you start doing anything at all with another person, you've established a team.
Begin a conversation, pick up the phone, brainstorm an idea and you're in
with Your Ability to Relate
Every possibility, from landing the
contract to the romantic evening hinges on your ability to relate. But neither
profit nor pleasure are the primary motivation for teamwork. Productive
teamwork moves you toward challenge, through change, with more confidence.
Working well on any team generates energy and enthusiasm for life.
Some are More Skilled than
ability is learned. You do not need complex interaction formulas. You don't
have to be easy-going, well-educated, hard-nosed, or even especially
intelligent to build a team. You don't have to be anything other than yourself.
You can be effective with people using common sense and a few fundamental
means being able to excite the team with large, desired outcomes.
Large outcomes mean devising goals
that attract missionaries. The first step in vision is to project such a goal.
This goal must be bigger than a pay check. It must contain challenge, appeal to
personal pride, and provide an opportunity to make a difference and know it.
Then the goal can become a powerful vision.
Next, team leaders position the goal by
picturing success. Initial questions might be, "What will it look like when we
get there?", "What will success be like, feel like?," "How will others know?"
When a large, missionary-friendly goal has been pictured and clearly
communicated, the vision is complete.
Commitment can be a dangerous concept
because of its attendant assumptions. Some may assume, for example, that
commitment means long hours, while to others it may mean productivity. When
expectations are defined, success rates soar. When leaders assume that everyone
"should" be committed, as a matter of course, we overlook the difficulties many
have with certain commitments.
If people cannot initially commit, it
doesn't mean they don't care. More often, it means they do care, and they are
caught up in a process of doubt. This process precedes every meaningful
commitment. Effective leaders catalyze this process, so that the critical mass
of people can pass through this stage efficiently on their way to genuine
commitment and innovative strategies.
This pre-commitment process is the same
for team leaders and members. When we ponder a new commitment, we climb up to a
kind of mental diving board. Commitments contain unknowns, and some warn of
possible failure. It is common for people to neither jump nor climb back down
the "ladder," but rather to stay stuck at the end of the board, immobilized in
pros, cons, obstacles, and worries. In this state of mind, the obstacles begin
to rule, obscuring the vision, blunting motivation.
When leaders do not understand the
commitment process they tend to seek accountability without providing support.
Without a means to process doubts and fears, people often feel pressured to
commit, but can't. One option, often unconscious, is to pretend to commit, to
say "yes" and mean "maybe" at best. The pretended commitment is a form of
wholly unnecessary corporate madness.
The solution to this set of problems is
two fold: establish an atmosphere of trust, and within that atmosphere
the antidote to the fears and risks attendant to meaningful commitment. Trust
means confidence in team leadership and vision. When trust prevails, team
members are more willing to go through a difficult process, supported through
ups, downs, risk and potential loss.
Trust is most efficiently established
when leadership commits to vision first, and everyone knows those commitments
are genuine. The process for leaders to commit is the same as for everyone
else: assess pre-commitment doubts, questions, unknowns and fears. This
involves three simple steps:
List the unknowns.
Assess worst case scenarios and their survivability.
Research the unknowns.
The list of unknowns reveals some
answers and further questions. Some of these questions lend themselves to
research (others' experience, a small pilot plan), and some have no apparent
answers from our pre-commitment position. These latter comprise the bottom line
or irreducible risk. We learn the outcome only after commitment. Every major
commitment contains some irreducible risk, some lingering unknowns. We
therefore make every major commitment in at least partial ignorance.
Leadership now understands the
potential loss and gain involved in the new vision. At this point, leadership
can commit itself, and prepare to include other team members. That preparation
must include a plan for leadership to share visibly both risk and reward with
the other team members who will be coming on board.
With leadership's commitment to a clear
vision, and a genuine plan to share risks and rewards, the atmosphere for trust
is in place. We are now ready to include others in our team effort.
Inclusion means getting others to commit to the team effort, helping
others through their "diving board doubts" to genuine commitment. Since leaders
now understand this process first hand, we need only communicate with the
potential team members to complete inclusion.
The best setting to obtain buy-in and
build trust is in small groups that facilitate thorough give and take. The
basic tasks are to communicate the vision, make sure it is understood,
communicate leadership's commitment (including sharing risk and reward, and
how), and elicit and address peoples' doubts.
Leaders will need three communication
skills to achieve inclusion. These are the non-assumptive question, good
listening, and directed response.
1. Non-assumptive questions ("What do you
think?", "Can you tell me what is happening with this report?") invite real
answers because they are inclusive, not intrusive. Questions containing
assumptions ("Why are you skeptical?", "Why is this report so incomplete?")
invite defensiveness. When converting an atmosphere of change and possibly
skepticism to trust, added defensiveness is counter-productive.
2. Listening means separating the process of
taking in information from the process of judging it. Kept separate, both
processes are valuable. Mixed, especially when the receiver is a designated
leader, the sender is invited to stop communicating or to change the message
3. Directed response. Effective team leaders
demonstrate responsiveness. Since leaders have already processed their own
pre-commitment doubts, many questions can be answered on the spot. Some require
research and a time line for response. And some, which relate to the bottom
line, irreducible risk, require a truthful "I don't know. I'm in the same soup
The final step
in creating the team is to establish a corroborative, balanced strategy for
reaching the committed vision. This plan will consist of all of the tasks and
help exchange necessary to realize the overall vision. Your teammates
themselves are in the best position to supply this information. Since by this
time you have laid the groundwork for trust, and established good buy-in, your
teammates are likely to be enthusiastically cooperative.
At this point, the leadership role is to
catalyze consensus, not to issue orders. Consensus means that team members
agree to, whether they necessarily agree with, a particular approach. Consensus
occurs easily when most feel their ideas were heard and considered, whether or
not the team ultimately chooses those ideas. Obtaining consensus again requires
use of leadership communication skills: non-assumptive questions, good
listening, and directed response.
Effective teams often produce lively
discussions of divergent viewpoints before reaching consensus. Diverse views
can mean unresolved argument, or they can mean increased team intelligence and
ultimate consensus. The difference is a well built team. To improve the
effectiveness of your team, Learning Center offers
customized teamwork training.