Productive Teams

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Corporate America is now more than ever utilizing teams to accomplish critical tasks. (At least 48% of the time) Yet, we find that they are effective less than 50% of the time.  Most of our days are spent in a team setting (around 30% of our days).  As the workforce continues to expand into virtual teams and allows for employees to work remotely, the need for teams to work well is essential.

The divided team is difficult to watch.  Signs of a divided team can be easily diagnosed.  These dysfunctional teams lack trust, are self-protective and allow ego to come forward.   Sometimes a team is more like a group than a team.  Groups gather together without a shared purpose whereas a team unites to reach for a shared fate.

Body language is a sign that team members have lost respect for each other and lack trust.  The rolling of the eyes, the arms crossed, the lack of eye contact and sarcastic comments are symptomatic of dysfunction.  Teams that run off in pairs after the meeting are also on a crash course for disintegration.

A team, when performing at their best, will demonstrate the following: calmness in the midst of crisis, confidence to complete the project at hand and resilience when things go poorly.  High levels of accountability are also common on the best teams, which means that individuals seek to own mistakes and solve issues.  Excellent teams are also able to complete tasks, because they are well organized.

According to famous Ted speaker, Margaret Heffernan, the top indicator of team efficacy were ones in which each person was allowed enough time to talk in meetings. The second highest indicator was even more fascinating. Heffernan stated that it was the ability of the team to be socially sensitive.  These teams were able to be in tune to one another.  They cared for each other. They knew each other and understood each other.   Individuals on these teams scored high on a test called the “Reading the Mind in the Eyes” test.  This is a test of empathy.  If a team, scores high on empathy they tend to be much more functional.

If your team is not functioning well consider the following suggestions that great teams implement –

1.) Purpose, Agenda, Deliverable and Norms:  Every team needs to have some organization and structure for their meetings.  At the top of your agenda outline the reason for your meeting. (Purpose) The second section should include a Deliverable (what does done look like today?) and create team Norms or Ground Rules for meetings.

2.) Avoid Pointing the Finger:  Teams that point the finger at others are on a path for failure.  Ask questions and take responsibility for your failures vs. pointing the finger at others.

3.) Demonstrate Empathy:  How often do you take time to really hear how individuals on your team are doing? How often do you offer support during struggle? People want to work on teams where they are valued.  The US Surgeon General says that the greatest health issue in the next 20 years will not be cancer or heart disease but loneliness. As leaders, we can influence this by seeking to connect.

At your next meeting, be the observant one by watching body language, counting the number of times there were interruptions and how many times you noticed people pointing their finger at another team member.  If the count is low, you probably have a functional team.  If the count is high, call it out and share your observations with the team.