The old cliché states that there is no “i” in team. But if your company wants to develop an effective ESOP Committee, it’s time to put some “i’s” in there.

Contrary to the spelling rules of modern English, there are six i’s in a successful ESOP Committee’s team. No matter whether you’re starting, recharging or revamping your Committee, turning your team onto these six i’s will lead it to success.

#1: Involvement in design

It’s crucial that management be involved in the committee’s design and agree on the reasons for having an ESOP Committee. Ask yourself: what is its function? How will it accomplish that function? What would we like it to accomplish in three-to-five years? Don’t just ask these questions once; integrate them into your annual planning process. That will “force” you to continue measuring the team’s effectiveness.

#2: Identify the playing field

During the design process, leaders define the playing field for the ESOP Committee (i.e. will it focus on education, communication, problem solving, administration, all of these? If you said all these, think again, because that’s too much). Clarity of purpose allows the committee to flesh out its vision and mission within a clear framework. There’s no surer way to having an inept, irrelevant, ESOP Committee than for management to be uninvolved in its direction or to have disagreement about its role. While you’re at it, remember to inform supervisors of the initiative and the reasons for it.

#3: Integrity in the selection process

Effective ESOP Committees gain their peers’ respect and have the integrity to “tell us the ‘real’ truth.” Integrity starts with assembling a committee that broadly represents your firm in terms of ethnicity, gender, race and seniority as well as getting members from various functional areas of the company. How many members should you have? Five to nine is ideal for most teams.

Once you define the ideal composition, management needs to implement a selection strategy. Should you nominate, ask for volunteers, have people vote or use a third-party to interview candidates? In practice, all these work. What is most important is that the approach is the right fit for your company’s culture: ignoring your culture can lead to a committee implosion. No matter how selection is implemented, credibility is the key. People can learn skills and knowledge; they earn credibility. Selecting credible members provides the committee with integrity.

#4: Independence & interdependence

As the committee works to accomplish its tasks, leaders walk the independence versus interdependence tightrope. Too much management involvement will hamper the committee’s effectiveness as will too little. It’s a delicate balance because it’s in constant flux, but the rewards are worth the effort. Managers need to be ready to provide guidance and support to the team – acting like good coaches while leaving the actual doing to the Committee.

Once the ESOP Committee has developes its vision, mission and goals (and those should be its initial tasks), it needs the independence to accomplish its goals. What does that imply? A concrete budget that reflects concrete plans, yes. Clear annual goals, of course. Time to do its work, you bet.

Educating itself is where the committee ought to start. To do this, it needs the ability to bring in expertise. It may be the CFO explaining the company’s business, HR reviewing the ESOP summary plan description or outside professionals with experience building effective committees, explaining ESOP intricacies in laymen’s terms, educating groups on team dynamics or demystifying the complexities of the stock valuation process.

#5: Initiative & ingenuity

Committees take initiative by avoiding willy-nilly action. How? Doing practical activities that reach specific goals. The committee’s mission must support the company’s strategic goals. Sounds simple, but with customers calling and orders piling up , it can be difficult to stay focused.

ESOP Committees have done just about everything from “word jumbles” and scavenger hunts to peer-to-peer education programs and delivery of sophisticated presentations on ESOP mechanics, rights and responsibilities of ownership and understanding your ESOP statement. Successful committees harness all members’ creativity and ingenuity to balance fun, community-building events with education to avoid becoming the “party” committee.

Ultimately, the committee needs to send the same message through multiple channels in numerous creative ways. It’s competing with advertising and people’s email-and-text-message saturated attention spans (e.g., a message beyond one screen, don’t have time for that). Use those short spans to your benefit, not detriment. Remember: education is a long-term investment, not something that happens with one “great” event.

#6: Invest time in evaluation for improvement

High-functioning teams carefully evaluate their activities. Without evaluation, committees cheat themselves out of a chance to improve. Great football teams — like, ahem, the Cleveland Browns — watch the game films, so should great ESOP Committees.

How? By asking simple questions, including: did this activity/event help us meet our goals? Are we on track in regards with our plan for the year? What went well with our event? What could be improved?

Successful teams recognize what worked and integrate those factors into their next event. They use tools to garner their peers’ opinions of their efforts. Seek the positive as well as the negative; don’t make the mistake of focusing on the negative only.

Investing the time to implement these “i’s” will improve your team’s effectiveness. You may still argue that there’s no “i” in team, but there’s definitely one in effective and another in ESOP Committee.

Workplace Development provides coaching, education, guidance and tools to ESOP Committes nationwide. We help you to use our field tested committee development process to ensure that you stay on track. Please contact Jim Bado at 419-427-4235 or for help enhancing the impact of your ESOP committee.