The results of a team are greater than the sum of the parts.
In your professional life, working with forming, developing, and creating a high-performing team is your number one priority. If our goal wasn’t to work together with a team, to create something greater than what each of us can do individually, then there would be no reason for us to incorporate and to work together.
So many people focus on vision, strategy, planning, tactics, execution, and forget that each and every one of those things is nearly impossible without great teamwork and high-performing teams.
Those who focus on execution may have a leg up because they realize that to execute, to truly execute, you need the entire team going in the same direction. But high-performing teams embrace the concept of teamwork as their number one important item to focus on throughout the entire experience of work.
Teamwork is working together, growing in the same direction, collaborating with others, and ultimately generating results that exceed the sum of the parts. Great teams have been documented to go through multiple phases of collaboration.
Many of us have heard about the forming, storming, norming, and performing lifecycle of a team. But how is it that you expedite that process? How is it that you take a team deliberately from one step to the next?
Let’s look at four ways to focus and build your number 1 priority, teamwork.
1. Be intentional.
Every single member of the team must realize that their first priority is to the team.
So many times we shrug off the possibility of working to get in alignment with our team, to form our team as just another meeting or just another excuse or too soft.
We must recognize if as a team we are not in full alignment, if as a team we are not in concert with one another, that it will disrupt our ability to execute in other areas.
This is the number one most important aspect of what we do in our professional lives. Teamwork.
Now, there are different types of organizations that require different levels of teamwork. But that does not reduce the importance of that teamwork. It may reduce the time we need to create the atmosphere of the team, just as the maturity or duration that the team has been together may impact that amount of time, but it does not diminish the importance.
Oftentimes, in different environments, you’ll hear, “The client takes priority,” but we must understand that that’s because client relationships are urgent AND important, not just important. Teamwork is developed over time, and while it’s essential, it’s not always urgent. It consistently remains the top priority of any leader, of any executive.
2. Be open.
Openness often gets confused with full transparency. FULL transparency. Transparency is essential to the team, but we must also acknowledge that full transparency is not always appropriate.
For that reason, I choose to stress openness and collaboration.
A team, in order to work in concert, must know what is going on. The left hand must know what the right hand is doing. The team must be aware, must have in their mind, must share what is going on throughout the entire team.
Oftentimes, turf wars, battles, politics, arise when individuals have one of two problems.
The first problem is that they begin to embrace turf wars and create silos because they don’t share enough information. Power and authority comes from knowledge and if we know something that others don’t know, we might have more influence, more authority, feel like we’re more in power.
The reality is that it’s just a feeling. Ultimately, our success is driven by the ability of the team to work together and so we must prioritize openness, collaboration, and an appropriate level of transparency within the team. And if we don’t, the team becomes less of a team.
There is a fear that comes from sharing. If I’m vulnerable, if I share, I may erode my own authority or I may feel as though others will step on my toes. True openness fights those issues, those warnings, and those struggles, with more openness as opposed to hiding information or simply not sharing it.
Take, for example, an individual who feels as though whenever more is shared, authority is taken away because people begin to step on his or her toes. As opposed to withholding information, a new struggle, or an issue, a much better approach is providing that transparency and then dealing head-on and in an open manner with the rogue teammate who steps on their toes.
We cannot perform as a high-performing team without being open, without sharing. A team on a sports field all knows the same things. Not only are they aware of what they are supposed to do, but they know what everyone else is supposed to do and what they are doing.
This is an essential point of teamwork. Without openness, we cannot be high-performing.
3. Be habitual.
In order to develop high-performing teams, we must create healthy habits of communication. We must create disciplines and habits around how we work together.
Be intentional about how you create that team environment. Develop a rhythm of collaboration. Develop a rhythm of communication. Develop a rhythm of problem-solving. Set the expectation within the organization of how we work together and force yourself to collaborate on issues.
As you develop the habit, spontaneous teamwork will occur more.
4. Be purposeful.
Teams come together in alignment when they are pursuing the same objectives. At multiple levels, we must develop a common purpose. The purpose that we are pursuing so that we can come together as a team to achieve that objective.
Within a company, this starts with mission, vision, value. The mission, the purpose for which we exist is the driver behind an enduring team, an enduring collaboration to achieve something greater than ourselves.
This is the WHY behind what we do. But we can develop a healthy team environment and practice this even in smaller ways. In order to be deliberate and intentional, to practice openness and collaboration, to develop habits, to create smaller purposes, and/or to set teams on a purpose to solve problems, take an individual team and put them to task on solving a problem. The team that is working to accomplish a goal, or the team that is rallying to achieve something, will naturally come together and form healthy habits. They will naturally come together because of the challenge and because of the natural delight that comes from achieving something greater than themselves.
This technique is powerful in solving problems within a team. In instances where there are any team members who do not seem to be getting along or working together optimally, I will often carve off a unique challenge — perhaps something that doesn’t even fall within one of their individual realms of responsibility — and take these troubled team members and charge them with the task of working together, of having a dependency on each other, and of having a common purpose to solve as a means for creating a healthy team environment.
A common purpose that is explicit and well defined, that everyone is in alignment against, is the ultimate driver of high-performing teams.
One final note: teamwork can get confusing within hierarchy.
As a company, we are all one team, but we are a team made up of teams, just as within a sports team there is often an offensive and a defensive team. It is important to note that the allegiance must first and foremost be to the team of peers within the organization.
In the company, a department is not as important as the executive team. Yes, from an individual perspective, the workers — those who get the job done — are ultimately the most important aspect of the team and are the most important team members. The leaders are there to serve them, to support them, and to provide vision to the key aspects of the organization.
From a team perspective, in order for the company to execute as an entire team, the senior-most members of the organization must first and foremost prioritize their team, the team of which they are a member as opposed to the team of which they are a leader.
If your subordinated team becomes the priority, you’ll begin to develop more silos. Despite having high-performing teams within the organization, the organization will not perform as a high-performing team.
Team is number one and your team is made up of peers, not subordinates.