There was a post on LinkedIn recently that showed a dog being rescued from a weir; the dog was stuck and distressed. Spotting this, a young man went down into the water to try to reach the animal but could not manage a rescue without putting himself in real danger. However, a group of passers-by saw their plight, man and dog, and bit by bit formed a chain over the side of the weir. By linking with the young rescuer, this team managed to get man and dog to safety by their collective effort.
Such collective effort, or team work, can achieve many things that working alone cannot. But it takes awareness, communication and cooperation as well as not being attached to one’s own glory. The above example of the dog is one of a team that formed spontaneously for a single purpose, and it is an extremely effective method of work, a sound model. Businesses and organisations that manage to encourage and utilise such loosely formed teams gain many benefits. But loyalty to the common goal is central.
However, situations in which team members are working to their own agenda ruin any attempt at team working, as can be seen in many ‘political’ environments. The single focus is key. That should be the driver.
A team leader needs insight into the traits and strengths of their team members. It is fine to have the introvert working away seeking evidence in documentation while others, of a different propensity, might seek to interview. But there must be some mechanism for the sharing of information or tasks relevant to the common purpose. We return to communication again. Constant relevant communication allows clear expectations and goals to be established.
It is useful to have a diverse group and for the members to have some awareness of their differences. These then can be utilised optimally in team working but also for members to have awareness of their own tendencies.
Tolerance of, and recognition of, differences builds trust, the ability too to agree or to disagree amicably. Respectful communication in such circumstances is likely to become the norm. An environment where team members can listen and ask questions carefully is likely to create a strong sense of belonging.
Team members are best viewed as unique people with irreplaceable experiences, points of view, knowledge and personalities. The purpose of a team is, after all, to take advantage of the differences.
Consequently, as such a dynamic evolves, creativity and innovation can become the norm and team members recognise the strength of having, and being part of, such a high functioning group of individuals, or team.