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Author: Hollis Nelson

3 Keys to Building an Effective Team

“Individual commitment to a group effort–that is what makes a team work, a company work, a society work, a civilization work.” –Vince Lombard


The importance of teamwork today is something that cannot be overstated. Teams exist in a broad spectrum of environments. You will find teams functioning in business whether working remotely or in an office setting, in community-based organizations, church groups, social groups, non-profits and more. The ability for individuals to work effectively in, and as, a team is an indispensable skill. The key word here is effective, because not every team is always effective.

What goes into building an effective team? In terms of this post, an effective team is defined as one that is able to deliver the desired results within the allocated amount of time. There are three things I consider essential to building an effective team. Of course, there are others, but these three I think are critical for building an effective team.

Commitment to a Common Purpose

It is important that everyone fully understands why the team exists. They must be passionate about and committed to the project being undertaken. They must be clear on what it is the team intends to accomplish, and by when they intend to accomplish it. There are no surprises and no hidden agendas. This is at the foundation of an effective team.

Shared Values

Something that is often overlooked in building effective teams is the personal values of the team members. It is very hard to commit to something that violates your personal values. Going through the process of determining your personal values is not something that everyone does, we all have them, but many times they are unconscious. Sometimes the reason why a team does not function effectively is because the personal values of one or more of the team members is being violated. A person who values freedom and creativity will have a hard time being part of a team where everything is structured and highly systematized. Determining if the members of the team have a value fit is important to the team’s effectiveness.

Complementary Skills

The third essential is ensuring the team has a complementary set of diverse skills. Each member understands why they are a part of the team, and what skills they bring to the project. The skill sets are complementary with each part contributing something of value. Ineffective teams happen because they often have one or two people carrying the load, which breeds stress, resentment, missed deliverables, and conflict in the team. Making sure that every member knows their role and has something of value to contribute makes for a more effective team.

These are the guidelines I use to decide if I am a good fit for a team or not. As noted, there is more to building an effective team than just the three elements mentioned here but remove any one of these and the effectiveness of the team can be severely hindered. Teamwork is here to stay, but not every team is a good fit. Make your choices wisely and be a part of something great.


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 The views and opinions expressed in this post are those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of the Greater Paterson OIC, its Board of Directors, or any other group or individual affiliated.

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The “Secret” of Success

Photo by Nour Chamoun

Countless books and articles have been written on the subject of success. Many of them entice readers by teasing that they have the “Secrets of Success”. However, if we are honest with ourselves, most of us would confess that we know what it takes to succeed in virtually any endeavor. There is no “secret” to success. While success does mean different things to different people, what it takes to achieve success is not a secret.

In this article, the working definition of success will be achieving the economic, family, health, relationships, and community goals you set for yourself.

In my work I often encounter people who are capable of achieving far more than they have and are living at levels below what is truly possible for them.

So, using our working definition, the question becomes: if we know what it takes to achieve success in life, why do some fail to achieve it? Generally, there are two essential things I have observed regarding this question.

First, to succeed at anything, you have to know what it is you want. The “just hanging in there: “going with the flow”; “taking it one day at a time” mentality is not a formula for achieving success. Time must be taken for reflection and getting to know who you are. It means becoming clear on what you like or dislike, determining the person you want you be, and defining in your own terms what you want out of life in each of the aforementioned categories. If you are content with where you are in life, stop reading. I am happy for you. But if not, this is something that needs to be done.

Second, and this is key. You must believe with all your heart, mind, and soul that success is possible for you. Without the belief that success is possible, everything else falls apart and you will never get beyond the dream state. The actions that we take, or do not take, stem from what we believe about ourselves and our possibilities.

There are all sorts of influences that will impact the development of your belief system; some good, some not so good. Odds are, if we are not where we want to be in life, and are not taking steps to change our conditions, the not so good ones are probably having the greater impact. It means we have accepted the belief that there is little we can do to change our current condition. This is referred to as a fixed mindset; accepting that “it is what it is – so let’s make the best of it.”

Here is a tip on how to determine if something is possible for you or not: You cannot consistently, with any serious heartfelt emotion, entertain the thought of something that is not possible for you. Sure, a thought can pop into our minds on what life would be like if, but it passes just as quickly as it comes, and there is no intense emotion connected to it. We know we are only dreaming.

On the other hand, anything that you consistently think about is possible. If the thoughts persist, if they keep coming back, and you feel something in your soul, if that thing will not leave you alone, it means it is possible for you to achieve. Only the false belief that you cannot make it happen is what holds you back. The challenge becomes finding a way to break through those false beliefs and begin the process of setting out to achieve your goals and achieving success in your own terms.

Breaking through limiting beliefs takes mental effort, commitment, and perseverance, but it can be done. Start by looking back over the course of your life and making note of any, and everything you have ever accomplished, no matter how big, or how small. We have all accomplished something, and if we take the time to do an inventory of those things, we will find that despite our limiting beliefs we have achieved more than we give ourselves credit for.

Next, start setting small daily goals for yourself. Decide on one thing, each day you intend to accomplish, just one thing. What category that one thing falls under is not important. Just determine what that one thing is each day.

Accomplishing 1 thing a day becomes 7 things a week, 30 things a month, 360 things a year, and ultimately the development of a new belief system built on past successes.

There is no secret to success. There are only those who are determined to succeed in spite of any odds, and those who are not. The choice is ours. It is a decision we all must make. Whichever way you choose, I wish you much success.


The views and opinions expressed in this post are those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of the Greater Paterson OIC, its Board of Directors, or any other group or individual affiliated.

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How to Engage in Positive Change

Image by John Hain

At the time of this post our country is in a very interesting place; a crossroads if you will. We are still in the midst of the COVID19 pandemic, but in addition to that, in reaction to the death of George Floyd at the hands of police, protest against systemic racism, police brutality, and social injustice are taking place not only in America, but around the world.

Each of these situations is changing “business as usual” in our society; the likes of which we have never seen and still cannot totally predict. I remain hopeful, and cautiously optimistic that at the very least, what will emerge will be a greater understanding of our connectedness to one another, and the building of a better world.

Each of us must decide what role we are going to play in making that happen. And yes, we all have a role. We all have our own unique set of skills and talents that we can use to contribute to building a better world. I believe that is why we are here.

While the success stories of African-Americans does not lead in mainstream media news, I have noticed through social media platforms that in the midst of everything that is going on, we are still pursuing our goals and dreams, and despite all the roadblocks and obstacles placed in our way, we are succeeding in accomplishing them.

I’ve seen stories of a mother and daughter who both graduated from medical school and are now serving in the same hospital; stories of first generation African- American young people graduating from and being accepted into law, business, medical and technology schools to name a few. There are stories of African Americans launching businesses of all types, while still engaging in the fight for equal opportunity, social justice, and an end to systemic racism. This speaks to incredible internal fortitude and demonstrates the faith in our ability to be as successful as any other group in whatever we set our minds to.

In the midst of this fight, one thing that we can all do, in spite of the obstacles placed in our way, is make the commitment to being the very best we can be in all we do. This too is a part of the fight for change. It is not about seeking anyone else’s approval, it is about lifting ourselves, our brothers and sisters, and the rest of humanity to bring about a better world. Fighting for justice is right! Fighting for positive change is right! Striving to be the best that you can be is right! None of these excludes the other.

The Kwanzaa principle of Kuumba/Creativity states “To do always as much as we can, in the way we can, in order to leave our community more beautiful and beneficial than we inherited it.”

In my role as an instructor and educator, I have recommitted to that principle. While all of us may not be able to get out and join street protests, applying this principle is something we all can do. My challenge to my brothers and sisters is to take some time to think about what gifts, talents, and skills you have that can contribute to enhancing the lives of others and making your community a better place. I implore you: do not just sit, watch, and talk about what is happening, get up, get out, and start making things happen.


The views and opinions expressed in this post are those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of the Greater Paterson OIC, its Board of Directors, or any other group or individual affiliated.

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Why Entrepreneurship Training Should be Included in Workforce Development

One of the most overlooked categories in Workforce Development, especially as it relates to low-income and underserved populations, is teaching the general principles of entrepreneurship. In this sector most services tend to lean towards employment training, adult basic education, English as a Second Language (ESL), along with standard job searching and resume development assistance.

These offerings are all needed and provide tremendous value. However, I believe in our current environment, and in light of the way the world of work is changing, entrepreneurship training should be added to the mix.

Many people, including those in these income brackets, have dreams of running their own business. This is not to say that after receiving training everyone is going to run out and start their own business.

Yes, it is entirely possible that it could happen for some, however, that is not the main reason for offering this training. Entrepreneurship training offers so much more in terms of the intangible “soft skills” that are integrated into the training. Having these skills would make those who may never start their own business much more attractive as employment candidates.

A good entrepreneurship training program would help participants develop essential skills – including but not limited to:

  • Decision-Making Skills
  • Increased Self-Awareness
  • Critical Thinking Skills
  • Time Management Skills
  • Leadership Skills
  • Problem Solving Skills
  • Innovation and Creativity Skills
  • Teamwork or Collaboration Skills
  • Financial Skills

These tools are critical for both the entrepreneur and the employee. If an individual is not interested in starting a business, possessing these skills along with an understanding of business in general makes them a far more attractive candidate for employment, and opens up a wider range of options for seeking employment.

Those who do desire to someday do their own thing will have a better understanding of business, and a firmer foundation on which to launch out and begin their endeavor.

We are in a new time. How work is being done has changed and these changes are here to stay. The “Gig” economy is growing, and an increasing number of people are seeking ways to generate additional revenue. Providing entrepreneurship to low-income and underserved populations will give them a fighting chance to participate in this new economy and this new world of work.

I am hoping that Workforce Investment Boards and County One-Stops will recognize the value for this type of training and add it to the mix of those services already being provided.

One can only hope.

The views and opinions expressed in this post are those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of the Greater Paterson OIC, its Board of Directors or any other group or individual affiliated.

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Preparing for the Post-Pandemic World of Work

There are few people who would deny that the COVID19 pandemic has changed our lives in dramatic and profound ways. One of those changes in particular is in the employment sector. I am deeply saddened by the millions of people who have been forced to file for unemployment as a direct result of this pandemic.

As one who works in workforce development, this area is of great concern to me. One thing I feel very strongly about is that the post-pandemic world of work is going to change in dramatic ways, primarily in the telecommute space. The ways in which many businesses have had to adapt and change the way they do business along with the work from home explosion that this pandemic caused will have enduring effects on business and the workforce.

Remote collaboration services like Zoom, Microsoft Teams, and Slack to name a few already existed, however, their growth exploded exponentially after the pandemic hit, and they have now become regular tools in a wide variety of industries. The benefits of working from home are now being experienced by a wider number of employees and employers alike, and things will never be the same. Just a few of these benefits include but are not limited to:

  • Flexibility for employees leading to better employee satisfaction
  • Increased productivity
  • Cost savings in building expenses
  • Reduced absenteeism
  • Reduced use of gas and commuting fees
  • Benefits to the environment

I am convinced that after experiencing these benefits, more employees will request (and more companies will adapt) telecommuting aka, working from home as a standard way of operating. I seems the 3:2 (3 days home, 2 days on site) ratio is the sweet spot. Individuals entering the workforce will have to be prepared for this.

Low-income and underserved populations who often lack the tools and skills required for these changes need to be prepared for this. At the Greater Paterson OIC, we are adapting our workforce training programs to better prepare our students for this new world of work.

In addition to learning how to use the technology tools required for this new world, we are developing ways to build the “soft skills” that employers will be looking for. Some of the skills we think are important include:

  • Problem Solving
  • Creativity
  • Innovation
  • Critical Thinking
  • Business Literacy and Entrepreneurship
  • Technology Literacy
  • Time Management and Task Prioritization
  • Verbal and Written Communication Skills
  • Teamwork and Collaboration

We are excited about the challenges that lie before us in empowering our students to be ready to succeed in this new world in both their personal and professional lives. We all have to prepare ourselves for the new experiences and new ways of doing things. This is just one of the steps we are taking. I am certain that this is just the start. Adapt a growth mindset and get ready to roll.

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OIC of Greater Paterson is a non-profit community- based organization that has been meeting the needs of the economically disadvantaged individuals throughout the community. 


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