There’s no “I” in team... You’ve heard this somewhere, maybe a past coach, manager or mentor; as they proceed to spell out T-E-A-M. This motto is like an old elementary school joke that never goes away, trapped in its respective era, and passed along from generation to generation. There’s a reason the old “me-guy” motto has stuck around. Because it works and it’s true.
When you think about high-performing, championship teams, both in sports and the professional world, there’s one single commonality that stands out. Chemistry. It's the connection of the individuals making the team. A dream team on paper may very-well comprise of all the technical skills and attributes to apparently result in a victorious outcome, but that doesn’t always ensure it will happen.
If the general make-up of team does not come together in a harmonious state, you may end up with some fantastic individual contributors, but a complete championship outcome is less likely. For the sake of quick review, let’s assume you have the perfect line-up in place, together, and ready to perform…
How do you create team chemistry? You may not be able to create the actual chemistry, but actions can be taken to get a team working efficiently together, and this just might create the momentum that leads to work-fulfillment and a high-quality outcome. So, here’s what you can do:
HAVE EVERYONE CONTRIBUTE TO GOAL SETTING
The idea is to create consensus and contributions. This is done with a clear vision that has been communicated in place, proceed by asking everyone on your team their interpretation of a winning outcome. Some companies have everyone jot down their ideas, toss them into the proverbial vault, and then revisit them.
The follow-up question, is to then ask each how they will define success for themselves during the project. So, what you’ve done is created buy-in, accountability, and prerequisite for communicating ideas openly in the group dynamic. You are off to a great start.
CREATE A SAFETY NET FOR IDEA SHARING
Brainstorming should not be a top-down exercise. Yes, your organization has policies in procedures, but it’s important to get everyone involved in the ideas-exchange. For an example, if you’re rolling out a new product, you may require everyone, as a homework assignment, to come up with one theory that identifies a fault the product concept. You have proactively taken on any potential obstacles and have created a team culture of sharing.
If a level of comfort is established, there will be more willingness by individuals to put themselves out there and share ideas they may be questioning internally. A great way to get started is for the manager to share all of the failed ideas that led up to the project initiative. Establishing an environment of vulnerability and trust will put everyone at ease. Lead by example and share the bombed attempts.
IMPLEMENT NON-DISTRACTING COLLABORATION TOOLS
Now that the tone for open communication is set, ensure you’re using every tool to your advantage. It’s proven that teams that fall in the low-distraction/high-collaboration range end up being more productive.
There a number of team collaboration and project management tools to reduce email distractions and keep concentration within the team. Apps to communicate like Slack and HipChat are great to avoid peering into the email inbox. Also look into organizational tools such as DropBox, Podio, and Asant, which can be great additional assets to promoting team culture.
CELEBRATE THE WINS AND MILESTONES TOGETHER
There’s definitely power of momentum once you have a team working together with clarity and purpose, but to get closer to the true chemistry you have to stop momentarily and celebrate the wins.
Going back to the initial objective of collective goal setting, these should be revisited as milestones along the way of the project with small rewards attached. The key to the rewards id for them to be experiences that the team enjoys together. It could be an afterhours activity like a hike, cooking class, or any social bonding moment. The team will bond outside of the project constraints increasing comfort levels and resulting in better working relationships.