Great teams can accomplish amazing things. But, creating and maintaining a cohesive group is easier said than done. Here are four tips from the experts to promote teamwork within your organization.
Focus on We Not Me
Peter Skillman and Tom Wujec used the Marshmallow Challenge to learn more about teamwork. They asked groups to build the tallest tower possible using dry spaghetti, tape and string with a marshmallow on top. When Skillman and Wujec challenged teams of recent business school graduates versus teams of kindergarteners, guess who won? The average kindergarten tower was 26 inches compared to 10 inches for the business students. How is this possible? According to Daniel Coyle in his book The Culture Code, “individual skills are not what matters. What matters is the interaction.” While the business students competed for status, the kindergarteners worked energetically together to produce the tallest and most interesting structures.
Clearly Communicate Your Goals
Employees who are unsure about their mission and their roles are unlikely to succeed. Ambiguity leads to confusion and low performance as well as a lack of commitment. Patty McCord, co-author of the Netflix Culture Deck, advocates, “People need to see the view from the C-suite in order to feel truly connected to the problem solving that must be done at all levels and on all teams.” How can you tell if your communication efforts are successful? McCord’s measure is to ask any employee at any level of the organization, “What are the five most important things we are working on for the next six months?” If that individual can’t answer, ideally using your same words, your communication isn’t strong enough.
Keep in Egos in Check
Companies love the idea of top talent. Unfortunately, having an entire team of superstars seldom produces the best results. Best-selling author Michael Lewis comments, “Some of the things the stars do are maybe not as valuable as we think. If you see a volume shooter … he might be scoring those points in a way that actually kind-of hurts the team.” Humility is often a hidden (and surprising) ingredient in highly effective groups.
Require Everyone to Provide Feedback
Amy Edmondson led Harvard researchers in tracking the proficiency of sixteen teams learning to perform a new heart surgery technique. One of the primary factors separating the top performers from the less efficient groups was the “explicit encouragement to speak up.” However, simply allowing for or asking for contributions wasn’t enough. Top teams received not only encouragement, but also feedback training and coaching with clear and well-established expectations.
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