Episode 121 – Successful Teams = Successful Projects

Episode #121
Original Air Date: 01.18.2021


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Our Guest This Episode: Darrin Murriner

Everyone wants a fulfilling work life and to thrive in the work that they’re doing. Hear about creating a team culture through identifying the unique preferences, proficiencies, and personality that an individual brings to the table. Our guest, Darrin Murriner, is the cofounder and CEO of Cloverleaf.me, a technology platform designed to build high-performing teams. The goal at Cloverleaf is to equip leaders with the tools to be effective managers.

In our project teams, we take our own behavioral preferences and apply that carte blanche to the people that we lead. However, projects are more successful when we play to the strengths of the team. We should be asking key questions, such as “What are the unique team roles that we each play?", “What are my strengths?", and “How can those strengths be applied to specific tasks over the course of this project plan?”

Prior to founding Cloverleaf, Darrin Murriner managed large and complex teams at companies, such as Arthur Andersen, Fifth Third Bank, and Munich Re. He is the author of Corporate Bravery, a book focused on helping leaders build a culture free of fear.

Darrin also shares information on tools to improve onboarding and how Cloverleaf partners with other assessment tools, such as StrengthsFinder. He describes their use of nudge theory and micro-coaching. If you have an interest in talent development and team performance, this is a conversation you don’t want to miss. By highlighting our differences, it shows the unique aspects that each person brings to the table, and the unique ways that they need to be led.

Favorite Quotes from Our Talk:

"...culture is created is through the unique preferences that people bring to the table ...and that if you really want to try to either measure culture or identify culture, it needs to start with those unique individual preferences"

- Darrin Murriner

"I think one of the biggest managerial fallacies or landmines that you can step into as a manager is just assuming that everybody needs the same approach."

- Darrin Murriner

Share With Others

The podcast for project managers by project managers. Projects are more successful when we play to the strengths of the team. Hear about a new technology platform for building high-performing and successful teams. Create a winning team culture by identifying the unique preference, proficiency, and personality that an individual brings to the table.

Table of Contents

00:05 … New PDU Claim Process
00:54 … Meet Darrin
02:53 … Cloverleaf: How it all Began
04:56 … Consistent Team Performance
09:19 … Choosing the Right Tool for a Successful Team
12:10 … When to Pivot your Plan
14:39 … What can Cloverleaf do for a Project Team?
17:53 … Partnering with Other Assessment Tools
19:49 … After the Assessment: Getting Stuff Done
24:09 … Tools for Team Members
27:06 … Application for Traditional or Agile Methodology
27:57 … Keeping Remote Teams Motivated
31:25 … Being Authentic
32:32 … “Corporate Bravery”
33:45 … Get in Touch with Darrin
34:53 … Closing

WENDY GROUNDS:  You’re listening to Manage This, the podcast by project managers for project managers. 

New PDU Claim Process

Just a little update about claiming your PDUs. The steps to submit a PDU for our podcast, as well as for our InSite courses to PMI, has changed. Our PDU claim page has been updated with the new instructions. Make sure not to use the auto-fill but type in Velociteach and the title, when you are submitting your PDUs. We do apologize for the inconvenience but thank you for listening and please contact us if you need any additional assistance.

I’m Wendy Grounds; and as always, here in the studio with me is Bill Yates.  Please make sure to visit our website, Velociteach.com, where you can subscribe to the show so you will never miss an episode.  While you’re at it, if you find value in the show, we’d appreciate a rating on iTunes or a comment on our website.  Or if you’d simply tell a friend, that would help us out, too. 

Meet Darrin

We like to share stories of interesting projects, and we like to talk with experts who are doing new and exciting things which can impact the world of project management.  And that brings me to today’s guest, Darrin Murriner.  He is the cofounder and CEO of Cloverleaf.me.  It’s a technology platform for building high-performing teams.  Prior to founding Cloverleaf, he managed large and complex teams at companies such as Arthur Andersen and Fifth Third Bank.  And he is the author of a book called “Corporate Bravery,” and he’s going to tell us a little bit more about that book later on.  But Bill, do you want to tell us a bit about Cloverleaf?

BILL YATES:  Yeah.  We have had conversations and dedicated podcasts to talking about team building and talking about assessing strengths.  We’ll reference some of those later in the ‘cast, I’m sure.  But we know that successful teams lead to successful projects.  So any tools that we can put in the hands of our listeners that will make them better at equipping their teams and making them more effective, man, we’re excited about showing those.

Someone brought to our attention this toolset called Cloverleaf.  And fortunately, we’ve got the CEO, Darrin, who’s going to talk with us about Cloverleaf.  It’s a teambuilding tool.  And you can take something like StrengthsFinder or Myers-Briggs or DISC or other assessments that you do on your team, and you have all this data, and then you need something to help you take those next steps.  So I think this conversation will give us some ideas.

WENDY GROUNDS:  Right.  A thing to note, I just want to say to our listeners, is that we don’t receive any compensation for talking about Cloverleaf.  We just came across them.  Someone told us about them.  And we want to share that with our audience.  We’re not getting a free subscription to Cloverleaf for our team.

BILL YATES:  We need to ask Darrin about that, yeah.  We’re not getting anything for this.  Again, this is just a toolset that we wanted to make people aware of.

WENDY GROUNDS:  Right.  Let’s talk to Darrin.  Hey, Darrin.  Welcome to Manage This.  Thank you for joining us today.

DARRIN MURRINER:  I’m glad to be here.  Thanks for inviting me. 

Cloverleaf: How it all Began

WENDY GROUNDS:  I want to find out what inspired you to establish Cloverleaf, how it all began.  And I want to know where the name comes from, as well.

DARRIN MURRINER:  Yeah, I’m happy to provide some background and context.  I’ve always just really been interested with management and what good leadership looks like and these different concepts.  So I don’t have a background in HR.  I don’t have any certifications in that space.  But just I have always been interested in that.

In the last job I had before we created this business, which is where I met my cofounder, one of the things that we did is we had cross-functional teams of five or six people.  And this was a design video agency.  The process that we used was very consistent:  eight to 10 weeks in duration, kind of the same delivery model, the same stages in the process.  And we did anywhere from 100 to 150 of these concurrently. 

What we saw was the distinction between what made a successful video project and what made a, I don’t want to say “unsuccessful” video project, but like subpar, right, was really the combinations of people that we put on these teams and how we resourced and equipped them to be effective in that eight- to 10-week team experience.  So we got to just see this Petri dish of people working together and how that was the “it” factor, right, of success.

And if you think about it, that might have been a digital video agency.  But our economy in general is primarily how we create value is through collaboration and taking my ideas and putting them with your ideas and creating something of value for organizations.  And whether you’re like in a product role, or you’re in technology, or you’re in a creative space, more and more that’s just how we create value for the organizations.  It just really started us down a path.  We wanted to create a technology product that could provide transparency to that process and equip leaders and anyone on a team with the tools to be effective with that knowledge and that understanding.

Consistent Team Performance

BILL YATES:  I love your analogy of a Petri dish.  And I take no offense; I’ve certainly been in an HR situation before where I think I am the virus growing on this team, infecting everybody else for good or for bad.  Now, you mentioned that you had a cofounder that you were working with at that time.


BILL YATES:  So tell us more about that.  How did you come up with this idea as you were working and getting this consistency and then determining which teams really outperform or perform more consistently than others?  How did the two of you stumble into that?

DARRIN MURRINER:  Yeah, it really was just a conversation.  I mean, it was the observation, which again kind of that’s part of the reason why I say the Petri dish, because it’s truly just like a scientist, where you’re kind of stepping back and looking at things with a really unique perspective.  That wasn’t in the project on a day-to-day basis.  But I got to kind of step back and ask questions that maybe other people weren’t asking on a day-to-day basis because they were just so into the weeds.

And Kirsten, my cofounder, her role was leading those project managers.  So her and I both kind of had this really unique blend on these teams at a higher macro level.  And we just really started a conversation around hey, you know, the culture of these teams, the culture of our organization, we had a premise that how culture is created is through the unique preferences that people bring to the table and to the conversation, and that if you really want to try to either measure culture or identify culture, it needs to start with those unique individual preferences that the people that form a team bring to the table.  It’s less about this kind of like top-down view or top-down perspective of culture, and it’s more this bottom-up kind of approach.  And we felt like that was a very unique way to approach this.

One of the questions you asked earlier was about where did the name come from, and it really stems from that.  I kept using those term preferences just now.  Whenever we would talk to people about this concept, so like, hey, we want to build this business, and it’s going to be a technology, and it’s going to do these things, and I would always draw these three concentric circles. 

And one of the questions that we would ask leaders before we launched Cloverleaf is, “Hey, how do you staff people on teams?”  Right?  “How do you choose the people that are going to be on teams?”  And they would say, “Well, are they available, how much spare capacity do they have, and do they have a technical skill set that is needed for the job?  So if it’s a technology team, do they know Java?”  And that’s as far as it ever went.  No one asked questions beyond those two questions.

And what our experience was in this digital video agency is that neither of those questions really had a significant impact on performance; right?  You had a ton of people who knew how to animate and knew how to do video editing and knew how to story-tell.  But it was that combination of putting those things together that really made that outsize differentiation.  And so when we drew those three concentric circles, we said, “Hey, the first is just proficiency.  What skill set, what experience do you have and bring to the table?”  And that’s where most organizations stop.

Then we said, hey, there are these preferences, these cultural norms.  They could be values.  They could be any number of other words we might use to describe it.  But it’s these things that motivate you, that inspire you, that drive you to do the work that you do.

And then the third thing, just to kind of keep the whole “P” alliteration, is we use personality.  And really it was our way to describe the set of experiences or behaviors that you went through on a daily basis, how you communicated, how you processed information; right?  And it was the combination of those three things together that created this unique identification of how that individual could work with the other people to form a really high-performing team.

And so in the course of drawing those three concentric circles time after time after time, it kind of got to the point like, no, we’re going to do this.  We need a name for this thing that we’re building.  And it was like, why not Cloverleaf?  We keep drawing these three concentric circles, and that’s really how the brand kind of came to be.

A quick side note on that, too.  Oftentimes people would say, well, why not the fourth leaf?  And I would say because the fourth leaf is always luck.  And you don’t need luck.  You need to be strategic.  You need to be tactical in terms of how you build teams and how you grow teams to that high level of performance.  And luck really shouldn’t enter the equation.

Choosing the Right Tool for a Successful Team

BILL YATES:  So you guys have this idea of let’s build some software; let’s build some technology that helps.  Is it a staffing tool, or is it a team assessment and team building tool?  Because I think that was a bit of a shift; right?  Talk to us about that.

DARRIN MURRINER:  Yeah, absolutely.  I mean, I think when we first started down that path, we thought, hey, the best way that we can impact the market is by helping leaders select people into these teams.  And whether that’s someone that’s already in your organization or someone outside your organization you’re trying to hire, that selection process was going to be key.  So we put some early designs and prototypes in front of leaders.  And a lot of the leaders that we put it in front of was HR leaders because we thought, hey, that’s where people decisions are made.

Consistently, time after time, they said, hey, I don’t need another recruiting tool.  I mean, the market is full of Indeed and Monster and LinkedIn. They’re big competitors that provide lots of tools and resources on that hiring and selection process.  But when I engage with your product, what I think is, man, I would use this with my existing team because it eliminates a lot of challenges and difficulties that we’ve had as a team, or with individuals in the team.  And I would pay you for that today.

And it was after we had a few of those conversations it was like, all right, I think we get the message.  Like this is an underserved market versus an overserved market.  And the interesting thing, too, is as we thought about that, like, hey, we really wanted to have an impact.  Like our mission is to give people or equip people with the opportunity to have a fulfilling work life. To thrive in the work that they’re doing.  And if you have a dysfunctional team, and you hire more people into that dysfunctional team, you’re actually not solving that problem. 

So if we start with the foundations and the core, the root of that team experience, and then you hire people into that. Then we’re going to take the overall productivity, the overall engagement level up significantly than if we just focused on the hiring process exclusively.  So we really kind of pivoted and are focused more on team building.

Now, having said that, as we started to engage those new clients and customers and bring people onto the platform, a natural next question is, well, can I use this in the selection process?  So we kind of came full circle on that conversation.  But it’s primarily for impact teams and for organizations who have high levels of change. So whether that’s in project management or it’s other areas in the business where there’s a lot of shifts.  And whether that’s high growth or it’s because just the structure of the business and how the culture of the business work, there’s a lot of internal movement and internal migration.  That’s really where we can be most successful.

When to Pivot your Plan

BILL YATES:  I’ve got a follow-up question on that, Darrin.  And I think part of it is – this is confessions of Bill Yates, the project manager.  When we hammer out the scope with a customer, or we have like a clear vision for where a product’s supposed to go, then we feel like, okay, now we can get behind this.  Now we can start to come up with our task list and take the high-level goals and break them down into actionable items.  And I’m feeling like we can get some momentum.

Then if I have the customer, or in this case the voice of the customer that you guys had, come back and say, hey, it’s not exactly that after all.  It’s actually a little bit different than that.  These objectives have already been met, but I’ve got this new objective that you may be able to help me with, just as you guys found out with your product.  There’s a part in me that’s very stubborn, that says no, this is what I want to do.  This is the original scope.  This is the very foundation of our product or our project, whatever it might be.  And there’s some resistance in me.

I’m thinking about this from your standpoint.  How hard was it for you guys to kind of walk away from the original plan and pivot to this new, okay, here’s a team-building platform with a lot of potential.  The value’s over here.  It’s not under Box A, it’s under Box B.  How hard was that?

DARRIN MURRINER:  Yeah, I mean, I think that’s part of the reason why when I talked about that transition we came back to the mission statement because it’s like, hey, if this is the thing that we were focused on achieving, can we still get there if we shift direction?  And as we asked ourselves that question, it was obvious, yes, we can still accomplish that.  And this is where I think just being in a project team inside of a large organization is so different than the startup space because in the startup space, if you don’t match product and market, you don’t exist.  I can’t raise capital.  I can’t acquire customers. So I can’t do all of those things.

So actually it felt like an existential question because I don’t know that project teams are always faced with that.  It’s like, no, this budget’s been allocated; or, no, we live inside of this larger enterprise where it feels like resources are unlimited.  We all know that’s not true, but I think there’s a mindset or the mentality that people kind of fall into.  And I think from a startup perspective it’s like, hey, this is where we can carve out a clear product market fit, and we can get market and sales momentum.  So if we can achieve that mission, then let’s shift gears. 

What can Cloverleaf do for a Project Team?

WENDY GROUNDS:  I think we’ve kind of been leading into this, but if you’re looking at it from the perspective of we have these project teams, there’s the team lead as well as the individuals on the team. What can Cloverleaf do for the project management team?  How can it best be applied when they’re starting a project?

DARRIN MURRINER:  The way we think about teaming in general and how it can be utilized across the entire teaming process, I know one of the questions that you asked previously was around Tuckman’s model; right?  So that whole forming, storming, norming, and performing, the adjourning.

At each point in that process, there’s clear opportunities for Cloverleaf to improve the process, so from the initiation or the onboarding process.  And we bring new members in.  And I think onboarding, we generally think about onboarding in an organization, it’s like, hey, fill out these forms, you know.

BILL YATES:  Right, yeah.

DARRIN MURRINER:  Yeah, here’s how to get started in our organization.  And then onboarding never goes beyond that.  And I’ve been in a lot of project teams, too, where that same kind of thing happens.  It’s like it’s an item at the beginning of your project management checklist, where it’s like, okay, we’re going to pull the team together, and we’re going to talk about goals and scope and that kind of thing.  But we don’t really focus on each other.  What are the unique team roles that we each play in this context?  What are my strengths, and how can those things be applied to the specific areas or tasks that we’re going to have to execute over the course of this project plan?  So onboarding is a big element, and that is both for the manager or the leader and for the individuals on the team.

The other thing is just leadership.  If you’re going to lead people – and for project managers or anybody that has a leadership role in a project this can apply because I think one of the biggest managerial fallacies or landmines that you can step into as a manager is just assuming that everybody needs the same approach.  And if you’re a parent you understand this because, hey, I’ve got three children, and by the way, two of them are twins.  They’re twin girls.  So they have the same parents, they’re the same gender, so they’ve got kind of like the same gender roles and stuff applied to them.  But they could not be more different.  And the things that Elizabeth needs is way different than the things that Lydia needs.  And so as a parent I learned that.

But it’s like we walk into our organizations, our project teams, and we take our own behavioral preferences and our own behavioral models.  We just apply that in a carte blanche kind of way to the people that we lead.  One of the great things about Cloverleaf is it really highlights these differences and shows you, not in a negative way, but hey, these are the really unique aspects that this person brings to the table, and these are the really unique ways that they need to be led.  And I think that’s one of the biggest value propositions that we offer as a leader.  Then there are other aspects, as well, just in terms of overall performance, coaching tips, so how you’re having one-on-one conversations, performance conversations, how you can tailor those or prepare for those in a way that you’re going to get the best outcomes from that.

Partnering with Other Assessment Tools

WENDY GROUNDS:  We recorded a podcast, it was Episode 108, “Building a Strengths-Based Project Team” with Connie Plowman.  Connie coauthored a book, “Developing Strengths-Based Project Teams” with Martha Buelt.  We talked about the project manager’s role in talent development. And Connie explained that by using the StrengthsFinder assessment with a team early in the project, the team members can see what they bring to the table and how they add value to the project.  How have you partnered with other assessment tools?

DARRIN MURRINER:  Yeah.  So we do partner with StrengthsFinder.  We actually support three different strengths assessments, so StrengthsFinder, Strengthscope out of the U.K. And then VIA, which stands for Values in Action – a little bit more higher level, does really great with healthcare, nonprofits, and education segments.  But we are a firm believer that strengths is one of the lenses that you should look at both individual performance and team performance.

And part of the reason why we love strengths so much, and I’m sure it probably came through in her podcast episode, as well, is that it really taps into the energy sources. Right, behind the types of work that you do.  So matching the specific tasks and the type of work that an individual is doing on a daily basis so that, when they leave, not only are they giving their best, but when they leave they’re actually energized by the work, not having the energy drained from them at the end of the day.

And I think, in general, anyone’s capable of doing any kind of task.  But if you’re doing that over longer time periods, and I think especially in the project management space, oftentimes projects can stretch for months or even years.  And having expectations about someone doing a type of work that they’re not drawing energy from is actually going to drive disengagement.  It’s going to drive turnover, lower morale, conflict potentially in the team.  So there’s a lot of impact to that.

After the Assessment: Getting Stuff Done

BILL YATES:  Darrin, when I was looking at Cloverleaf, one of the things that I thought stood out was kind of the follow-up or the automation, if you will, of some of the steps that take place after the assessment.  And I want you to describe that because again, I’m in the shoes of the project manager.  Man, my plate is completely full.  I’ve got a sponsor who has expectations.  I may have a separate customer base or user base that has expectations. All these people that I’ve got to keep happy.  And it all depends on my team. 

So if the team’s not rocking and rolling, then my life is pretty miserable.  I see the need to invest in the team and make sure that people are spending most of their time doing what they’re best at, what they’re gifted at, and what gives them energy.  But man, I’ve got stuff that has to get done.


BILL YATES:  There’s this balance of I want to be an awesome leader to my team because I feel like I owe that to them. Plus I know it’ll set us up for success.  But I’ve just got so much on my plate.  So how can something like Cloverleaf come along and help me to do the things I need to do and still be able to go to bed at night?

DARRIN MURRINER:  Yeah.  So I think one of the biggest issues with that assessment space is it actually expects that you’re going to become an expert in the underlying language and vocabulary of those assessments; right?


DARRIN MURRINER:  And StrengthsFinder, the one I always like to pick on, is Woo because I understand what Woo means.  It’s one of the 34 strengths in StrengthsFinder.

BILL YATES:  Yeah, you know what Woo is, sure.

DARRIN MURRINER:  But expecting any manager to understand what Woo is, I think oftentimes when people are introduced to that for the first time, and they hear “Woo.” They’re like, yeah, I’m checking out.  Like I have no idea what this is.  I’m pretty sure I don’t need Woo on this project team.  That’s one of the challenges that I think we’ve really been able to overcome.  You know, the traditional model is you’d have to, like, one, you’d have to have access to that person’s reports and know what their strengths are.  Then you’d have to pull up this digital version.  Where is that document at?  I’ve got to go through, sort through what does this actually mean in terms of how I apply this to either leading them or matching the work that they’re doing with their strengths on a daily basis.

And that really is what you’re talking about is that friction.  It’s that difficulty.  And I think one of the key strategic elements about our product. It really relies on this concept of nudge theory.  And what nudge theory says is that by small changes in behavior on a daily basis, you actually have the opportunity to impact and drive performance.  So it’s not done all at one time. And I think the traditional corporate learning model is like, hey, let’s pull everybody out of their day-to-day work, send them to a class for a day or two, and then immediately shove them right back into their daily hectic schedules.

And what we know is learning doesn’t happen that way, or effective learning doesn’t happen that way.  Generally when you do that, when those participants walk away, they forget more than 90 percent of the stuff that they learned in that classroom experience within the first 12 hours.  So we’re not talking about weeks or months; right?  It’s in the first 12 hours.  And so they need repetition.  They need opportunities to engage in a contextually relevant way.

So what we did is we integrated with the tools that employees use every day because we don’t want to be another tab on the browser that people have to log into or remember to log into on a daily basis.  And so we integrate with Google for business, Microsoft 365, Slack.  These are tools that anyone on a project team are using on a daily basis.  And we tap into that to really tailor the kinds of coaching that we’re giving them.

So instead of knowing what Woo means, I might get a coaching tip on Wendy that says Wendy really has this energy, and this is how it impacts the project team.  So when you ask Wendy to do something, make sure that you’re focusing her in this direction.  Very specific.  You don’t have to know what Woo means.  But we’re tapping into the fact that Woo is one of her top strengths.  And understanding the context of the situation or the conversation that you’re going to be walking into. This is how you can maximize the opportunity with Wendy in this project team scenario. 

So that’s what we do.  And it’s bite-size.  We try to keep it to that 140-character Twitter style.  That’s why we call it “microcoaching.” Because that’s how people are used to consuming information today, 140 characters at a time.  But it needs to be high-impact.  It needs to be contextually relevant.  It needs to be personal to the people that you’re engaging with on a daily basis.

Tools for Team Members

BILL YATES:  You mentioned nudge theory and the repetition.  For me as a project team leader it takes some of the stress off of that scenario that you played out, which is so common.  We bring in the expert facilitator maybe within the company or outside the company, comes in and puts on a workshop.  We go through Myers-Briggs together or StrengthsFinder or whatever, and we all read our reports. And then a week later I’m like, eh, what was that again?  And as a leader, what should I be doing?  I can’t remember.  So I’m starting to feel guilt about it.  And I’m like, okay, now I’ve wasted company resources on even bringing somebody in.  It’s almost like I’ve set up false expectations for my team if I don’t have follow-through.

So this automated nudge is already integrated with platforms like that.  I certainly see the value in that.  So let me flip it.  If I see it from a project manager standpoint I kind of look like a ninja.  It’s like, wow, Bill is suddenly an expert on StrengthsFinder or whatever.  He’s the dog whisperer, you know, he’s like reading into people, and he just knows the right moment to come over.  I imagine there’s an element of this for the team members, as well.  So a team member, as I’m sitting there working on my bench, I think about Sal sitting across the table from me. How should I be interacting with Sal.  So is there a piece for that, as well?

DARRIN MURRINER:  Yeah, absolutely.  I mean, what I described applies to all team members.  So it’s not just for the leader.  There are some additional contents and data visualizations and team dashboarding that we offer the leader.  But if we just rely on the leader to bring that to the conversation or the day-to-day rhythms, that’s not going to be enough.  You need everybody pulling kind of in the same direction.  You need to be educating everyone on how to maximize each other in that daily context and daily conversation.

Oftentimes what we see is, like, let’s just talk about miscommunication or misconceptions about people’s motivations.  You know, oftentimes it is simply a style difference that causes that kind of conflict to occur or mistrust to occur.  And so if we can highlight some of those things before they ever become an issue. And how to, one, bend my style to be more effective with that person; but, two, to also respect that different approach or that different style. Then I avoid the conflict from ever happening to begin with, at least that conflict.

Now, there might be other things, struggle for resources or internal politics. Those kinds of things that could come into play that still lead to conflict.  So I’m not saying we would eliminate all conflict; right?  But I think at least that communication or miscommunication and misconception that occurs in a team environment, we can definitely eliminate a lot of those.  And so every team member needs to be a part of that process in order for that team culture and team performance to go to the next level.  Just relying on the leader to get access to that kind of content and coaching is not enough.

Application for Traditional or Agile Methodology

BILL YATES:  All right.  This is kind of a quick question, but I assume this applies regardless of the type of project management methodology we’re using.  So this would be Agile, traditional, no matter what method you’re using.

DARRIN MURRINER:  Yeah, absolutely.  I mean, I think what we find is if you’re using more Agile approaches, you might have an Agile coach or a scrum master.  But, I mean, the culture I think that exists with Agile approaches generally tend to lend itself to a tool like this, or this is a part of the normal day-to-day conversation.  But if you’re using a more traditional waterfall approach, I think this still applies.  And it’s not just project management teams.  Like we have sales teams, and we have product development teams. And we have leadership teams that may not necessarily be using any particular project management approach or methodology.  So it’s definitely widely applicable.

BILL YATES:  Mm-hmm.  I get that.

Keeping Remote Teams Motivated

WENDY GROUNDS:  So right now we’re going through just so much rapid change in our work environment.  With COVID it changed so much last year.  Can you give some advice on keeping remote teams motivated at this time?

DARRIN MURRINER:  Yeah, and it’s been a challenging year.  And I think there’s a lot of teams that are going virtual for the first time.  I mean, obviously in the project management space, probably heavy technology.  So many of them have probably been working at least somewhat remotely for a while now, or working with at least remote partners.  So I think the blended space, and when I say “blended,” I mean where you have partial teams, all colocated in one spot, but you’ve got offshore resources or vendor partners that might be having to dial in and be remote, those blended situations tend to be the most challenging because the in-person team or the people that are colocated in the same spot have an opportunity to go richer, and then the people who are not colocated there feel like they’re always on the outside looking in.

And I think one of the nice things, and I think this feels weird to even say something is nice about COVID, right, is that it kind of leveled the playing field for those people who were in the kind of distributed teams, or the mixed teams, if you will.  And it forced everybody to go remote.  But the challenge of that is you had so many people that were remote for the first time, and they were adopting new technologies like Microsoft Teams maybe in a way that they hadn’t used it before, or Slack, or even the 25 Zoom calls that we have every day now.  That tends to be the challenge.  It’s just the overload of that, or the acceleration of that.  You know, I didn’t get an opportunity to kind of adjust, and it just was thrust on me.

And then I think the other, obviously the really big challenge is just the longevity of this.  It’s like, oh, my gosh, I can’t stand Zoom now.  You know, Zoom’s a great product, but their brand equity I think has to be suffering just because people are constantly on it.  So that’s a challenge, I think, just in terms of creating that team culture.  One of the hardest things for remote teams or just people who are working digitally with each other in a remote way is that what you tend to do is you fall into a trap of only communicating or interacting with each other when you need something very specific. 

So it becomes very transactional, your relationship.  Whereas if you’re colocated in the same spot, you get that water cooler opportunity.  You get a chance to have lunch with someone.  You know, there’s these natural breaks in your day that lend itself to creating relationships, work relationships in the context of the team that you’re missing.

So what it means for remote teams, you have to be very intentional about those things.  So one of the things that, like, just as a quick example about how Cloverleaf can support that or help that, our Slack and Microsoft Teams integration, we send team prompts to the channel, so anyone that’s in a channel will get this prompt.  And it’s really an intentional opportunity to step outside of that transactional mindset and to create opportunities for people to have authentic conversation around things that are not work related. 

But in a way, that really kind of supports or promotes or creates opportunity to give kudos to your team members.  And what we find is we’re missing those opportunities, and the relational aspect is suffering.  Yes, we’re talking to each other.  We can have Zoom calls, and it’s great that we can see each other.  But it’s the fact that most of our conversations tend to be transactional when we’re in a remote environment, and it actually dilutes the quality of our work relationships over time.

Being Authentic

BILL YATES:  That is so true.  We use Skype pretty heavily.  And it’s so funny you say that.  I can see a finger being pointed at me.  It’s my own finger, but it’s like I have to reach out to a team member on Skype, I have a quick question I need to ask him.  And I type in the question, then I back up, and I put the cursor on the front and say, “So, how was your weekend?”  You know, like you said, it’s just so different than bumping into somebody, or walking over to their workspace and asking them a question.

DARRIN MURRINER:  Yeah, I mean, some of the ways we’ve seen people get around that, right, I do the same thing.  I think it’s natural.  We, like, get into this productivity kind of mindset.  And if you’re not physically there, those opportunities aren’t there.  So what I will do is like, hey, if I’m going to go run somewhere, you know, I’ve got to run an errand in the middle of my day, throw it on Slack and say, hey, I’ve got 20 minutes, or I’ve got 30 minutes in this drive.  Does anybody want a conversation?  And really creating those places or those spaces where people can connect to each other in a really authentic way.

And the key is you have to be intentional about throwing that out there on the Slack channel and saying, hey, just give me a call between these time periods, and I’d love to just connect with anybody.

“Corporate Bravery”

BILL YATES:   Darrin, one thing I came across on the website was you wrote a book called “Corporate Bravery.”  I’ve not read it, so tell us what inspired this book, and what’s it about?

DARRIN MURRINER:  Yeah, it was really kind of my transition from a corporate world, but I’d spent 15 years in large corporate cultures.  And one of the things that I found consistently across those companies and across those organizations was this sense that a lot of decision-making was made out of a place of fear.  We were afraid of something happening to us, as opposed to being secure in who I am as a person, or a leader, or as an organization; right?  Like understanding our competitive strengths, and really playing to that, and instead just getting sidetracked by that boogeyman in the closet, right, like all the bad things that could go wrong.  I think I published in 2016.

And, man, we just lived through one of the most fear-inducing years globally that we’ve ever experienced.  There are so many different things that we can be afraid of.  And so I had no idea four years ago that it would be as relevant in 2020 as it was in 2016.  So I focused it really on corporate cultures and corporate organizations; but, I mean, it applies for anyone.

Get in Touch with Darrin

BILL YATES:  We want to encourage our listeners to connect with you.  Is LinkedIn a good place to find you?

DARRIN MURRINER:  Yeah, LinkedIn’s great.  My email address is darrin@cloverleaf.me.  And so feel free to shoot me an email, as well.  If you’re interested in the book, you can go to Amazon, search for “Corporate Bravery,” you can find that.  And then our website is Cloverleaf.me, which is a little bit different.  But we love that focus on the individual.  When we think about building high-performing teams, it starts with the individual, and then it goes to the team, and then we can improve performance.  So we do think it’s progression.  And that’s why we love the .me domain name.

BILL YATES:  I’m excited whenever we can bring another toolset to our listeners.  And I think many get very jazzed by team assessments and strength assessments.  But then they can get overwhelmed.  It’s like, okay, I’ve got all this information.  Now what do I do with it?  And there’s a sense of frustration, of being overwhelmed.  And I think, you know, you and your partners have come out with a nice follow-up and solution to that.  Thank you for your time.  Appreciate it, and appreciate your insights you shared with us today.

DARRIN MURRINER:  Yeah, I appreciate it.  Thanks for having me on, and I look forward to talking with your listeners.


WENDY GROUNDS:  Thanks for joining us this week on Manage This.  You’ve just earned those Professional Development Units by listening to this podcast.  To claim your free PDUs, go to Velociteach.com.  Choose Manage This Podcast from the top of the page.  Click the button that says Claim PDUs, and click through the steps.  That’s all for this episode.  Until next time, keep calm and Manage This.

2 responses to “Episode 121 – Successful Teams = Successful Projects”

  1. Avatar Bernd Gruener says:

    Hi, I followed your instructions to claim PDUs but this is what I got: “This activity was retired on 2015-11-27. In order to submit a claim for this activity, you must have completed it prior to the retire date.”

    • Avatar Wendy Grounds says:

      You can still claim your PDUs! There is just a new claim process. You can take a look at this blog post about the changes: Claim PDUs
      You can also follow the updated steps on our Claim PDUs webpage The process is just a little different. Be sure to type in “Velociteach” and don’t select the choice that comes up for “Velociteach, LLC” Choosing the auto-fill from PMI won’t work. Also in the Title box, type the title of the podcast episode, or you can copy/paste the title from our website. Choosing the auto-fill from PMI won’t work, you’ll get a message that the episode is retired.

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