Last week I talked about the coaching client who said about his very large team, “The teakettle’s whistling.” People were getting “prickly,” quicker to anger and more impulsive than before the whole nature of work changed and our standard workplace practices were undermined.
With these prickly new behaviors people can lose sight of what teamwork means and how someone contributes to the team’s success.
Teamwork is basically doing what’s best for reaching the team’s goals—the team’s success is greater than any individual’s success. The development of a covid vaccine is the result of extremely high performance teams, and I have only once heard the name of a single researcher. On the other hand, the U.S. Senate, once referred to as the greatest deliberative body in the world, is a very different example. One party censured one of its members for not being a “team player.”
Team members contribute to their teams in four ways, called styles, and these styles shift and rebalance as the work changes and the balance of needed skills changes.
- The Contributor is task-oriented, often a technical expert, who pushes the group to meet high performance standards. They review and redefine information, attempting to rearrange it or offer new information that supports the goal as well as the reservations of other team members.
- The Collaborator is a visionary, committed to the vision but open to new ideas and generous with information to find areas of mutual concern that will generate agreement.
- The Communicator is the people person, building relationships and trust, facilitating meetings, and managing disagreements, hoping trust will result in an ability to reach consensus.
- The Challenger is principled and ethical, outspoken, and encourages the team to take risks. Challengers refuse to compromise a principle and face retribution, even censure, for their insistence on principle, or intransigence, if you’re on the other side of that principle.
(Many thanks to Glenn M. Parker for Team Players and Teamwork.)
Everyone can act in all these roles but may be more skilled in one than in others or change styles when the current balance doesn’t work. Team coaching can spot these differences in styles and determine what the balance is and how it needs to be changed, including changing team members. If for example, there are far too many Contributors in the group all giving and reviewing information, will they ever stop reviewing and make a decision? Is the Challenger so caustic in making challenges that people drop out of the process? The team may complete its tasks but maybe not excel.
Begin rebuilding by considering what the balance of styles is and how it can be changed to bring greater team performance. Who are the people on your team? What have their strengths contributed? Which styles need to be developed? And be sure to acknowledge and reward how they have already supported the team during such tough years.
Stay well. Stay safe. Have a peaceful week.