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Teaming (v) : an individuals’ ability to operate as a collective, producing more value than could be produced by the individuals on their own. 

In today’s business world, people are often required to be part of a team for very short periods. This means that individuals are required to be able to ‘team’ (a verb) easily and, often, this ability is absolutely crucial for their, and their teams’, long term success.

Teaming is a concept that has kept the learned and great up at night, writing books, articles and journals aplenty (and kept people like myself in a job). Given its importance, what do you construe as great teaming? Is this a skill you talk about in your business?

In his superb book – ‘The 5 dysfunctions of a team’Patrick Lencioni says: “Teamwork’s success is not a matter of mastering subtle, sophisticated theory, but rather embracing common sense with uncommon levels of discipline and persistence”.

So true – I think we can often over-complicate teamwork. However, there is one common theme that needs constant attention if one is to get to the bottom of team success – connections.

Connected parts make a stronger whole.

Now, by connections, I don’t mean ‘does everyone get on well and spend their Saturday nights together’ nor do I mean ‘do they connect on such a deep level that they share their deepest darkest secrets’. Those might both be nice but, quite frankly, for the effort required, they may not always be worth pursuing.

An important factor in today’s fast-paced world is that teams are often together for very short periods of time. So, how do you connect and what do you connect with, quickly, in order to produce immediate results?

Recently I spent time with a cricket team in the IPL (India) that would be together for 9 weeks – that’s it. Then I spent time with a rugby team in Australia that would be together for 6 months – that’s it. Both teams needed to perform well under pressure and high levels of scrutiny – and they needed to perform immediately. While results on the scoreboard were mixed, both teams put connection at the core of their stated values.

I’ve worked with many teams and have observed highly skilled people perform poorly for the greater good. Why? Often the lacklustre performance is because the connection between two key (or multiple people) is poor, not because they were incompetent or uncommitted as individuals. In the sporting world, you may have a star player and a star coach but, if they don’t connect well, both end up performing poorly. I have seen this pattern repeated many times within organisations of late – much to many people’s frustration.

So, what does this mean for your team? What connections do you need to focus on as a team?

Fast-tracking connections

If a connection is indeed a predictor of team success (and to me, it seems to be) the question then becomes which areas require focus to create such effective teams quickly, over and over again? To my mind, five key pillars contribute to rapid team connection. These are worth consideration and implementation in every team and organisation.

Purpose:

A key question within the early stages of any team is: ‘what are you being asked to produce?’. Not just what you would like to produce as an individual, but actually what all stakeholders require the team to produce. Is it a sporting victory, a new design, an event – what outcome are you all working towards? Once the outcome is made clear, it not only crystallises the required action but creates a connection over a shared intention for the team.

Task allocation and process creation:

Imperative to effective team functioning is the ability to identify early on how the team best operates and how to allocate tasks most effectively.  The continual search for the best way of operating is something that should never subside.

External Stakeholders:

Within organisations, each team has others that are invested in, or reliant on, their performance. So much team development focuses only on the people in the room but the success of the team also depends on the relationships formed with those outside of the room. To build robust connections with secondary stakeholders, you must name them, be aware of the ones that may often get little attention, and then ensure that each team member connects effectively with them in order to ensure team performance.

Interpersonal relationships:

In organisational teams, it is important for individuals to understand what needs to exist between them in order to add exponential value to the team. This understanding is borne out of honest conversation. Encourage conversations between people that consider what their relationship would need to be like in order to add value right now. It is not personal but rather interpersonal. (Our MOVER framework is a useful guide to such conversation)

Learn quickly:

Ensure that you have a mechanism in place that ensures that you continuously feedback and evaluate so that you know more, and are able to do more, week on week. The ability to keep learning and adapting is critical to teaming.

Connection first, then Trust

We know that trust within a team helps teams perform, but we also know that trust takes a long time to build and, in today’s environment of fluid, short term teams, connection built on the four pillars mentioned above is far more likely to render results. Time and again, I have witnessed teams fail, and fly in equal measure solely on the strength of the connection forged between the individuals. While trust over the long term is vital, for those teams without the luxury of time, why not first start with creating connections (something that is far more accessible) and then let trust emerge from there.

Lockstep has developed practical leadership tools to help both executive and management teams form, connect and perform, in real-time.  If your team is lacking solidity or its performance is not where you’d like it to be, I’d welcome the chance to speak about a customised leadership solution for your team. Contact me on tom@lockstep.co.za  today.

#Stayconnected

Tom Dawson-Squibb

Tom Dawson-Squibb

Tom Dawson-Squibb is a Senior Associate at Lockstep. Tom has a deep commitment to nurturing up and coming leaders as culture champions within their organisations. He is also the lead facilitator for the Aspiring Leaders Programme – a bespoke 5-month programme designed to develop young leaders and harness their power to positively impact an organisation. For more on the Lockstep Aspiring Leaders Programme, click here.

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