Our culture thrives on the concept of independence. Many of us believe that success is sweeter and more deserved when you do something without the help of others.
In the U.S., we have sensationalized the “self made millionaire” archetype – the strong, independent individual who never asks for forgiveness let alone permission. The urge to say and believe “I did it all by myself” isn’t just pompous, it may even obstruct greater personal success.
After testing whether research articles written by a single school were more likely to be published compared to those written through school/school collaboration, Benjamin Jones and his colleagues discovered that team work and school collaboration did indeed increase the chances of articles being printed.
– Examining 4.2 million papers published over three decades, we found that multi-university collaborations (i) are the fastest growing type of authorship structure, (ii) produce the highest-impact papers when they include a top-tier university,and (iii) are increasingly stratified by in-group university rank. (Multi-University Research Teams:)
The science tells us that when we build diverse teams we tend to see better results!
who’d a thunk it?
Teams are important, but not just any group of people will guarantee success. Research also shows that successful teams require a specific makeup to function well.
According to research published called, “Team Assembly Mechanisms Determine Collaboration Network Structure and Team Performance”
“Successful teams evolve toward a size that is large enough to enable specialization and effective division of labor among teammates but small enough to avoid overwhelming costs of group coordination”
So, how can we create the teams we want and/or improve the one we already have?
The Wisdom of Teams outlines the 6 points most important points to consider when building more effective groups.
Below, I describe what they mean and how we can use them!
- “Are you small enough in number?”
There isn’t a perfect number of team members to have, it all depends on the project. But, make sure that every member you bring on is absolutely critical to the work rather than ornamental to the project. Too many cooks in the kitchen and someone will get burnt.
à la, Liz Lemon.
2. “Do you have adequate levels of skills represented?”
You want to ensure that there are as few blind spots in your project as possible! Check that your teams skill base is diverse and relevant to the work at hand. You don’t want to outsource doable tasks to another team with better skills – it’s bad form.
3. “Do you have a broader meaningful purpose all members aspire to?”
We all want to be part of projects and missions bigger than ourselves. Remember to articulate the broader purpose of the work to every team member on a regular basis. People become distracted and inured to the big picture- it’s your job as the team builder to remind them of it!
4. “Do you have a specific set of performance goals agreed upon by all?”
What are we trying to achieve here? How will each one of us contribute? If you follow rule number 2, each one of your team members will have a unique set of skills that make it easier to outline their individual responsibilities. Understanding the makeup of your team will help you better articulate how you expect their skills to impact results.
5. “Is the working approach clearly understood and commonly agreed upon by all?”
Everyone works a little differently, that’s okay, but you want to ensure that your team has an agreed upon working style which may include, but limited to:
- Working in sub teams or committees.
- Providing regular committee reports.
- Holding regular “check in’s” or conference calls.
- Creating a group calendar of activities and deadlines.
6. “Do you hold yourself and group members individually responsible for group results?”
What is arguably the hardest part of teamwork is developing clarity of responsibility and accountability.
When things go wrong, people begin to play the blame game – sometimes it’s legit most often it’s deflection.
If your team works well, each person will be an active part of the successes and failures. You work as a cohesive group and are responsible not only for your own behavior but for the outcomes that follow.
The notorious bystander effect is a common cause for frustration in teams, especially when things go awry. Stepping aside and letting others take control because you don’t want to “get involved”, can become dangerous for team unity and often leads to unnecessary riffs in work flow. Avoid bystander effect at all costs. Engage your team members, let them know you’re all in it together, and hold them accountable for individual and unified results.
Collaboration is the bread and butter of any and all worthwhile success. Find your team, cultivate those relationships, and most importantly – make a positive difference in the lives of others.
Click here to find tips on how to become a better, stronger leader.
If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together. ~ African Proverb