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.
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.
– 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!
There’s no way to overestimate the importance of learning from the people around us. When we’re open to learning from others, we benefit from their experience as well as our own and we can inherit their wisdom and knowledge.
I learn a lot from my friends and teammates. Recently one of them, Ryan Cook, wrote an article for LEAD 222, an international coaching and mentoring ministry. In this article he shared his 4 keys to team building. Here is an excerpt from his piece:
*Wherever you are and whatever capacity you serve in I’m going to bet you became very aware, very quickly that leadership is kind-of a big deal. Either because you experienced good leadership or you experienced bad leadership. The health of any organization, ministry, or team will rise or fall on leadership.
Early on I saw the huge impact of leadership and began wrestling with questions like:
What does a good leader do?
Am I a good leader?
Can I effectively lead others?
Can I build a winning team?
So here are a couple things I have tried to do to lead my team:
- PRAY – I serve with a great team right now. It has taken four years to build and lots and lots of prayer. I asked God to bring leaders of leaders. Then I waited patiently and didn’t move until He said to.
- VISION – You have to lead with vision rather than tasks. Leaders follow vision and workers accomplish tasks. Invest the time to pray and seek God for His vision for your ministry. Learn how to cast vision effectively – too big and the team can get demoralized, too small and the team is uninspired. Find ways to celebrate little wins along the way and always keep the vision in front of your team. Vision leaks so YOU have to fill it up again!
- EMPOWER – Surrounding yourself with the right people allows you to manage lightly. I sit down with my team members each month and ask 4 questions – How are you doing personally/spiritually? What have you been working on the last month? What are looking ahead to the next month? What do you need from me? We always end with prayer. Checking in more often feels like micromanaging and checking in less often feels like neglect.
- STAFF FUNZIE’S – Ministry is a grind. Set aside one time a month for your team to do something fun. It could be a simple lunch, a day trip, a conference, an overnight get away or dinner at your house. Make memories and build community. Right now we have the “Year of the Burger” – so we are going to lunch once a month at a new burger spot in town. Simple but fun.
There are so many other things, but this is a good start. Leadership is a life-long pursuit. Grow as a leader and you will build a winning team. Lead with wisdom and humility and God will honor that and ministry can be a lot of fun. *
Ryan is spot on…whether in the workplace, ministry, or your local community, team building requires a keen understanding of people, their strengths and what gets them excited to work with others. Team building is both an art and a science and the leader who can consistently build high performance teams will accomplish more than he could ever do alone.
My challenge for you today – take a few of Ryan’s keys to team building and give it a try. I think you’ll find it worthwhile!