“F… the team!“
Does that shock you? About 10 years ago, a trusted advisor said this! Lawrence Polsky, my business partner, and I had just disclosed to her that we were refocusing our leadership and change management practice from individuals to teams. She didn’t think that teams were as critical as individuals to business success. And a lot of leaders think that way.
Why don’t people appreciate teamwork? Well, it makes sense, in a way. We have technology, we have resources, we can collaborate virtually peer to peer, so why work in a team? Collaboration is difficult. But it is the key ingredient to success.
School success was once defined by individual achievements. But more and more, assignments are given to groups of students, who get a grade for their collective work. Lawrence’s daughter, newly arrived at college, had adjusted well and was exceedingly happy in her new environment. There’s only one thing she complained about: the people in her assigned work group. Apparently, some were not stepping up to the plate; they were not living up to the standards of a well-performing team. Their slack work practices were dragging down her grade, and she was sure she would get a much better grade if she was judged individually! If you remember your time at university, or if you have a child in college, you may have experienced similar situations.
It’s been more than 15 years since the EQ concept reformed the business world (and others). It’s made single-perspective MBTI, DISC, and other personality and collaboration assessments irrelevant. EQ is about relationships, managing your emotions when collaborating with others, and driving yourself to do your best. That leads to the best team — and individual! — performance. But getting there can be challenging.
In spite of more and more team assignments, the individual academic specialty in college still has priority. We feel comfortable with finance, engineering, law, medicine, sales, etc. but teamwork, team dynamic, and interpersonal collaboration puts us outside our comfort zone. This is why we started doing research and developed a scientifically validated collaboration diagnostic.* It shows that there are 5 dimensions which make a critical difference for success. They are:
ALIGN: Strengthen alignment of mission, goals, roles, and responsibilities.
ACT: Create a culture of accountability.
COMMUNICATE: Establish open and productive meetings and communication channels.
RELATE: Build a supportive community that celebrates success and proactively helps others.
IMPROVE: Resolve conflict positively and promote self and team improvement.
And, in spite of our advisor’s reaction, we have focused on teams, considering everything, the good, the bad and the ugly! Addressing team issues and tapping into its full resources pays huge dividends. For all of us at Teams of Distinction, seeing the progress of the customer organizations we have worked with thankfully has come with success, but equally important, with significant individual satisfaction.
Have trusted advisors, but at the same time, follow what you believe in, trust your instincts, and build in your passions. If you want your people to identify with the team, explore the five dimensions mentioned above, and you’ll find things improving.
* To validate the model, data was collected from a total of 577 professionals. The reliability coefficient ranged from .84 to .98, indicating a very strong and reliable model. Validation reports available upon request.