Team success in 6 steps
1+ 1= 3!?
A team is greater than the sum of its parts, together you reach more than alone, the difference between success and failure is a great team…
… you doing all the work last minute because your team members didn’t live up to the agreement but they magically sell it to your boss the next day as if they pulled the all-nighter, meetings in which ego is more important than content and the one who shouts the loudest wins, or those in which long minutes are made without any action or follow up.
We have all heard the mantra that teamwork enables us to accomplish more than we individually ever dared to dream of. Yet there is a dark side to teamwork that is insufficiently addressed. No, let me rephrase that: while it has made its way into textbooks and articles in the past years, the question of how to successfully tackle the traps of teamwork still remains.
So gear up and get ready for some practical tips that will turn your nightmare teamwork into a dream come true.
We will focus on 6 key points:
The trap of many teams is that they want to jump into action too quickly. But if you want to complete a journey successfully, you first need to know where you are heading, who is with you and which talents they have, before you determine the best route to take. It would be rather unfortunate to get shipwrecked at sea with only half the crew focusing on survival and the other half unable to swim.
Instead of diving directly into the content, it is therefore wise to establish and achieve consensus on the overarching goal (it might take longer now but your patience will be rewarded later on) as well as to gain insight into the competencies, limitations and added value of every team member in order to assign the right roles and tasks.
In order to finalize the project, you need a crystal clear view on what success looks like (goal and desired output), otherwise you run the risk of getting lost in the process. Focusing on the match between the necessary competencies/profiles and actual skills at hand can also prevent the curse of only those with the biggest mouth becoming the captain of your crew.
The concept of heterogeneity also comes into play here. While it is often less tiresome to work with people who think and act like you, it can also become your Achilles heel. 1 + 1= 3 is only true within a diverse team. We shouldn’t forget, that friction ultimately creates energy. Therefore, increasing the diversity of team members (age, experience, expertise, gender, behavioural preference etc.) is what allows you to analyse and tackle a problem from many different angles in order to see the bigger picture and find the approach that works.
Many teams run up against several obstacles: group think, ineffective team meetings where time is wasted on unimportant details, conflicts between team members or piggybacking.
What can help a team to work together more effectively is to start by defining clear behavioural rules and principles. This way, it is easier to give each other feedback and realign in case one of the team members’ behaviour has gone off track.
Additionally, an impactful tool is to differentiate between the goal and the way towards the goal. Each individual is most interested and enthusiastic about their own ideas. If a team member or manager can tap into this knowledge by providing clear direction on the goal and the expected output but leaving freedom to fill in the path (many ways lead to Rome), they can unleash unknown amounts of energy and creativity. However, this does require letting go of the thought that we ourselves are the only brilliant mastermind (as hard as it may be), and switching from “I propose that…” to “What do you propose?”
Finally, setting clear agendas and asking for written preparation on the agenda points before a meeting can make the difference between success and failure. By asking for preparation upfront, the leader of the meeting can increase focus and engagement and this gives introvert team members the chance to contribute equally. And forget lengthy minutes of every sound and movement made within the meeting. Instead, make action points in which you determine the action agreed upon, the person responsible and the deadline. This is how you can easily track your progress.
Many teams don’t take the time to stand still occasionally because they feel that time is running away. Yet sometimes you should take a short pause to reflect on what has been achieved so far and where to head now. Afterwards you accelerate again so that you can close the project successfully on time.
Setting a clear end goal and defining success in a SMART way is one important part of success. Another crucial thing to move a project along in a timely manner with high quality output is continuous evaluation. Evaluating what is going well and what can be improved at regular intervals allows your team to constantly reach the next level of performance; it also creates a balance between celebrating successes and being aware of gaps and developments points. The motto is: building on strengths to overcome challenges in the future, both within and between projects.
With these key points in mind, your team will row the boat home in no time.
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