Leadership 101: Building the Perfect Team

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Did you know, according to data from The Harvard Business Review, the time spent by leaders and employees in collaborative activities has ballooned by 50% or more over the last twenty years, and almost three-fourths of an employee’s day at most companies is spent communicating with colleagues?

That is a lot of time working with others!

There are numerous reasons for this rise in teamwork and collaboration but I think it is common understanding that for many tasks, working in teams encourages faster innovation and better problem solving.

Just this week, a team I am a part of read and discussed an article on Google’s Quest to Build the Perfect Team. In 2012, the tech behemoth launched a venture called Project Aristotle, which gathered data by analyzing many studies and actually observing the way people interacted in a group.

For years Google had believed that by putting the best subject matter experts in a room would result in the best team. What their in-depth study and all the data revealed did not support that theory.'On paper we have the perfect team.'

Turns out, the key to successful groups isn’t in the personalities or skills of the individual team’s members at all, but comes from the team’s “group norms.”

So what are “group norms?”

Group norms are the traditions, behavioral standards and unwritten rules that govern how we function when we gather. Norms can be unspoken or openly acknowledged, but their influence is often profound.

Based upon the study, here are a few examples of group norms categorized by healthy or dysfunctional teams:

Common group norms for dysfunctional teams were:

– You must prove yourself. One is not necessarily a part of the team to accomplish a task or complete a project but to further their standing within the organization.

– Competition among peers. Because I must prove myself, my success and recognition is more important than the goal of the group.

– Zero tolerance for mistakes. Very few risks are taken therefore the new or good ideas can only come from the top.

– No outside social interaction. Simply put, team members do not enjoy each other’s company.

teamwork rowGroup norms of the successful groups were:

– Vision focused. The accomplishment of the mission and vision trump individual performance.  If one succeeds we all succeed.

– No competition or judging. An atmosphere of “safety” is present…where ideas can be shared and discussed without the fear of intimidation.  Everyone has a voice in the discussion regardless of title or role.

– They have fun!

– They cared for each other.

So what does all this mean for the leader? Easy answer:  If group norms are the key to successful team building, guess who can directly influence, change, and set those group norms?  You!

As a leader, ask yourself (better yet – your team members) the following questions:

– What are the group norms of our current team?

– Do my actions and example support or hinder a healthy team?

Who knows, maybe you’ll build the perfect team!

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