The secret to a thriving team in today’s economy is in our past. Severe volatility and ambiguity are challenging our wellbeing and performance. This is having a dramatic impact on productivity with Gallup estimating that only 13% of employees are fully engaged. Despite these challenges, I believe that most people can draw on their past to plan for the future.
Over the last 3 years I’ve taken over 100 groups through a half-day workshop designed to increase leadership and team resilience. At the start of the workshop I have participants discuss with their colleagues their best team ever (BTE). I explain that it could have been your year 9 netball or footie team, working on a school fete, a charity role, your current work role or a past one. I then ask them to discuss with their colleagues what was it that made their “best team” different.
As I circulate around the room I notice the energy rise as people recall that team – it obviously brings up good memories. Some describe current or past work roles – some sporting teams – and some describe something significant from their personal life. One man described how his family and friends pulled together to help when his son was diagnosed with cancer and required regular treatment in a distant city.
After an animated discussion, I ask attendees to describe what was different about their BTE and wrote it on a whiteboard. I noticed after a while that consistent themes emerged every time. They may not have used exactly the same words, but the same sentiment was there. On most occasions I took a photo of what was produced on the whiteboard, and recently had the opportunity to review all of them.
These were the top 5 foundations of their BTE.
- We had each other’s back
There is strong interpersonal trust and respect in the BTE. The participants describe how they look out for each other and how they back each other up when something goes wrong. There is very little blaming in a BTE. If something goes wrong the team members collectively take responsibility and work out how it can be fixed. They care about each other.
- We had fun
There is a lot of laughing in a BTE. People work hard and play hard. They often socialize with each other outside work. Laughter, joking, and friendly sledging are part of the culture.
- We had complementary strengths
In a BTE members welcome diversity and are open about their strengths and weaknesses. They collaborate well and are very good at building on ideas. Members have the opportunity to do what they do best each day.
- We were resourceful
In many cases, the BTE operated in a difficult environment. There was often limited money and resources available. Somehow people managed to work together to pull a rabbit out of the hat. These challenges also served to increase the camaraderie between members.
- We had an exciting purpose and clear goals
The BTE truly believed that their work was important and brought a sense of meaning. People were passionate about their mission and impact. This sense of meaning energised people and the optimism was contagious.
It is interesting that most of the BTE qualities would traditionally be described as “soft skills”. Are they still relevant in this artificial intelligence revolution?
If anything, soft skills are predicted to grow in importance in this new age. In the recent Soft skills for Business Success report produced by Deloitte and DeakinCo, they predicted that we are 9 times more likely to be endorsed for soft skill than a technical skill. They also predicted that communication and team work skills will be the most important.
So the challenge for all of us is – how do we recreate what we have already experienced in our BTE? What was the role you played in your BTE? Can you play it again?