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​Getting The Flow Going

With High-producing Individual Team Members That Can't Seem to Gel Together - Is it even Possible?

1Aug

All too often, if you are assigned a team of superstars, these folks have been chosen for their individual qualities, and not for how they may interact specifically with the other members of that team. You may find yourself with all of the rockstars in your department suddenly assigned to work on your next service design engagement, but they have never actually worked together, on a team, and to everyone’s surprise, they can’t seem to 'get it together' and work as the well-oiled team that they are expected to be. Now what?

Well, not unlike trying to tease out underlying causes to your customers’ behaviors and motivations, it’s important to dig at these on internal teams, as well — not only for a generally harmonious work environment, but in order to achieve each individual’s best work in a way that meshes with the rest of the team’s individual’s best work.

Is there a voice or a few voices that are always literally louder than the rest? Does no one seem to hear or be listening to each other?

This could be a sign that the more introverted, or just less likely to speak up quickly, never quite get heard.

Activities like silent voting with stickers, or raise-of-hands style voting can help in these situations.

Often, when you have a team that’s been assembled in a somewhat ad hoc manner to make a quick, vital, and huge solve for an opportunity that has reared its head, not enough thought may have been put into how all of these high performers might interact with each other. There can be a vast myriad of reasons which may be contributing to this communication breakdown, but ultimately those reasons need to be figured out, if not entirely (who has time to actually play team therapist?), then enough for the goal and intention of the team’s project to be framed to play to each individual’s values. 

For example, let’s say you have a team of four amazing folks — a designer, a QA analyst, a writer, and a developer. When you start a team there are all kinds of questions about who they are, where they’re from, what has brought them to this team, at this company, at this point, and all kinds of other, even more metaphysical and questionably relative questions. They all have lives full of complexity which would take weeks, if not months or years to unravel and understand well enough to actually bring this team to a common understanding in a meaningful and lasting way. You don’t have time for that. What you can do is try to understand a little about what motivates each of them — so don’t try to get them to 'get along' — get them excited about the project for reasons unique to each of them, if needs be. I say if needs be, because there is a chance, though not a great one, that you may have more than one team member who responds to a similar motivation as another team member — in that case, you may have a chance to kill two birds with one stone, and depending on the individuals, this may be even more beneficial to your greater plan of quickly building empathy and trust amongst a new team.

Is there a lack of soft skills which is causing friction?

If you are working with a cross-functional team, and especially if you have been given the 'best and brightest', according to someone’s manager, then you are most likely working with some creatively-minded folks. They may not have traditionally 'creative' roles, but they think in ways that don’t occur to most others, so they’ve been put on your dream team. Either way — traditionally considered creative or not, there is now a high probability that you have some large egos. So building empathy may need to be done very deliberately and in a choreographed manner. Learn some insights about each member of the team and look for commonalities — either overt or after connecting the dots — and bring these common insights to their collective attention. You may need to really spell things out here, depending on the individuals, but it will be worth the effort.

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