As a society, we have done a lot of work on developing and improving how we work in teams. What if we add to the definition of a good team, minimizing the drama? We have come far in recognizing the importance of emotional intelligence and collaboration. There is still work to be done to lessen the stress and dissonance resulting from interpersonal conflict.
The drama experienced in teams often derives from individuals’ emotional makeup and perspectives. Root causes are not usually pursued. Rather, we attribute conflict to superficial causes and stop there.
We do not have the luxury of bringing group therapy into our team activities, but we can do some things to minimize drama and conflict. When a team is formed, why not recognize the potential for drama and set some guidelines to minimize it? Examples may be: emphasizing the importance of each member’s emotional intelligence, having structures to immediately deal with and resolve interpersonal conflicts or establishing zero tolerance of bullies, unrestricted anger, psychological games or unhealthy competition.
Drama has always been present in teams. Let’s bring it out in the open and deal with it. We will see positive results quickly, leading to happy and productive team members.
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Wouldn’t it be great if your workplace were composed of kindred spirits? Sometimes you get lucky and your co-workers are compatible with your values and ways of working. Other times, kindred spirits are few and far between. When that is the case, the stage is set for dysfunction, judgment, conflict and dissatisfaction. It doesn’t have to be that way. Difference, variety and opposition can all make for a creative and high-performing organization. The key is to create an environment where each person can communicate and thrive.
What are the elements of such a workplace? Here are some. I’m sure you can identify others. Just think of what you need to communicate and thrive.
• Demonstrated respect for each person and their views
• Established methods for effective communication when there are disagreements or differences of opinion
• Acceptance and valuing of diversity
• Enough space for each person to contribute their best work
• Understanding that people need different environments, acknowledgement and resources to thrive
So, if you are leading or part of a team that is not composed of kindred spirits, celebrate the opportunities before you and create a workplace that encourages high performance and work satisfaction.
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Collaboration is not the easiest means of managing and decision-making. However, it is the most effective. The best collaborations give all members a full seat at the table. Each person’s voice is heard and respected, disagreements are fully aired and considered and when decisions are made, they are made for the betterment of the collaboration, not just of one or more individuals.
This model can work. People, generally, are reasonable and rational and know that not every decision can go in their favor. It may take a bit more time and patience, but it is worth it. Trouble comes in when organizations go hierarchical and dictatorial in their decision-making. Or, when a sub-group, such as younger people, is disregarded. Some feel that because young people do not have the years of experience that older members have, they do not need to be listened to. They should have a full seat at the table and be valued for the unique insight, fresh ideas and enthusiasm they bring to a group.
Next time you are collaborating, give each team member a full seat at the table. You will reap the benefits of better decision-making, happier team members and creative and long-lasting results.
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Last week The New York Times published an article, What Google Learned From Its Quest To Build The Perfect Team. Traditional team research has looked at the patterns relating to the people in a team. However, Google could not find any patterns relating to the people or personalities involved in its most effective teams – the “who” part did not seem to matter. Instead, group norms (behavioral standards and unwritten rules of the teams) did matter.
The article references a study published last month in The Harvard Business Review that time spent by managers and employees in collaborative activities has ballooned by 50% or more – how well you and your organization work in teams matters.
What do you think are the behavioral standards and unwritten rules that govern your teams? Which ones are effective and which ones are destructive? It’s not a bad idea to pay attention to the intended or unintended group norms of your teams. By doing so, you can establish the ones that work best and let go of those that hinder your collaborations.
A remix is a song that has been edited or completely recreated to sound different from the original version.
Is it time to rethink and remix your team for 2014? Change is a key to innovation and keeps things fresh. A remix must be done wisely – change for change’s sake has no point. A remix that has the intention of improvement and excellence can boost productivity and strengthen your team.
How would you start? The beginning of a new year is a good time to evaluate how the previous year went and what you would like to shift in the new year. What are the areas where your team failed or under-performed in the past year? Where did they shine? What are their strengths that you can build on? Where can your team go that they have not been before? What changes have your team expressed a need for? Where do you want them to go?
Try a team remix this month. Your team’s new sound may a great one.
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Do you create and encourage synergy in your team? Doing so enhances your team’s performance and creates wins all around. Synergy is defined as:
1. The interaction of two or more agents or forces so that the combined effect is greater than the sum of their individual effects.
2. Cooperative interaction among groups that creates an enhanced combined effect.
You hear a lot about collaboration and teamwork, but changing the perspective ever so slightly to synergy takes you beyond process to results.
Team synergy can be enhanced in a number of ways, requiring some focus on your part as a manager. You can start by looking at the relative strengths and weaknesses of each team member in light of the work you have to get done. Then, it gets interesting as you analyze who can pair together to enhance strengths and compensate for weaknesses. Here, there are multiple factors: team members’ willingness and ability to collaborate, time factors – will the results be worth possible slow starts as team members acclimate to this focus – and whether a project is set up to accommodate collaboration.
Using synergy to enhance your team’s performance asks a lot of you. Your emotional intelligence and analytical abilities will be front and center. You may have a few false starts. Team members may need some coaching to get going. In my opinion, it is worth a try – for the potential improved results and for the strengthening of your team.
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Both communication and collaboration get a lot of attention when you work in teams. What happens when you bring them together – is there a particular way to communicate within teams that enhances collaboration? The nature of communication within a team is inherently different from one-on-one communication.
What could be guidelines for collaborative communication within your team? First would be the acknowledgement, by all team members, that they each have a voice that matters. That is a value that will generate respect for, and support the dignity of, each individual. Another may be identifying the methods you will use to assure that what needs to be communicated will be – possibly through staff meetings, reports, written and oral communication. Focus is needed on how the team communicates – choice of words, body language, emotional intelligence, what is communicated to whom. Communication should reflect respect for the diversity of the team – taking that into consideration, as each team member communicates.
Collaboration is something that takes effort- communication within a collaboration deserves that effort as well. How is the collaboration communication within your team?
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How do you engage your team? Sure, they get a paycheck. But, what ensures that they fully participate, bring their best to their work and continuously improve their skills for the best possible outcomes?
Have you determined what motivates individuals on your team? That is a key to their engagement. It is not one size fits all. You can observe their behavior, or ask them directly, in order to find out. An engaged team makes managing easier, all around.
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It can be funny when we use animals to describe human behavior. It has its usefulness, though, by letting us take a step back and use an image to understand someone better. I’ve heard people be compared to peacocks – showy, colorful, in your face, demanding that you see them. One of the challenges of working in teams is to find your way with a wide variety of personalities. How do you make it work?
A first step is to be true to yourself and how you feel about members of your team. Own and be aware of your gut reactions to people. Then, spend some time observing people that are not that easy to work with. See what you can learn about them and what makes them tick. From there, figure out how you will interact with them and what boundaries you must draw, keeping in mind you are part of a team and that you want the team to succeed.
By being aware and true to yourself, you will develop the skill to work effectively with a wide variety of the animal kingdom. It’s a jungle out there.
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Do you focus much, as a manager, on the energy of your organization and team? Reading energy is an acquired and intuitive skill. When you are adept at reading energy you have an advantage. Here are some ways to develop your skill for reading the energy of your team and others.
- Observe, observe and observe again
- Trust your intuitive feelings
- Ask questions that bring out how people feel or think
- Watch body language and learn how to interpret it
- Stay fully present in the moment and aware of what is happening
- Listen carefully to the words people use
- Do not preconceive a person’s motives; let their actions inform you
- If tension rises and is obvious, call it
- Assess the engagement or disengagement of people
- Stay neutral to what is happening in the room, so that you can read it
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