistically, what can you envision?
  • Where do you see yourself in that picture?
  • If you could change anything to make your goal realistic, what would it be?
  • Is this goal realistic enough to inspire you to take action? 


We heard this too often, “Time is money” and it’s true that the goals you set must be time-bound, otherwise you are wasting your time and effort.  Thus, make sure you set deadlines, for yourself and your team, and go after them. Keep the timeline realistic and flexible, as sometimes you may need to adjust the dateline accordingly due to changing conditions. With a targeted dateline, it motivates us to take action and move forward. To set a timely goal, you could ask yourself the following questions:

  • When do I want to achieve my goals?
  • How do I develop a clearly define timeline to achieve the goals?
  • What is the realistic time frame to achieve the goals?
  • How can I set a reasonable dateline that can keep the morale high?
  • How do I set a dateline that creates urgency?


Ecological is such a big word, but if you are serious in achieving your goals it’s critical for us to understand the need to set goals that serve us well holistically. Ecology means how life interacts with other living things and their environment in a seamless way. Simply put, the goals you set must serve you well in both your personal life and business life, as well as in the entire ecosystem that you operate in. To set an ecological goal, you could ask yourself the following questions:

  • Are your goals ecological?
  • For what purpose do you want this?
  • What will you gain or lose if you have it?
  • What will happen if you get it?
  • What will happen if you don’t get it?


A lot of people are lazy in setting goals because they said “I know what I want to achieve, they are already in my head.” Having an idea in our mind on what we want to achieve is not good enough because the power of goals lies on whether we have our goals written down and make them concrete. To take this one step further, if you can translate your goals into a drawing and make it compelling and attractive, it would make it easier for you to visualize your goals and to make them become reality. To ensure you have your goals written down and signed on it, you could ask yourself the following questions:

  • How do I make my goals become so compelling & attractive?
  • How motivated & committed am I to achieve the goals?
  • What are the benefits to achieve the goals?
  • How would my life change as a result of achieving the goals?
  • What will this outcome get for you or allow you to do?


An achievable goal requires a well-thought-out plan with strategy and execution plans in place. You must have a comprehensive plan to increase your chances of achieving your goals. The plans must include more than one way to get to the outcomes. A good plan will give you more choices to reach your destination. If plan A doesn’t work, what would be your plan B? You must be ready to face the unexpected and be able to provide alternative solution to overcome any challenges you face. Like the old saying, “if you fail to plan, you plan to fail!” To set a thorough goal, you could ask yourself the following questions:

  • How do you measure your progress?
  • What is the evidence procedure that tells you are on the right track?
  • What resources are needed to achieve your goals?
  • What do you have now, and what else do you need to attain your outcome?
  • Who can give you extra help to make it easier for you?  
  • Who will do what and by when?

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