I don’t use the word “team” loosely. It is entirely different than work group, department, or any other description used for people who work next to one another. Literally or figuratively. Being part of a team connotes more than connected workflows. It’s about sharing a common mission, the selfless pursuit of goals, and the acceptance of roles that mean more to the result than they do to the individuals contributing to them.
That said – team harmony isn’t a given, even when well-meaning people have the right idea of “team” in mind. Conflict can (perhaps even should) occur. Each team is a unique mix. The dynamics created based on the predisposition and behaviors of the team-members can cause rifts, or worse. But with an individual sense of self-awareness – and an awareness of others on the team – every team can transcend the sum of its parts to reach heights no work group or department could ever hope to reach.
Here is a 4‑Step Starter Kit for Team Optimization
Step One: Gain an Understanding – Each team member is motivated, positively or negatively, by the undercurrent of the team behavior. But success begins from within. When each team member has a greater understanding of their own proclivities and preferences; how quickly they prefer to make decisions, the depth of their personal connection to other team members, their likely reactions to common team stress – and combine that with the a similar knowledge of their team members – the sooner they will know when to push, when to hold back, and when to engage.
Step Two: Coming to Consensus – Most teams work with a nebulous mission and vision. Those are words commonly relegated to executive planning sessions, but they mean just as much to teams as they do to the organization as a whole. Teams that truly share a common mission go to bat for one another. They move towards goals with the same non-negotiable measures and behaviors in mind. When team members value different ideals, and act on them, the team acts like a ship with no rudder – sliding aimlessly from one to another. By committing to a team mission you agree to make team decisions not only with the same long-term target in mind, but the same path as well.
Step Three: Avoiding the Negative – As I mentioned, teams will have conflict. But teams that adamantly avoid specific negative traits and behaviors have a huge advantage. By determining the negative traits to be avoided, for example; Being Pushy, or Indecisive, or Reactive, you can then determine what behaviors would constitute an infraction. Again, an example: A behavior of being Reactive may be to re-prioritize a critical long-term project several times in order to “put out fires”. When these behaviors are properly identified you will have a graphable measure, literally, of how often they are happening. If you could remove the most harmful commonly repeated team infractions, how much productivity do you think that may add?
Step Four: Becoming Personally Accountable – Now the hard part. Each team member should take time to think of the first three steps as they pertain to themselves, and document their own personal impact. It is always easier to advise others than it is to make changes in yourself, but if you are to become an optimal team there are 4 questions to openly answer.
If we are to become a great team:
- What am I not currently doing, that I need to begin doing right away?
- What do I need to stop doing today?
- What do I do well that I need to assert and leverage more often?
- What could benefit the team if I did less of?