Keys to Improved Teamwork

Sometimes the best answer is the simplest one. This violates a widely held view of many consultants. You know, the one that says complexity is good. The less you understand about my brilliant solution to your issue, the better.

I have seen this reasoning applied in the area of team building. There are simply not enough ropes courses, truth hats, role-plays and other interventions out there to help teams become more effective. So consultants keep dreaming up more and more circumstances to take groups out of their normal environs and into an imaginary world where teamwork flourishes like spring daisies.

The problem is that people work in their normal environment, not the ballroom of the hotel where the obstacle course is set up. But don’t get me wrong. I think that some of these exercises, when properly intended and constructed can be valuable, after you do the basics.

The simple and elegant solution, when it comes to improving team effectiveness can be found when we look in the mirror. They’re right there, as obvious as the nose on our face. Well, actually it’s our mouth and ears.

Let’s start with our ears, because as the saying goes, we have two of those and only one mouth. Effective teams have members that actually listen to one-another. They do not believe or behave as if what they have to say supersedes others’ points of view. They don’t listen through the “what does this mean to me” filter. As Stephen Covey stated in his Seven Habits masterpiece, they seek first to understand, then to be understood. They take a listen first posture and intentionally view the feedback from the provider’s perspective.

Then there’s our mouth. Sometimes it is too active, sometimes not active enough. This is mostly determined by our personality hard-wiring and so while it can be adapted somewhat, it will not be fundamentally altered. But what can change, despite our volume of words, is the candor of our words.

There are a lot of reasons why individuals are not candid with others on their team. As far as I am concerned, very, very few of them are valid. Candor mostly falls prey to what I call the 3 P’s- politics, paranoia and protectionism. The 3P’s outgrow internal dialogue that tells us to keep a low profile, don’t provide anyone with a target, and information (withheld) is power. The 3P’s destroy candor.

Bottom line is that a team that does not listen to one-another and share candid dialogue is destined for mediocrity and ultimately, extinction.

About The Author

Matthew Angello is the Founder and Principal of Bright Tree Consulting Group, LLC. A former board-level executive in Fortune 500 companies, Matthew offers highly personalized and effective coaching for individuals seeking to unleash their potential, move their performance to the next level and prepare for future challenges.