The problem of scaling a team is tough to crack. How do you add more members without breaking the spirit of the existing members? At what point do the old ways of doing things stop working? How can you be sure that the team is scaling at the right rate and in the right way? Success can turn on a small detail, such as a personality clash or one outdated process. What should a team leader do to avoid messing up?
To improve future performance, teams must learn from their mistakes. Despite being an irrefutable truth, few teams do this well. This is not due to a lack of willingness on their part - most organizations devote countless hours to after-action reviews, project postmortems and similar analysis to help the team reflect on what it did wrong and avoid similar mistakes in the future. More often than not, these actions fail to drive any real change in future outcomes.
Understanding the various personalities on your team is important for getting people working together in the way you'd like. That is why so many organizations use the personality assessment created by Katharine Briggs and Isabel Briggs Myers when putting together effective teams. Personality assessment tools can help select the right team members - people who are likely to bond, innovate, and follow through on the company's goals such that the output of the team is greater than that of its constituent members.
One of the most challenging work transitions comes when you face the prospect of leading a new team for the first time. Getting people to work together is not easy, and many team leaders rush over the basics in order to start achieving goals. But the first weeks and months are critical for starting a team off on the right foot. What actions should you take to set the team up for success? How will you get the team working well together, manage conflict, and create an environment where everyone feels safe, valued and motivated to contribute?
When putting together a team, conventional wisdom dictates that you strive for a mix of personalities and do whatever it takes to build equality within the group. Inequality of status - where it's pretty clear how everyone ranks compared to their peers - discourages people from sharing ideas and can lead to people feeling undervalued or disrespected. These hot human emotions distract teammates from their tasks and can disrupt even the most focused performers.
Or so the theory goes.
There's something rotten in the state of recruiting. When a candidate looks at a job ad, they would be forgiven for thinking that all employers are looking for people with a specific list of skills - 10 years' experience within an S&P 500 company/advanced understanding of technology platforms/specific industry certifications/proven track record of managing large teams.
Time and again, strong levels of trust in teams have been shown to build employee engagement, enhance customer loyalty, and drive profit growth. When team members have a high level of trust in leaders and each other, the group becomes notably better at achieving business goals.
What is the secret of productive teams? For the longest time, Google believed that the best teams consisted of the smartest people who got on with each other. But an observation of 180 of its internal teams provided a surprising result: the "who" didn't actually matter. There was nothing showing that a mix of skills, backgrounds or specific personality types made any difference.
Differing opinions, divergent viewpoints, and conflicting ideas are healthy and central to progress. They broaden our perspectives, stretch our minds, and help us to arrive at the best possible strategy and practices. Research suggests that constructive disagreement is enormously important to the success of a team. It increases participation in decision making, encourages collaboration, reduces anxiety, and results in better choices and more creative thinking. If you want the best to come out of your teams, it pays to establish a conflict culture.
When it comes to harnessing the strengths of teams while avoiding the weaknesses, team leaders have a tough job. Not only must they capture the full diversity of knowledge contributed by team members, they must also provide the right motivators such that individuals feel enabled and engaged with their job. Get the balance wrong, even slightly, and the result can be ruinous.