• Team Dynamics: Get the Superstars and Wallflowers to Work Together

    Dmitry Davydov 24 November 2014
    A good team is not a homogenous team.

    Diversity - of background, approach, expertise, methodology, and skills - is what makes a team approach more creative and powerful than an individual approach.

    All of us, working together, combine our forces to be crazily awesome at what we do.

    But it can be difficult to get your team to the point where they are truly working together. Help them avoid the cliques and conflicts and get to creative productivity.

    Reduce Uncertainty

    When people are insecure, they tend to retreat to a comfort zone. If they can't find one, they create one by becoming a slightly exaggerated version of themselves.

    The Superstar personality, already extroverted, happy to be the center of attention, and full of ideas, gets even louder and busier.

    The Wallflowers, full of solutions and insights but often reluctant to demand a hearing, will become even more withdrawn.

    Everybody gets a little extreme when they are uncertain or uncomfortable. Reduce insecurity, and people can become comfortable enough to start calming down a little.

    When a team forms, no one is sure of the social dynamic, the leadership, the goals, the workload, the communication, and the potential for conflict. Help people feel secure in a team environment by quickly establishing routines, communicating clearly about goals and expectations, and, above all, doing what you say you will do.

    Set Ground Rules

    If you don't want juvenile behavior, don't allow it. At all. Ever.

    The first time somebody makes an insult, instigates drama, or interrupts another team member,  send a kind but clear message: "That is not how we treat each other on this team. We work together. We show respect. We are one team."

    For a team that is not brand new, don't waste any more time allowing discourtesy or snideness. Call it when it happens and ask for appropriate behavior. Follow up with private meetings, if you feel that you need to clarify or discuss ongoing issues.

    Clarity and consistency are the two keys. You're training your team in what behavior is accepted. You can't do that if you change your mind about it, or don't communicate it clearly, or fail to respond consistently when there is a breach of courtesy.

    Be clear about what is expected, then be consistent about asking for it.

    Focus on Shared Goals

    Your team is together to accomplish a goal. The more you help them to focus on that goal, the less they will focus on their differences or personality conflicts.

    Make sure every person on the team knows the goal(s). Repeat it often. Hang it on poster board on the wall. Talk about it. Begin and end every meeting with a reminder of it. Make t-shirts.

    The team exists to reach the goal, and it can only do that by working together.

    Work to Their Strengths

    As you assign goals to various team members, do so based on their strengths, not on your preferences.

    You may want to put Sally B and Johnny M together so they can get over their personality conflicts by working closely together. Forced closeness, however, usually results in reluctant tolerance, at best, or open antipathy, at worst.

    Nobody likes to be told what to do for arbitrary reasons. Let your team members work in their strengths and excel, even if that means you never can get Sally and Johnny to be best buds.

    Ultimately, you're reminding your team that it exists to reach the goal.

    Don't undermine the team by putting personality issues above team productivity; by doing so, you tell the team that their interpersonal struggles really are more important than the team's goal. By reminding them, however, that the team's goal is more important, you give them permission to put aside personal differences and focus on something bigger.

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    See also:

    - What to Do When Your Team Isn't Working Together

    - Bruce Tulgan - Employees Should Manage Their Bosses (And Here's How)
    - Interview with practical futurist Michael Rogers
    - Handle Your Crowded Calendar the Way the Pros Do
    - 7 Simple Techniques to Keep You On-Track and Organized at Work
    - How to Save Your People from Drowning in Email
    Tags: productivity, tips
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