The vast majority of us, at some time in our lives, have been involved with a team; perhaps a sports team, a musical group, the cast of a play, or a project team at work. Whether we were aware of it or not, we have probably learned the value of teamwork.
“Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much.” – Helen Keller (American Author)
4 unique human endowments
In his book 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, Stephen Covey calls his sixth ‘habit’ – Synergize – “the miracle habit”.
The dictionary defines it as combining or coordinating the activity of two or more people to produce a joint effect greater than the sum of their separate effects).
Covey says: “…the highest forms of synergy focus the four unique human endowments of self-awareness, conscience, independent will, and creative imagination. … What results is almost miraculous! We create new alternatives – something that wasn’t there before.”
I like to think that with an effective team, we can achieve more with the same amount of effort. Sounds appealing, doesn’t it?
Covey defines synergy as: “…producing a third alternative – not my way, not your way, but a third way that is better than either of us would come up with individually. It’s the fruit of mutual respect – of understanding and even celebrating one another’s differences in solving problems, seizing opportunities. Synergistic teams and families thrive on individual strengths so that the whole becomes greater than the sum of the parts. Such relationships renounce defensive adversarialism (1+1=1/2). They don’t settle on compromise (1+1= 1 ½ or merely cooperation (1+1=2). They go for creative cooperation (1+1=3 or more).”
“Talent wins games, but teamwork and intelligence win championships.” – Michael Jordan (the most talented basketball player of all time)
So, how do we go about creating an effective team?
Creating a Team
After the recognition that we can be more productive working with others, we can move forward to set-up a team. We can start with a complex project charter and create detailed team definitions, or we can keep things simple, have a meeting, and agree on the objective. No matter how complex the project or the size of the team, spend a little time to define the following: –
- Project goals
- Ground rules
- Individual roles
Normally, at the start, everyone is excited, and on good terms. Whether we are forming the team to win a football competition, install a new production line, increase sales by 50%, or design a new logo, everyone should be aligned with a common objective, recognise the purpose and be highly motivated!
“If everyone is moving forward together, then success takes care of itself.” – Henry Ford (Industrial pioneer)
Team development process
Bruce Tuckman’s model proposes that all 5 phases are necessary and inevitable for a team to grow, to face up to challenges, to tackle problems, to find solutions, to plan work, and to deliver results. These phases are:
Still the model is valid today, and generally teams must go through each phase before reaching that high efficiency that we all strive for!
“When we all help one another, everybody wins.” – Jim Stovall (Writer)
There are a few things we can consider to get us through that storming phase as quick as possible, and moving on into a functional and performing team.
From Storming to Norming
Being in a team is like being in a relationship.
After forming the team, we then start working together. The initial feelings of excitement can wear off and reality kicks-in! We can become aware of other people’s characters and traits, and that can be difficult. Personalities may clash. Team members might disagree over how to complete a task or voice their concerns if they feel that someone isn’t pulling their weight. They may even question the authority or guidance of group leaders.
It is important to remember that most teams experience conflict. Disagreements are normal.
Some teams try and skip over the storming stage or avoid conflict at whatever cost. Avoidance usually makes the problem grow until it blows up. So, it’s important to recognize conflicts and resolve them as early as possible.
It’s also important to remember that we are all different! And also, Strength lies in differences, not in similarities. When we accept the fact that “other people” are different, and have a better understanding of those differences, then it becomes easier to manage the stresses and anxieties that can so often fuel the fire when conflict arises. I encourage you to spend some time to understand the characters in your team.
- What motivates them?
- What stresses them?
Practice and develop your “Cognitive empathy” – which is about our ability to identify and understand other people’s emotions. Listen to your team members! Listening and open communication are perhaps the most important skills which should be fostered in your team.
“We think we listen, but very rarely do we listen with real understanding, true empathy. Yet listening, of this very special kind, is one of the most potent forces for change that I know.” – Carl Rogers (Psychologist)
Team Building Exercise
The team building process is constant and progressive. But to accelerate the forming process, it’s good to take a little time away from that all important project, and do something a little bit different. As well as further motivating the team, it can also improve team dynamics, communication and productivity!
- Get everyone to take a personality test: Myers-briggs or Enneagram. There are plenty of free tests on-line.
- Arrange a meeting, where everyone has 10-15 minutes to presents their own personality.
- What am I like…?
- What are my traits?
- What motivates me?
- What stresses me?
Everyone becomes a little more aware of who they are, and their own character. But, more importantly, they learn about their team members. Through understanding, we can take steps to improve ourselves as well as utilise each other’s skills and capabilities, for the benefit of the team!
“True greatness will be achieved through the abundant mind that works selflessly – with mutual respect, for mutual benefit.” – Stephen R. Covey (Educator, Author, Businessman, and Keynote Speaker)
Effective collaboration is the key to build a high-performing team. However, this seemingly simple principal is often easier said than done. Constructing a cohesive team that can work together in harmony is not an easy feat. If you want to build and sustain a high-performing team, learn from the four tips that I list below, to cultivate a collaborative environment in your workplace. But, first, start with self-awareness.
Start with self-awareness
As well as understanding the other team members, take one step backwards! How many times have you heard “it all starts with self-awareness”? Take a look at yourself.
We all differ in our thinking skills, and we all have different personalities and character.
Certainly, as a young engineer, I didn’t spend too much time thinking about character assessment or psychology. I just tried to find a way with colleagues with my own collaborative approach – forming relationships with compromise, consideration, acceptance. Understanding yourself is the start of understanding other people.
When we understand other people, we can make allowances for their deficiencies, and make use of their talents! After all, we all have our strengths and weaknesses – don’t we? We must put own egos to one side and focus on the what the team is trying to achieve.
“Teamwork is the ability to work together toward a common vision.” – Andrew Carnegie (Industrialist)
4 Tips on how to form a good-team
Make sure that the team is aligned with the same mission. Write it down, as a team! Everyone should understand the objective, when it needs to be delivered, and what the benefits are. If everyone is aligned, then there is a higher chance that the team is going to succeed.
2. ROLES AND RESPONSIBILITIES
Make sure that everyone is aware of their roles and responsibilities. Setting measurable goals with a solid timeline will help team members to stay on track and hit their objectives on-time. It will also avoid misunderstandings and prevent double work if there is a good understanding of what each team-member is doing.
Each person within a team possesses a unique character, distinctive skills, experience, and ideas. Diversity can be very powerful to enrich the team’s perspectives. Spend time to understand the characters and personality traits of the team members. Make a team building exercise like the one described in this article, or customise your own. Managers can identify team members characters and key strengths, and find out the best way to accommodate them. Team members will understand each other better, empathise and utlise each other’s skills and capabilities.
Keep talking! Open communication is the key to good teamwork. Without clear communication, misunderstandings are likely to happen. With so many collaborative tools available in these times, then there is no reason or excuse not to communicate. Define the communication tools and methods for the team – and use them. Without good communication, the team is going nowhere.
Whether we are starting a new team or working with an established one, whether we are starting a new project or having difficulty keeping an existing one on track, it is never too late to try to put these principles into practice.
One final quote from Stephen R. Covey…
“The key is in not spending time, but in investing it.”
Invest a little time in forming the team in the first place, and the benefits will be evident when the team starts performing!