Who Is on Your Team?
What was the last team you were on that performed at a high level?
Everyone has a story about a high-performing team. The experience is palatable – you remember your specific role, the leader, how the team communicated, how the work was allocated, how the team responded to mistakes and, most importantly, the results. The same holds true when we think about our least-effective team. That experience is often just as memorable, if not more so. While we enjoy working on great teams, poor performing ones can make an experience truly difficult.
It’s no reason that companies cite teamwork as a competitive advantage, when done correctly. Recently, we began working with a client to build communication across their organization. As our engagement and talks developed, it became clear that the business’ operations were more interdependent than the company employees imagined. Based on a host of factors, employees envisioned themselves as individual producers, rather than a more holistic team working toward a single goal. In short, employees were not thinking about themselves as being on teams outside their immediate coworkers.
Oftentimes when companies talk of communication breakdowns or inefficiencies in workflow, they describe teamwork – a group of individuals working toward a common goal. And while our experiences with great teams are profound, we often overlook some of the key attributes to both recognizing and building teams.
- Identify Your Teams
Often, we don’t even realize we function as part of a team. A patient and a doctor are part of an informal team. The doctor needs the patient to provide accurate information and comply with instructions. The patient needs the doctor to provide the most accurate and reasonable diagnosis and treatment. If one of the team members fails in their role, the entire engagement loses focus and effectiveness.
Our organizations are no different. Each employee exists in a series of team relationships, some more structured than others. Simply identifying the people you need something from to complete your role or who depend on you to do their jobs, breaks crucial ground in developing high-functioning teams. Once employees identify the dynamic, it’s easier to apply some of the tools of high-functioning teams.
- Identify the Obstacles
Identifying specific obstacles of great teamwork sets the stage. Fundamentally, distance, geography and time can significantly impact the ability for teams to work together. More specifically, the different roles of team members can create a more complex hinderance.
Consider a production manager and lead sales representative trying to ensure a product is delivered to a client on time. Each might think, “if he would just do his job, we would get this out on time.” Neither fully understands the others’ role but believes the other should inherently know the challenges. Getting team members into each others’ world, to fully understand their jobs, creates greater understanding of the common goal. In highly-functioning teams, everyone understands their own role, as well as others’.
- Identify a Clear Mission
The highest-functioning teams have a specific and clearly-defined mission. Generally, a mission states the team’s purpose for existence. More specifically, the team’s mission might identify critical success factors and the benefit and contribution to the organization.
A team without a clear mission is obvious to outside observers. Consider a group tasked with acquisition and implementation of a new IT system. On the face, the mission appears clear. However, the technical people might focus on finding the most relevant technical solution, while the members from operations might seek ease of use. Both are valuable elements to a mission and help make clear why the team exists. Teams with clear missions help prevent competing interests and keep members aligned toward an amazing final product.