This article is written for team leaders, group leaders, sports-team-coaches and heads of department, containing some takeaways from 30 years of coaching with companies.
At the most ineffective level, teammates are scheming against each other. They are slow to realize that they’re on the same team. Why is their competitiveness directed at members their own team? As a team leader, it’s your job to get jealous teammates to stop playing games, gossiping, complaining and talking behind others backs and re-direct their attention to a common goal. If they are unwilling to do that, they need to taught rules of conduct. If they ignore those rules, they need to be removed from the team.
At the next level, teammates don’t put others down, they try to gain their approval. Just like at the previous level, they are preoccupied with others instead of being dedicated to the common goal. A person at this stage, needs to be given space to express their unique talents and skills without worry whether teammates will approve or not. Too much “approvalitis” causes inauthentic behavior, and trying to “fit in” is not the same thing as being an effective part of the team. Teamwork does not mean losing individuality, it means putting your unique individuality in service of a common goal. A team leader should detect the approval-seeker early on and either get them to mature, or remove them from the team.
At the next higher level, the team member looks at more successful teammates and imitates them. This doesn’t come from approval-seeking but from genuine admiration. A team-leader who wants to get a newcomer to this level, says “Just watch and learn from the experienced ones“. That’s good advice when you are new to a team. But it’s not enough. After some time, you’ll want to contribute. Once you become more confident, you move up the scale. But some remain at this level, even though they are no longer newcomers. As a team-leader, you ought to identify these people and asked them to step up and take more responsibility instead of just admiring others doing the heavy lifting.
A team member has reached a positive level, when their heart is focused on the teams goal. They feel a sense of purpose within themselves and their work is fun and delivers results for the group. When every team member is focused on the teams goal, rapid results are created. When every team member can leave their Ego and their complaints and attention-seeking behind, while at the same time believing in the goal, a state of almost miraculous flow occurs. Group Unity is not the result of everyone being the same or being forced into a submission. It’s the result of every individual bringing their unique talent into one common aim. Think of a puzzle: Every piece of the puzzle is unique, but when put at the right place, they form a congruent whole. The puzzle pieces don’t need to be cut so that they fit to others. In any case of disharmony, you will almost always find a problem at the lower levels of the above scale.
A team leader who ignores individual abilities that and only says “Focus on the Goal” will not be as effective as one who puts people to tasks that match their personal inclination. Each team member knows their unique abilities and it is their responsibility to communicate and demonstrate these. In a healthy team, doing so will enhance your and others state.
That’s poorly understood in society, but those group leaders who know it, create remarkable results, such as are told of in History books.
To Create an Unstoppable Team:
- Create a Compelling Vision for Team Members to Focus on.
- Determine each Team Members Ability and assign tasks to them based on that.
- Educate or Remove Team-members who are not operating at the top of the Scale
- Keep the Team Focused on and Inspired about the Goal
It sounds so simple when written down like that. But of course there is more to the real-life situation . It can take some to reach that place of synchronous flow. You may have to re-assign tasks. Some may want to choose other tasks. It might take some time to detect unaligned people and intentions. The Goal might not be compelling enough for people to follow and you’ll need to create a brighter vision. You don’t want team members who are only working on your team because they earn money. Money is an important drive, but if you wish to create unstoppable momentum, each team member needs personal reasons, beyond money, to be involved in the project. There are a lot of products and companies where it’s challenging to get employees truly excited about it. In this case, something other must be attached to the product or project that people can get excited about. For example, how do you get a call-center for selling vacuum cleaners all excited about the task? The truth is, they probably don’t really care that much about vacuum cleaners. So you make a presentation on how many horrible illnesses have been prevented through cleanliness. That cleanliness would then be linked to the vacuum cleaners. Their position has just been re-framed from being “call center employees” to being world healers. Alright, maybe that’s a bit too tacky. 🙂 But if you can’t get them to be passionate about the product, it’s got to be something else, otherwise you’ll have just mediocre performance. And maybe that’s enough for you. But if it isn’t, do something about it by creating emotional attachment. Maybe you put a lovable leader in front of them, someone they’d “do anything for”. There are many ways to get people more associated with the project, team or goal. If you’re a team leader, it’s your job to know that that is what is needed and figure out ways to do it.