Episode 216: Building a Cohesive Team

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This week Robin Schuckmann, Executive Director of BNI Oregon and SW Washington,  joins Dr. Misner to talk about building a cohesive team—inside and outside your BNI chapter. There are three parts to this.

Identify the Strengths of Your Team

A great tool for this is the book StrengthsFinder 2.0. Another is the Referral Institute program “Room Full of Referrals.” (See Dr. Misner’s recent blog post and video, “Your Behavior Style IS Affecting Your Referrability” for more on this topic.)

Utilize the Strengths of Your Team

People will spend longer doing the things they’re good at, so assign people roles that they have talents for. Who wants a visitor host that’s always late?

Implement Increased Communication

Example: weekly phone check-ins between the president and vice-president/treasurer of a BNI chapter help keep things on track. A quarterly chapter social builds personal relationships. Increased communication shows that you care and helps you get to know chapter members better, increasing your VCP.

Brought to you by Networking Now.

Complete Transcript of BNI Podcast Episode 216 –

Hello everyone and welcome back to The Official BNI Podcast brought to you by NetworkingNow.com, which is the leading site on the net for networking downloadables. I am Priscilla Rice, and I am coming to you from Live Oak Recording Studio in Berkeley, CA. I am joined on the phone today by the Founder and Chairman of BNI, Dr. Ivan Misner. Hello Ivan, how are you today and where are you?

I am doing great and this week I am meeting with my partners from the Referral Institute which is timely because one of the things that my guest is going to mention is the Referral Institute. Susan Rowan is a really good friend of BNI. She has written many books, including How to Work a Room. Susan is helping the Referral Institute do some strategic planning for the organization.

That sounds great. You have a guest today. Is that right?

I do. Robin Schuckmann. Robin has been an Executive Director in Oregan and SW Washington for going on ten years now.  She has a team of 24 ambassadors and directors. She  works with 36 chapters and nearly 1000 members. She has traveled. This is something I didn’t know about her. She has traveled to 30 countries. She loves to learn about other cultures,  which is really good in BNI, since we are in 50 countries. She has several children, an 8 year old son, Connor, who is an April Fool’s baby. I think that is cool. And Madeline, who will be 5 in July. She lives on 9 acres of forest land with Mt St Helens at her front door. How cool is that? I think that’s amazing.

Robin has the funniest story on the planet about taking her son, Connor, to a leadership team training. Unfortunately, we don’t have time to hear about it today, but it’s a great story. If you ever meet  Robin, you have to ask her about that. One of the great things about BNI is we see a lot of working moms who are directors and certainly members. They have some great stories about their kids in BNI.

Robin, welcome to the podcast.

Thank you.

You are going to be talking about building a cohesive team. You have three main topics. Identifying the strengths of your team, utilizing the strengths of your team, and implement increased communication. Let me let you jump right in and talk about identifying the strengths of your team.

Excellent. Thank you Ivan. The main topic today is building a cohesive team because when you are putting people together to work on project, you need to make sure they can all work together. This concept applies to anyone’s business. If they work with other people, definitely in BNI and the leadership team, and if you are a director working with a team of people, many of these concepts apply equally. What I want to focus on today is the chapter leadership team.

The first things that you  want to do is identify the strengths of your team. You want to take a look at your team members as well as anyone who is added to your team in the process ongoing. Take a look at your current strengths of your existing team. There are a couple of tools that we use ongoing.  One is Strength Finder 2.0 by Tom Raff. It’s a book with descriptions of characteristics.

It’s a great book that you mention here, Robin. It’s called Strength Finder 2.0. It is done by the Gallup Organization, I believe. And who is the author? Tom Raff, so this is a book that we highly recommend. It is very good. Go ahead.

One of the things that we do is have all of our team members take the survey. You get a long printout at the end with descriptions. If gives you the top five strengths. We take a look at those and make sure that we are very well covered.

We are a versatile team. The other resource that we use is a great presentation by the Referral Institute, A Roomful of Referrals. It’s  disc program. You are identifying behavioral styles. You begin to communicate better with people but also realize that you have a variety of strengths and a variety of people on your team who can do different things.

A Roomful of Referral is a great program. Ironically, I  just did a blog on this. If you are listening to this podcast, go to my blog, businessnetworking.com. Look at the June 30th blog. It’s a video called Your Behavioral Style Is Affecting Your Referrability. It’s a great took. If you want more information about it, go to referralinstitute.com to find out where you can possibly get a class. Go ahead, Robin.

Thank you. It’s a great class for anyone in business. You can better understand your clients, better understand who you work with, who you want to work with. It’s a great tool.

The second topic is utilizing those strengths. Once you identify the strengths each team member has, you want to understand  what they are good at and what they enjoy. People only do things for a short time if you ask them to do something if it is not what they like to do. However, people will do  things that you ask them to do for a much longer period of time if it is something that they  truly enjoy and they are good at.

After identifying those strengths, make sure that you are putting people in a role, committee or even in a chapter- your visitor host team. You visitor host coordinator should really be somebody who has organizing skills, is always on time and loves to be on time as well as enjoys greeting people and has no problem introducing themselves as well as introducing the  visitors to other people within the chapter. We have a follow up specialist also on the visitor host team. That follow up specialist really enjoys working on the computer. They are going to enter the information into BNI Connect,  for example, maybe hand write a card, maybe making that followup phone call. If those are strengths of those people and they really enjoy doing it, then they are more likely to be very successful at it.

Then the last piece of building a cohesive team is implementing increased communications. As it relates to a chapter leadership team, for example, a president could have weekly phone check ins with their secretary, treasurer and vice president and say, “Hey, how are things going? How can I help you?What  is going on this week that I can best be prepared for?” That simple phone call can last two or three minutes or as long as fifteen, depending on how much time you need. It shows that you are truly and genuinely care about them in their business as well as in their role in the chapter. 

Having monthly leadership team meetings lets the entire chapter team know that the leadership team is   committed to the success of the chapter and the members’ businesses as well. Then a quarterly chapter social shows that the chapter want to build personal relationships as well. The idea with increased communication is that you show that you care about them as individuals as well as their business, get to know those people on a personal level,  because we all know that when passing referrals, we pass referrals to people that we know, like and trust. The best way to do that is to get to know them as a person. All of those things increase accountability.

This is a great list. I think it is important that the people listening wrap their heads around the key themes that you have. Basically, you are saying understand the people that you have around you in the room, with tools like Strength Finders and A Roomful of Referrals. Understand them and  figure out what people are good at. That is really important. You talk about a visitor host. You want a visitor host that is friendly and on time. There is nothing worse than a visitor host who is late. What good is that? And if they are not friendly and like to connect with people, then that is problematic. Know the strengths and how to  apply those strengths.

Then the last part is communication. That is key. I can hear members saying, “Weekly? Check in weekly? Really? I’ve got a business to run.” How would you respond to that? I have an idea, but you have been training on this content longer than I have. So what is your response to that?

How would you treat a top dollar client? If they needed that weekly attention, wouldn’t you give them a quick phone check in? “Hey, how are you doing? How is that  order going? Did you receive everything on time?” Don’t you want to treat the people on your team as if they are your best clients as well- because they are your referral sources. If every week doesn’t work for you, maybe that is not your style. Then maybe every other week. The point is to check in  and make sure that they know that you care about the efforts that they are putting into the team as a whole.

Without that constant communication, people tend to think they must not really care about what I am doing. It’s just that extra 1 degree of enthusiasm towards making that connection and making sure that everyone is moving in the same direction.

You say 1 degree. Is that any reference to Boiling Point?

Yes, the 212 Degree chapter does everything 1 degree extra with enthusiasm.

Right. This is a great analogy. For those of you who haven’t heard it, I apologize for those members who are outside of North America and don’t use Fahrenheit, what we are talking about here is that one degree. Going from 211 to 212, you go from lukewarm tea to boiling water. It’s just that one degree that makes a huge difference. It’s the  metaphor, I think, that Robin is referring to.  It’s so true, that old axiom that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, or something to that effect. That is really what you are talking about here. Just a little  bit of extra effort yields a big result.

That extra communication is really important if you want to  maintain a healthy chapter. The healthier the chapter, the more referrals that are generated. That’s the bottom line. It’s all about the amount of referrals that chapters are generating and the quality of referrals that they are generating.

So, Robin, we are almost out of time.  Is there anything else that you would like to share or any closing comments that you would like to give?

In addition to your comments about the 212 degree chapter, the 211 degree average chapter does the right things, but the 212 degree chapter does the right things consistently with more enthusiasm. If you  just give it that little bit of extra attention, identify those strengths on that team, utilize those strengths, and  then increase your communications so that they know that you care, I think you are going to find that you have a very cohesive team working  toward the same results.

Great. Robin, thank you so much for being on the  podcast. Everyone, Robin Schuckmann. She is an executive director for Oregon and SW Washington. I really appreciate you being here and sharing your expertise with us today. Thank you so much.

My pleasure. Thank you.

Priscilla, back to you.

Great. Thanks,to both of you. I would just like to remind the listeners that this podcast has been brought to you by NetworkingNow.com, which is the leading site on the net for networking downloadables. Thank you so much for listening. This is Priscilla Rice and we hope you will join us next week for another exciting episode of The Official BNI Podcast.


  1. says

    Excellent tips from Robin- outstanding! The Visitor Host position is so important to the success of the chapter! Ivan’s comment about a VH being late is spot on- how many times have we all seen that? Yikes!
    The weekly check in and communication between the Leadership Team people is crucial also. And I absolutely love the 1 degree analogy!
    This info can be shared at Leadership Team Training next month- I know I’ll be using it!

    Shawn McCarthy BNI ED Ventura County, Santa Clarita/Antelope Valleys, Ca.

  2. says

    I love the TEAM acronym. Together Everyone Acquires Money. You’re right, this can be applied just about everywhere in business and the family environment.

    Thanks for referring the book. Leadership team meetings and socials REALLY help, thanks!

  3. Arti says

    Thanks! Thats a great reminder of how attitude towards a task can determine how well you perform at it. Its always more fun and satisfying when you do something you enjoy!

  4. says

    Thank you, Robin! I really like the emphasis on communication by phone. Too much we communicate by mail, while phone calls take less time and you reach much more good will with the people you work with.

Solutions-focused comments are welcome