“Not finance. Not strategy. Not technology. It is teamwork that remains the ultimate competitive advantage, both because it is so powerful and so rare” – quotes Patrick Lencioni in his New York Times bestseller “5 dysfunctions of a team.
Why thought leaders give tremendous weightage to teamwork in an organizational setup? If it is so important, then why it is rare to find?
Well to begin with it’s because of our limited perspectives when it comes to teamwork and the importance of teams. We presume skilled individuals will combine to produce skilled performance in the same way we presume two plus two combines to produce four.
This is not what collaboration is. Collaboration is when the result is greater than the sum of the parts. 2 + 2 can be 8. Not in mathematics but it is possible to achieve collaboration at the workplace by creating highly effective teams.
With today’s complex business processes no entrepreneur, leader, manager, or anyone for that matter can do it individually. You can be alone to go fast and be together with people to go far. This blog is my attempt to optimize your collaborative journey.
If you are someone who wants to go far, then continue reading as I list down 5 habits of highly effective teams (I will call them HET from now on). After every habit, there is an assessment question. Answer it genuinely to unfold the current reality of your team concerning high performance.
Let us begin.
Driven by a Purpose
HET (Highly Effective Teams) is driven by purpose. The purpose is different from generating profit, making money, or just winning. I am talking about something bigger than that.
It can be explained as their “Why” or “Just Cause” which fuels every action they take. Profit or winning becomes the outcome of their purpose. Usually, this purpose is known as the “Vision” of the organization in the corporate setup.
HET believes in its purpose and creates milestones/goals towards its fulfillment. These milestones and goals are their tangible time-bound performance results.
Every team member in HET focuses on collective performance results rather than induvial status & ego. “I have done my part” does not appear in HET. Fights over credits are rare. The core belief of “We over me” inspires everyone to give their best in their capacity.
Everyone is hungry for contributing to achieving the bigger picture rather than getting satisfied on a small individual pie. Challenges are embraced as the complete attention is only on desired team objectives.
Everyone from HET (Highly Effective Teams) knows in which direction they are heading. On a scale of 1 to 10 – 1 being the lowest and 10 being the highest – rate your team for knowing their purpose and understanding current performance results.
Yes, you read that right. The word is indeed vulnerable. HET (Highly Effective Teams) members are comfortable sharing their weaknesses, skill deficiencies, interpersonal shortcomings, and mistakes with each other. They feel psychologically safe to being exposed.
Usually, it is difficult for everyone to be vulnerable as we have learned to become competitive & being protective of our reputation. HET breaks this barrier and goes beyond that. The secret sauce here is Trust.
Trusting each other encourages everyone to be open and share their respective vulnerabilities. Since the attention is on collective performance results, any individual weakness becomes the team’s weakness. Working in silos is not something you see in HET.
Some of the signs that members are sharing vulnerabilities are – Asking for help, giving each other the benefit of the doubt before concluding, accepting questions & inputs, Appreciate & tap into each other’s skills and experience, Considering feedback as feed-forward, etc.
On a scale of 1 to 10 – 1 being the lowest and 10 being the highest – rate your team for trusting each other with vulnerabilities.
Engaging in Conflicts
If you are thinking about how conflicts can be engaging & productive then most probably you have not come across any HET. HET believes conflicts are productive and it is a must to grow. They do not fear it and constantly engage in conflicts to make decisions.
In any team every team member is unique and it’s natural for everyone to come up with different ideas. HET extracts and exploits ideas from all of them. Different perspectives are discussed even if topics are critical and controversial. Average teams ignore such topics even If they are critical to team success but not HET.
Engaging in conflicts prevents back-channel politics and personal attacks. It saves time as it is utilized for quick decision-making rather than solving interpersonal ego and status problems.
When teams are not debating, expressing their opinions, and agreeing to any decision by authority blindly with a smile; it is an indicator of artificial harmony. A surface illusion of everything is fine when it is critical.
Artificial harmony is absent in HET and engaging conflicts are constantly seen. On a scale of 1 to 10 – 1 being the lowest and 10 being the highest – rate your team for engaging in conflicts with each other.
As simple as it seems, the commitment habit is difficult to develop. Let me try to define commitment for you first. In team set up.
Commitment is a function of clarity of adjectives and buy-in from every team member even if they were against the final decision in the initial discussion. Lack of commitment is the enemy of decision-making.
In HET, everyone commits to the decision. Some of the signs that members are being committed are – Having no ambiguity about the direction and priorities, having no fear of failure, developing abilities to learn from mistakes, taking advantage of opportunities, Pivoting without guilt, etc.
Commitment translates into leveraging complementary skills of each other. On a scale of 1 to 10 – 1 being the lowest and 10 being the highest – rate your team for being committed towards the current goal.
Big word, right? Not for HET as they live this word in & out. Being accountable for self and for every team member makes any team high performing. This reflects keeping ambitious standards for each other.
In simple words, accountability boils down to the willingness of team members to call their peers on performance & behavior that might hurt the team. Mediocrity is not tolerated.
Fear of letting teammates down motivates people in HET. A lot of thought leaders agree that the most effective and efficient means for maintaining high performance is peer pressure.
Do not get me wrong here. I am not talking about competition. I am talking about having elevated expectations from your team members.
Accountability is triggered by taking ownership. On a scale of 1 to 10 – 1 being the lowest and 10 being the highest – rate your team for taking accountability & ownership.
Before we go and calculate your final rating by adding all individual ratings you have given to each habit, let me tell you an interesting fact.
All 5 habits are interdependent.
No team can become HET by developing just 1 or 2 habits listed above.
It is a complete cycle. If teams are not driven by purpose and do not know their performance results, then what they will commit to?
If they do not commit themselves to results, why & how are they going to discuss & brainstorm ideas?
If there are no real discussions and decisions, then we really have anything and anyone to hold accountable for.
The question of being vulnerable is I believe far away on another planet altogether.
It is always the integrated approach and not the individual approach.
Now let us talk about your final ratings.
If the rating is above 40 then pat yourself on the back and pass it on to every team member. With a little more focus on team building, you can do even better. You can use in-person or virtual team-building activities as tools.
If the rating is between 25 to 40, then the team is in a tricky position. You are not the best but better than a lot of teams. The problem is being average is acceptable to many as you can compare your team with low performing teams and feel high performing. Do not be under this illusion. Take conscious action and organize learning & development programs for your team.
If your score is below 25 then you should quickly realize that training & development is your topmost priority as your team is in overly critical condition. You can confirm it by evaluating your performance results. Contact management consultants quickly for better results.
2 more thought-provoking inputs for you.
Is it really required for all working groups to become a Team?
HET is incomplete without strong leadership and team members focusing on continuous personal development. While reading if you thought, something is missing then this might be your missing link.
I am going to write more about the above points in upcoming articles.
Feel free to leave your comments/thoughts/inputs about the article and additional inputs.
Unlock your hidden potential!