Team Interactions can make or break a team.
Team interactions matter. A lot. It's no accident that the Definition of Team Effectiveness listed "social processes and interactions among group members" as the very first influencing factor that would determine that capacity of a group of individuals to accomplish their own and their shared goals.
Maybe this has happened to you. You've been assigned to an elite team of high-performing individuals. These are smart, talented people. At the onset, it appears that this will be a "dream team" because each of you has so much to contribute.
But then something happens.
Working with the dream team turns into a nightmare. Team interactions are competitive, unproductive, ego-driven, and downright unpleasant. Or there are no team interactions because team members withhold information, skip meetings, and dodge participation. The lack of cooperation makes it virtually impossible to achieve those shared goals.
How Senior Leadership Teams Impact Effectiveness
It can even happen to the best of teams, the ones with a history of strong team interactions. Teams are inherently fragile. A new member can inadvertently upset the balance. A shift in focus can derail some members of the team who no longer feel the same sense of commitment. Competing priorities can creep in and divert team members. The reasons are too numerous to count, but the result is the same. Without ongoing, healthy and inclusive team interactions, there won't be a sense of team. Without team, you don't get team effectiveness or the desired outcomes.
Finger-pointing is the usual response when a lack of team interaction causes the team to be ineffective. He didn't come to the meetings. She vetoed every idea. They didn't do their fair share. When members of a team externalize the blame, they forget one important thing: Every member of the team is responsible for outcomes. Getting work done with others is not optional. If you are to be viewed as an effective, high potential employee on your own... well, you'll need to demonstrate you are an effective member of the team, too.
Rather than deflecting blame, checking out, or taking on all the workload yourself, try to improve the team interactions.
Starting with this foundational building block with strengthen any team. Here are some tips you can try. By the way, these tips are for any member of a team -- don't wait around for a senior manager. Step into the role of a leader to demonstrate what you can do.
- When a team first comes together, allow time and put process into "forming, norming and storming" as a team. Take time to define and get every team member's agreement on roles and responsibilities. Be sure all voices are heard early and often as you become a team.
- Ask questions. Don't assume. Give those who are introverted time to process and respond. Make it your mission to be sure every member of the team has ample opportunity to contribute. Challenge others to understand others' point of view before defending their own positions.
- Get to know the members of the team. Build trust by getting human-to-human connections instead of gauging people by their job functions or deliverables.
- Consider using tools like the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator to better understand individual preferences and styles. Seek to understand without judging.
- Appreciate the diversity of thought and experience on the team. The more similar you are, the less you can do as a team. The more varied your backgrounds and opinions, the greater your opportunity to innovate and troubleshoot effectively.
Team interactions need not be laden with inflated expectations. Be assertive to get your needs met and cooperative to ensure others' needs are also being met. Don't give up too soon, and don't fall into the trap of pointing fingers at other team members. Go for unity and stand by your team. Interacting with them will make this a whole lot easier.
Deb Calvert is President of People First Productivity Solutions, the company that helps you build organizational strength by putting people first. Book Deb today to speak at you leadership or team events, to conduct MBTI workshops to improve team effectiveness, or to hire an Executive Coach.
Editor's Note: This post was originally published in February 2016 and has been updated.