The purpose of a team is to utilize diverse talents, experience, and world views to make better plans, arrive at sounder conclusions, and solve thornier problems than one might be able to do on one’s own. That diversity of thought and experience is what makes teams so effective, yet it is the very same thing that also makes it challenging to work on a team.
Think about it. When you hang out with your friends who like the same things that you do, it’s pretty easy to find things to do on the weekend that you all believe you will enjoy. If you are a bunch of fantasy loving movie-goers, your friends might not resist much when you recommend a Harry Potter movie binge-fest.
But when one of your newer friends, Rick, suggests one day that you rent bicycles instead, you may not like the idea. Perhaps it even causes some friction, because Rick doesn’t want to spend the day inside and he thinks that you’ve all gotten a bit puffy over the winter. You know you need to exercise, but it’s still cold out there, and you aren’t a big exercise fan anyway. Some of the others are obviously reluctant as well and it appears to cause a bit of a divide in the group.
Whether you go bike riding or watch the movies – and whether you remain friends despite the difference in your points of view – may depend on a number of things.
Teams in business settings face the same challenges. Team members come from different backgrounds and see things differently. But how well a team communicates has a tremendous impact on the productivity of the team. Consider these questions:
- Are team members comfortable talking about something that may trigger conflict? That is, will your friends tell you that they are actually tired of watching movies all the time just because that is what you like to do?
- Do members of the group avoid getting defensive when challenged?
- Do team members genuinely listen to one another’s opinion?
- Are most of you good at checking the intentions and meanings behind what others say?
- Are team members aware of their impact on others in conversations?
- Is there absolutely nothing that your team can’t discuss?
- Do team members avoid using their power and status to dominate conversations?
Can you answer yes to each of these questions about your team? If not, then the quality of your conversations may be lacking. It may be harming your team’s performance and stopping you from being as productive as you could be.