10th Anniversary of Naba Martin Adongo Abilba III

Team Building 101: How  to make the whole greater than the sum of the parts
The writer

Team Building 101: How to make the whole greater than the sum of the parts

Although many leaders acknowledge the importance of effective teamwork, only a few understand how to create successful teams. 

Teams are becoming more complex, and their leadership demands are increasing. Functional units have given way to a network of groups collaborating to deliver tasks or outputs. 

Today, most teams also have a multi-generational workforce working in different locations.

It's a fact that simply assembling a group with superior individual talent does not necessarily translate into an effective team which delivers outstanding performance.

To achieve results, leaders have to be intentional and lead with understanding. Effective teams give full expression to the phrase "the whole is greater than the sum of the parts". 

To achieve extraordinary performance, we must define what a team is. A team is a group of professionals who connect for work, professional growth and well-being.

Since team members are interested in each other's professional development and well-being, it's easy to think of the team as a family, but it's not a family.

Team members commit to abide by agreed standards of behaviour, and there are repercussions for non-compliance, which in extreme cases can result in expulsion from the group.

However, you cannot bar family members from attending the family party.

Family members will always be members of the family though I understand that, in rare cases, some families disown their members.

Every leader must remember two truths when attempting to build a great team. 

1. Effective teamwork in any organisation starts from the top and is based on relationships.

Many executives complain about the lack of teamwork at the organisation's lower ranks, forgetting that the lack of teaming at the top is evident to all.

Leaders seeking collaboration at the lower levels must invest consciously in building effective working relationships amongst leaders at the top of the organisation so that it becomes an example to others in the larger organisational context.

As Steve Jobs of Apple alluded to, tremendous teamwork at the top of the company, which filters down to tremendous teamwork throughout the company. He believes this is the reason for the success of Apple. 

Source: Bersin by Deloitte

2. Teamwork is built on the foundations of effective relationships among team members.

Team leaders must invest in building meaningful relationships to achieve sustainable performance.

They must be interested in the team interactions. Perhaps a mantra like "relationships before results" can be a compelling call to action for many team leaders.

Every sustainable team performance we see around us, whether in sports or business, is attributed to solid bonds or relationships developed between team members and coaches (leaders).

Investing time and effort in developing team relationships may seem like a waste of effort. It's one of those paradoxes where you go fast by going slow.

Here are two simple ideas to help you along the way, given what we know about building effective teams.

Strong relationships thrive when we understand ourselves and the individuals we interact with. First, start with knowing yourself.

Here are three questions to help you think about this. What strengths and leadership styles can you use to build your team?

What personal failings can undermine your team's effectiveness and so must be held in check?

How do you receive feedback on your leadership of the team?

As a leader, you must continuously reflect on these to take the necessary actions and lead from a position of strength and respect within your team.

An apparent strength every team leader can use to unleash superior team performance is the ability to communicate openly and with respect. Lack of open communication and respect on the part of the leader is also an apparent failure.

Leaders should not be seen or perceived to demean and undermine individuals and team spirit with their words and actions. Your team member's perception of your leadership is critical to your team's effectiveness.

Find ways to harvest this feedback and act on it. 

Second, as a leader, you must understand your team members. As WCH Prentice puts it, "A great leader's unique achievement is a human and social one which stems from his understanding of his fellow workers and the relationship of their individual goals to the group goal that he must carry out" [emphasis mine].

So leaders must move beyond knowing colleagues superficially to investing in understanding team members' strengths, aspirations, fears, challenges, motivations, and needs.

Leaders must observe team members keenly, undertake regular reviews and pay attention to team interactions.

For example, you need to know team members well enough so you will not perceive their probing questions and call for figures to back your strategy as signs of pessimism but a valuable trait needed to check on your ideas.

You even invite this team member to challenge your thinking because you celebrate this trait.

Your attempts to understand your team will throw up several insights that can be used to improve the team's overall effectiveness.  

Effective teams are built by deliberate human interactions and experiences.

It requires a significant investment of time, effort, emotions, empathy, and all that is human since all team members are human.

Leaders must be prepared to pay the price for the prize: a team that achieves superior performance sustainably. 

…..be of good cheer!

The writer is a Leadership Development Facilitator, Executive Coach and Strategy Consultant, Founder of the CEO Accelerator Program, and Chief Learning Strategist at TEMPLE Advisory.

The mission of The Leadership Project is to harvest highly effective leadership practices and share them in a manner that other leaders can easily incorporate into their leadership practice.

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