Diversity is the cornerstone to successful teams, but not every team reaches their full potential for success. Conflicting communication styles, minor frustrations or even a lack in clear vision is enough to undermine a team’s success. Amy Edmonson, Harvard School of Business professor, and Jennifer Sukis, IBM design principal for AI practices and Leadership, shared the common pitfalls that teams face.
It may sound obvious, but a lack of clear vision, or the inability to articulate one, can sink a project before it starts. Projects don’t happen immediately, they take time. As new challenges arise, team members work from home or even new technology becomes available, it can be easy to drift away from the original goal.
Edmonson notes about Andre Sougarret’s success in leading the international team that rescued 33 Chilean miners who were trapped 2,300 feet underground for more than two months. “He continually reminded people of their shared purpose: Why they’re here, why this matters — even though it was patently obvious,” she says. “But people in intense work environments like that get frustrated, get into conflict, get discouraged. So he was continually pumping that purpose back in.”
One way to start the meeting off on the right path is for the team leader to clearly list the project goal at the start of each meeting. Write the project goal on a meeting tool where the entire team can see, such as a Post-it® Dry Erase Surface, or even on a Post-it® Super Sticky Easel Pad. This provides a consistent reminder of the goal to achieve. Team members reference this as a guide to ask themselves, “does this help us achieve our vision?”
The second pitfall that inhibits team success is the fear of failure. It’s important that team meetings have an environment where any ideas are free to be shared. Edmonson describes this space as “an environment where people really do feel they can bring their full selves to the work,” and offers that it is critical to innovation. “They can speak up with wild ideas that might not work, they can ask questions, they can express their concerns. That’s the kind of climate where innovation flourishes.”
There are many team building activities that help teams to feel safe to share ideas. One of the easiest ways is to request ideas from each team member. Ask them to write as many ideas as they can think of on individual Post-it® Super Sticky Notes, then post the ideas on a wall. Doing so allows for each idea to be heard and also to see common themes arise. Use the Post-it® App to capture and share the brainstorm outputs to allow the team a continued discussion and momentum of ideas but save those ideas that won’t be used right away, in a positive way.
Sukis encourages leaders to find the right balance between discipline and creativity. “It’s important to give people room to throw out wild ideas, but then you’ve also got to kick them back into balance when they’ve gone too far out, and remind them why we’re here.”
By finding the right balance, a team leader can avoid these common pitfalls that plague teams and create an environment where teamwork flourishes.
Originally published by Fast Company, a unit of Mansueto Ventures LLC. Copyright ©2018. Mansueto Ventures LLC.