the blog of dan pontefract | How to ‘Take One for the Team’
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How to ‘Take One for the Team’

team_high_fiveHow many you ask?

It’s over one billion.

When you put the word ’team’ into a Google search box, you’re presented with over one billion results.

I ventured over to Bing and repeated the exercise. Over 600 million results this time. I’ve no idea why there is a gap of 400 million search terms between Google and Microsoft, but either way there are a lot of opinions and there is a lot of content out there related to the term ’team’.

Oxford Dictionaries defines the word team as “two or more people working together.” It’s succinct and I love it. But when you think about it — when you really think about it — the word team itself is both interesting and loaded. You can use it as a verb (eg. I teamed up with Denise to buy a new car) or you can use it as a noun. (eg. The team I support is Manchester United – please don’t judge me.)

Inside an organization we’re constantly striving to find ways in which to improve a team. The holy grail of such improvement is when a team becomes what Tavistock Institute coined in the 1950’s a “high performing team.”

We’re continuously ranked, evaluated, prodded and quizzed on our level of team engagement, team satisfaction, and team morale. There are ad infinitum learning programs and options to help us become better team members, team leaders, and team contributors.

You might say we’re teeming with team development.

C’mon, you had that one coming.

What types of teams are we trying to improve? There are project teams, emergency teams, process teams, learning teams, business unit teams, customer teams, executive teams, partner teams, community teams and even teams of teams.

Quite frankly, the term ‘team’ is omnipresent. It’s everywhere.

And for the vegetarians out there, it’s an anagram for meat.

I’ve been mulling over the term for years. Why do some teams fail whilst others knock it out of the park right away? Why can you feel completely connected on one team and that very same day — in another team that you are a part of — you feel disengaged and apathetic? Why are some teams more rigid than others? Why do some teams feel they can’t accomplish anything whereas others instantly have the rapport to come up with a new way in which to slice bread by the end of the first meeting?

I don’t really know. I don’t think anyone has the definitive answer.

But when you think about the word team, it might help to use it as an acronym to then define key traits and behaviors that could make up a high performing team:

Thoughtful

  • We all have bad days. We all have families. We all have interests. We all despise Brussel Sprouts. (ok, maybe that’s just me) To be thoughtful is to take interest in the other members of your team, whatever the team situation may be. Take account of those precious anecdotes that others may serve up. Better yet, why not be thoughtful and ask how things are going.

Educating

  • Instead of hoarding information, why not consider sharing it with team members? Sharing is a form of educating. It’s incumbent upon every team member — regardless of title or rank — to share, give back and to educate others within the team. By doing so, you not only are connecting one another to each other’s knowledge, information and data, you’re also building relationships within the team that will help serve your overarching goals.

Aligned

  • No one likes a rogue team member. Nobody wants to encounter duplicate actions or objectives. If everyone is proactive and team members are completely in the loop on all individual AND team goals, the team is aligned and can more easily operate as a high performing and collaborative group. If the team adopts a method in which to always connect and consider options with one another before creating the end result, it becomes an aligned team from the onset. (I call it the CLAM – Collaborative Leader Action Model)

Measured

  • For a team to be high performing it should set its sights on a series of measurements that map back to the aligned (and thoughtful) goals and actions of the team itself. No one wants to be on a team that is unclear when objectives are due or to what level of quality or quota. By establishing measured goals and actions, the chances of developing a high performing team increases substantially.

If a team is thoughtful, educating, aligned and measured (ie. TEAM) it stands a far better chance of being successful than blindly hoping some form of magic will surface.

After all, shouldn’t we want to ‘take one for the TEAM’?

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