What can you do when a team isn’t performing to its potential? High performing teams – the idea that the sum is greater than the combined efforts of the individual parts – sometimes elude even the best and most talented performers and leaders. And tiny tweaks, it turns out, can make all the difference.
For example, look at my experience with a corporate team I’ll call Team Marvel. Two years ago, my assessment of Team Marvel was that they were a group of talented individuals dedicated towards a common goal, and that they were meeting expectations of their boss, their organization, and the customers they serve. But I had a feeling they had more to give – and they proved me right when I recently checked in with them. Here’s a “before and after” look.
- Teammates were unwilling to give “Thor” honest feedback about how his extended work schedule (working 60 hours/week and often putting hours in over the weekend) was impacting his mood at work. He was known as someone challenging to be around, and no one was willing to “risk” being honest with him.
- Then there was “Wonder Woman” (who I am borrowing from DC Comics for the sake of my story) – she was the smartest and most talented of the group, and she made sure everyone knew it. She was always willing to share what everyone else should and shouldn’t be doing. And there was no empathy for the individual challenges her team members were facing.
- Next was “Captain America” – even a million dollars couldn’t get him to be honest about what was really going on with his business unit. He claimed to his peers that “everything is great!” in his group, and everyone on the team knew otherwise. It was a blatant cover-up.
- The team members worked from all over the country, rarely spending significant face time with each other. During our training, one would have thought they’d use break times to connect with each other … nope. Returning emails and phone calls was the norm – which certainly occasionally would have been acceptable, if interspersed with face-to-face connections.
- Thor is asking for and appreciating help from the team. He realized what a “hammer” he was to be around (his family agreed), and he took steps to offload some tasks to his direct reports. The added benefit is that his direct reports have progressed even further than expected.
- Wonder Woman is sharing more and listening more.
- Captain America realized that he’s not helping himself, his team, or the organization by covering up some vulnerabilities in his business unit. With the help and coaching of his peers, the group has continued to progress.
- They went to happy hour together the last time they were all in town … enough said.
That’s all it takes – tiny tweaks. Prepare yourself to be amazed. You will watch your team take on more projects, complete them faster, outpace business unit goals, and have a lot more fun doing so.