When Do We Learn How to Be a Team?

Posted  | 0 Comment(s)  |  by Maureen Zabloudil

As I think back on my career, I participated in many professional development courses addressing a range of topics including meeting facilitation, effective presentations, interpersonal skills, etc.  I participated in ropes courses and team building exercises, but I cannot point to a course or best practice on team development.  It’s as if each team is considered so unique that we need to figure out how to optimize each team, each time.

Much of my learning on how teams work best stems from my participation in sports (either playing or coaching) or my sorority experience.  Those teams were effective when we abandoned our personal agendas and sought success as a unit.  Luckily, we carry those experiences to our professional lives and influence our professional teams in similar ways.

When I consider the teams that worked best professionally, there were common elements that factored into that success.

  • There was a shared purpose that the unit was more important than personal agendas, and we trusted that everyone on the team was aligned around this purpose.
  • We were comfortable challenging each other because we cared about each other. We were friends, not just colleagues.
  • When we resolved an issue, we committed to the solution, and we presented the solution as our solution.
  • We were comfortable holding each other accountable for results and making adjustments to plans if needed because we agreed that a course correction was appropriate.
  • There was a clear leader of the team who continuously challenged us to raise our performance.

Today’s college courses require working in teams and hopefully cover effective team dynamics in a more formal way.  For those of us who are celebrating 10- and 20-year reunions, check out Patrick Lencioni’s Five Dysfunctions of a Team.  Don’t let the title mislead you; Patrick presents a formal model for team effectiveness through an entertaining fable and includes instruction on applying the model at the end of the book.  We are using it extensively in our coaching work with clients to transform their teams.

Maureen Zabloudil
Career Partners International

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