Warning! Construction Ahead, Team-Building in Progress!

One of the hardest things about the development of a strong team is finding people that you work together to bring out the best in each other. A team, based on the old team development framework by Tuckman is not easy! The concept of Form, Storm, Norm, and Perform takes patience. It takes people who are willing to go beyond self-focus and seek out the best in others.

under-construction-clipart-Under-constructionIn our culture this rarely happens. We don’t often see teams that withstand change. Whether we are talking about the turnover of professional sports, or the new environment found in the organization of today – rare is the team that has any real sense of continuity.

So, if we are unlikely to see teams stay together for more than a short period of time, what can be done to encourage teams to flourish? Three things stick out as key components for successful teamwork in this environment:

1) Set constraints – researchers on creativity are pointing more and more to the reality that rather than hampering our abilities to create, constraints actually encourage our ability. If constraints are placed on the process (e.g. the purpose of the group is to formulate a new haircare product for our consumer line), then the group is likely to reach better results.

2) Set deadlines – ok, so deadlines really are just more constraints, but from a specific perspective when we are given deadlines we have a goal that needs to be reached. Groups that have a time-sensitive factor to their work understand that an outcome needs to be reached and are more likely to iterate than to get stuck forever in the brainstorming and discussion stages.

3) Encourage humility (not meekness) – not often talked about, but groups that show humility have a significant advantage. They know what they are good at and what they aren’t. Too often individuals overestimate their abilities, and groups (with a desire not to hurt feelings) place tasks in the hands of people who are not capable of flourishing in those roles. Teams that practice humility have a proper perspective of their abilities, yet still show care and concern.

So your team won’t be able to age like a fine wine or a tasteful cheese, but that doesn’t mean success can’t be the endpoint for your work.

Powers Of Two: Why Going It Alone Isn’t What It Is Cracked Up To Be!

Ok, I admit it.  I get pretty excited when I find a book that examines the way people work – together, afterall that is the tag of this website! Joshua Wolf Shenk’s work Powers of Two is a tremendous dive into the way that creative partnerships work, struggle, and ultimately end.9780544031593_hres

Shenk’s is just one of a growing number of texts that have busted the myth of the lone creator, as he points to examples of individuals whose previous position as the lone creator is actually a misreading of history and context (read the book and you will quickly recognize how Jobs wasn’t alone in his work, nor was George Lucas, Vincent Van Gogh or most of the people we look up to).

One of the things that I loved in this book is the classification of pairs that Shenk enumerates. Not all creative partnerships are the same, some favor one who is out in front and the other who stands in the shadows, others present a structure-giver and a content-filler, still others are directors who bring out the best in their stars. Each of these, and likely other models, gives us insight into the need that we have for others as we work (Shenk’s epilogue even points to his own partnership with his editor in making this book a reality).

For many of us, the challenge we have faced in pursuing that great idea, work of art, or new career direction, stems from the isolation we believe we will feel by going it alone. Yet, the reality is we need not seek the lone inventor/creator/designer paradigm. The truth is we all have our strengths and weaknesses. The greatest pairs often account for the balancing out of the weaknesses of the other. Why go it alone and lay your weaknesses out bear as you scratch and claw for success, when working to align with a partner can alleviate some of your major concerns?

What would it look like if instead of one, there were two?

Don’t just take my word for it, take a read of this deep, insightful book and examine what a new form of chemistry and partnership might look like in your own work or play!

Productive Conflict.

CONFLICTNo, you didn’t misread the headline. Yes, it is possible. Contrary to how we generally view conflict, it actually can be a positive and productive thing in an organization. I would go so far as to state that any team or organization that doesn’t promote healthy, creative, content-oriented conflict will not grow or innovate.

Earlier this week, as part of my work at the SynerVision Leadership Foundation, I was able to co-host a hangout with Bill Stierle. Bill is a specialist in communications and relationships, oh and he also serves to mediate and facilitate high-conflict situations. During our Hangout, both Bill and Hugh Ballou challenged the idea that ignoring conflict in our organizations is acceptable. Bill points out that conflict typically flows from one of three levels: 1) Thinking style, 2) Emotional style, or 3) Belief style.

The reality is when we break conflict down into those three levels we begin to provide framework for thinking about what healthy conflict can look like in our teams. If groups work toward developing a safe-place for conflict (removing blaming, shaming, shooting down ideas, triangulation, and avoidance), true growth can occur.

As innovation researchers are quick to point out, new ideas stem from bringing together things that aren’t normally thought of together…this type of thinking will bring on conflict (potentially at any of the three levels), but if we operate from an empathy framework toward the person bringing forward the idea then we have provided space for growth.

But that isn’t always easy. Many times we get really passionate about things that we hold to (thoughts, emotions, beliefs) and we have trouble seeing how others might think, feel, or believe something that we don’t. Bill suggests we can only build an empathetic link as we connect a “feeling” word to a “need” word (at the 23:53 mark of the video, Bill digs into this area…watch it!).

How does conflict impact your team (positively or negatively)? What have you recognized as you “normal” response to conflict? How would creating a safe space for conflict look on your team?

Great article on Collaborative Organizations

We know that none of us is as smart as all of us, right? I love to come across work by others that speak to the core of what this project is all about…collaboration and teamwork. Earlier today, I came across the following article: 12 Habits of Highly Collaborative Organizations (the article and model below are the from Chess Media Group)

What I love about this article, and why I am recommending it, is that Jacob Morgan gets it! Collaboration is all about flexibility, impact, and value. Collaboration can’t be forced, but it can be encouraged. Too often, when we promote collaboration, we don’t think about the individual differences in personality that influence the way people see collaboration. Instead, we are thinking from a purely skill/knowledge set approach. If you want to breed greater collaboration, give people space, let it be on their terms, and be sure to provide them with value.

Read the article and also, check out Jacob’s book – The Collaborative Organization!

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Why Unstructured Time Might be the Best Thing to Happen to Your Organization

ImageFrederick Taylor and Henri Fayol each were responsible for developing a new way forward for labor. Fayol and Taylor were both responsible for much of the improvement in thinking about how work was accomplished in late-1800s through the mid-1900s. Many of the improvements for organizing a workforce into producing consistent, replicable work in industry can be attributed to their improvement of Henry Ford’s assembly line. Both of these engineers developed new concepts for management, of which some still can be found in operation today.

Why the history lesson? Today’s worker is all too often bound to a physical building, desk, or even phone by many of the management improvements of an era 80 to 150 year old. We still have the concept of the 40+ work week, time cards, and even office management that was perfect for industry but is largely out of place in the present technological, mind-oriented work world.

One of the saddest by-products of this overly rigid, out of step with what should be reality, work existence that many people live is that we constantly face burnout, disengagement, and apathy. One suggestion that seems to present an alternative to this chained-to-your-desk, time-card-punching functioning of previous generations is the institutional embrace of unstructured time.

You can read about the concept and its effects here, here, here, and here. The reality is that this unstructured time rather than being responsible for Facebook wandering and blog-rolling is often responsible for tremendous innovation in organizations. When you give people autonomy, resources, and support, it is amazing what they can come up with.

How would unstructured time impact your own workplace?