I have had the pleasure of working with some great teams throughout my career and I hope to be associated with several more great teams. I discovered the book The Wisdom of Teams several years ago and have routinely handed out copies of this book to team members as their teams form. Jon R. Katzenbaum and Douglas K. Smith outline many of the critical aspects of great teams that I wholeheartedly support.
My notes from this book…
Teams consist of a small number of people with complementary skills who are committed to a common purpose, performance goals, and approach for which they hold themselves mutually accountable.Complementary Skills:
- Technical or functional expertise – the basic skills required to attack the problem.
- Problem-solving and decision-making – teams must be able to identify the problems and opportunities they face, evaluate options and make necessary trade-offs and decisions about how to proceed.
- Interpersonal skills – common understanding and purpose cannot arise without effective communication and constructive conflict that, in turn, depends upon interpersonal skills that consist of: risk taking, helpful criticism, objectivity, active listening, giving the benefit of doubt, support, and recognizing the interests and achievements of others.
- A common, meaningful purpose sets the tone and aspiration – most teams shape their purposes in response to a demand or opportunity put in their path, usually by management.
- Specific performance goals are an integral part of the purpose – transforming broad directives into specific measurable performance goals is a critical first step for a team trying to shape a common purpose meaningful to its members. Specific goals provide clear and tangible footholds for teams by: defining a team work-product, facilitating clear communications and constructive conflict within the team, maintaining focus, having a leveling effect (teams that succeed, evaluate what and how each individual can best contribute to the team goal and do so in terms of the performance objective itself rather than a person’s status or personality), allowing the team to achieve small wins (small wins are invaluable to building members’ commitment and overcoming the inevitable obstacles), and challenging the team members to commit themselves.
- Team members must agree on who will do particular jobs – agreeing on the specifics of work and how it fits together to integrate individual skills and advance team performance lies at the heart of shaping a common approach.
- No group ever becomes a team until it can hold itself accountable as a team
- Two critical aspects of teams: commitment and trust.