How To Build Your Own A-Team

Working with others is a skill that makes its way into our education at a very early age.  Right off the bat, grade school children are asked to read, write and learn in group settings. Yet, adults in the workforce, struggle as much as anyone to be maximally effective in groups.  And who can blame them, given that group dynamics change with each new challenge, team member, environmental constraint, etc.  It’s hard to pinpoint exactly what it takes to put together a team of individuals that can approach problems in creative ways and reach valuable solutions amidst a flurry of limitations.  Personally, my value as an employee at my agency hinges on me being able to play well with others.  But, not only play well, bring out the best in them (and myself).  Below are six things that I think every team needs to consider.

  1. Diversity – The best teams have perspectives that grow out of different disciplines, social sciences, physical sciences, literature, fine arts, all build individuals that interpret and create meaning in the world in different and valuable ways.  The more variation in these perspectives, the more likely a team will be to reach novel solutions.
  2. Common Ground – Team members can’t be so deeply entrenched to their mode of thinking that they’re unable to relate to others.  Another way to look at this is teams must share some a common ground, or purpose.  With my team, that purpose is creating edgy marketing strategies and ideas that we’re proud of.  Our interests vary from neuroscience and quantitative analysis to star wars and fine arts, but we’re all trying to create the same thing, which we take time to explicitly discuss.  Which brings me to my next point…
  3. Clear Goals – Team members need to know what they’re trying to accomplish on any particular project.  This should be stated out right and it should be a mix of loftier (less tangible) thoughts (an idea we’re proud of) to the stuff that will keep you grounded and focused (deepening engagement with customers through social media, etc.)  Keep the goals where everyone can access them.  Return to them frequently to see how you’re strategies, ideas and actions are stacking up.
  4. Structure –  Too much structure stifles creativity, innovation and self-expression.   To be successful on a project you need just enough structure to ensure that action steps are being completed.  Beyond that, shake it up.  Try to do things differently each time.  You’ll find that solutions follow process.
  5. Leadership – Every team needs a leader, someone to turn to when things become unclear.  However, an authoritative leader is the death of a team.  Instead, while there will usually be a clear leader, this individual should float in and out of the position to allow other individuals to jump into the role.
  6. Conflict Resolution –  People disagree.  It’s inevitable.  What matters is that conflicts are brought into the open and discussed.  This is still very challenging for the hegemonic business world, where feelings are irrelevant and problems swept under the rug.  Hash out your problems and disagreements, not to prove someone right or wrong, but to strengthen your team.  Left un-addressed, small disagreements can grow into deep rifts.

Let me know what you think.  Did I miss something?  Is this as applicable to all occupations as it is for mine?


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