Picture this: The CEO is assembling a cross-functional team to focus on one of the company’s most critical corporate priorities of the year. Some team members have worked together before, others haven’t, and there is a lot of pressure from the CEO to do change right the first time, get the desired results, and meet the business objectives.
The typical response among team members to a challenge like this is to get going quickly and focus on the deliverables – or to divide and conquer. This often involves basing team roles and expectations on assumed experience and known skills.
But without some direction on how to get the team dynamics just right, the CEO’s top priority project is at risk from day one. Why? Because no one is taking into account the interpersonal dynamics at play when people are brought together to instantly work together as an effective team.
To maximize the potential of any team, leaders must consider human factors such as what drives and motivates individuals, the environment in which they will operate best, and how they will complement each other in certain situations. These factors have the potential to create cultures of team cohesion, empowerment, trust, and diversity of thought – everything required to deliver on the CEO’s agenda.
These elements are typically found in teams who know each other well. And studies have shown that when that’s the case, teams achieve better outcomes, make fewer mistakes, are more productive and creative, deal with adversity better, and are more resilient. In fact, a study at NASA revealed that when under pressure, fatigued crews who had flown together previously made far fewer errors than fresh crews who had never flown as a team.
So, how do you, as a leader, get started? The simple answer is to get to know the whole person.
This means making sure everyone on the team is aware of how others like to work. Each team member is different – they have different working style preferences, strengths, weaknesses, experiences, and perspectives – so it’s crucial to think about this when trying to get the best out of everyone. Keep in mind that an individual’s skills are just one aspect of the whole person, and understanding their drivers, preferences, and watch-out areas will play a significant role in team effectiveness. The good news is, investing this time upfront will save you time in the long run, which means you can still hit those important deadlines.
When you take the time to get to know the whole person at the start of a project, here’s what you can expect:
Understanding your team members as a whole is crucial in creating effective teams, but it cannot be done in isolation. Leaders can use the following techniques to create greater team effectiveness:
- Build in time up-front to create both self-awareness and awareness of others as individuals, and identify what that means as a whole team. Understanding our own drivers, strengths, and watch-out areas helps us operate better as individuals, and understanding others ensures we can work most effectively as a team. At Daggerwing, we use tools like Predictive Index to help us do this for every project and have seen the difference it makes first-hand both for us and our clients.
- Use regular check-ins to not only update on your progress but to coach and provide feedback along the way. Also take this time to assess how people are feeling, build trust, and tap into different team members’ perspectives and ideas.
- If the team changes, ensure you reset with the whole team to get new members up to speed and ensure the continuity of team cohesion and individual empowerment. Focusing on the ‘new team’ rather than ‘onboarding an individual into the team’ will ensure a much smoother transition. It doesn’t take long as you’ve done it once already at the beginning of the project!
- Measure not just the outcome but measure what individuals wanted to get out of the project and whether or not they achieved their goals.
In short, a leader who just assembles a team without putting drivers of effective team dynamics in place (and providing oversight to make sure it is working), is putting business priorities at risk. Focusing on core human factors along the lifecycle of a project will boost performance and team effectiveness without taking any longer than if you approach it the ‘typical’ way.