“How is the team?” In today’s tech race, Aristotle’s adage, “the whole is greater than the sum of its parts,” can determine a business's success or failure.
By Frieda Edgette (Founder, Novos)
We work in teams to innovate with more strength, speed and diversity. As a collective, team members complement each other's tactical knowledge, expertise and skills, fill one another’s blind spots and expedite productivity. That is, they do in theory, but in practice, a team's success is not guaranteed. Just like any other relationship, there are key functions for team effectiveness that merit consistent and ongoing TLC for the best possible outcomes.
How Does Your Team Measure Up To These 5 Effectiveness Criteria?
Effectiveness translates into expedited productivity and reduced costs. With roughly 90% of startups failing, building and sustaining structures that drive functional behaviors are essential.
Irrespective of your venture's stage of development, how does your team measure up to these effectiveness criteria?
The members of great teams trust one another on a fundamental level. They trust one another’s character and capacity by demonstrating consistent and reliable behaviors (such as following through with committed actions), telling the truth and communicating intent. Trusting teams nurture what Harvard’s Amy Edmonson calls “psychologically safe” work environments, where team members feel comfortable voicing mistakes which helps them to learn, iterate and grow, thereby improving overall performance. In doing so, members open themselves up to vulnerability: the fuel for building trust. The outcome? In The Leadership Challenge, authors Posner and Kouzes cite that high-trust organizations out-perform low-trust organizations by up to 286%.
From a baseline of trust, teams are able to engage in healthy resistance. How will your team interact when conflict emerges This may take the form of questioning, challenging, curiosity and real communication through a cycle of active listening, suspending judgment, respecting and voicing. A healthy relationship with resistance results in more thoughtful decisions, uncovering truths and collectively creating sustainable initiatives. The alternative is often psychologically unsafe environments, avoidance, passive-aggressive behavior, slowed production and lost energy and time. If you catch your team in unhealthy resistance, ask yourself: What is not being said?
Defining a strategic vision collectively creates a collaborative culture and bolsters individual buy-in. How does each team member define the strategic vision from their perspective – and what about it excites them? Facilitating a process for each member to conceptualize and then collaboratively organize individual statements into a shared vision creates reciprocal ownership, transparency and recognition.
Who is doing what? Defining team roles and responsibilities - and how each contributes to actualizing the shared strategic vision - creates a clear sense of purpose and provides a transparent (and very tangible) framework for accomplishment to meet users', investors', the public's and other stakeholders' needs. Incorporate ways of working together (values), shared strategic vision and roles into accountability structures by making the invisible visible. Tape them on a wall. Repeat them at the beginning of each meeting. Add them to your email signature. Remember, structure drives behavior.
There is trust. There is healthy resistance. There is a shared strategic vision and articulated roles and responsibilities. What additional systems does your team need to keep you on track and progressing forward: weekly meetings, project management systems where team members are in relation to a key milestone, etc? Make sure goals are specific: what will happen, by when, who is responsible, how are goals quantified and how you will know your goal has been achieved. Be agile and celebrate incremental successes. Teams that articulate and frequently revisit and refresh goals witness roughly 20% increase in effectiveness.
Irrespective of your startup’s stage of development, you can ensure your team's optimum success by assembling, developing and nurturing a balanced and cohesive team founded on trusting relationships and healthy resistance. The team needs to be guided by a shared strategic vision and realized through transparent systems, directed expertise, accountable task specification and directed drive. It really can mean the difference between winning and falling behind. You are in this together.
Women 2.0 readers: What are your tips for making a team work as successfully as possible?
About the guest blogger: Frieda K. Edgette is Founder and Principal of Novos, a change management and coaching consultancy that helps individuals and organizations through strategic transitions. Frieda is also Founder of Courage to Run, a leadership initiative dedicated to mutually developing female professionals in business, on boards and to public service through, yes, running, brunching and collectively inspiring. She holds a MSc in Organizational and Social Psychology from the London School of Economics. Photo credit: baranq via Shutterstock.