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Don’t Just Work as a Team – Thrive as a Team through Planning

Written by on September 16, 2015

As leaders, we put so much time and effort into assembling great teams. We carefully select top performers across a variety of areas, put them in a room together, and lay out challenges with the expectation that they will make magic happen. And we are often left disappointed when those teams fail to out-achieve the sum of their parts. We might be tempted to blame our team members when they fall short of our expectations, but is it possible that expectations might have been unreasonable to begin with?

Plan for Your Team’s Success

Some of your organization’s brightest stars might be used to shining on their own. Whether due to the nature of their role, their character, or the organization as a whole, they may have yet not had the opportunity to work alongside others. It may seem like a great idea to bring them together with other shining stars to form a constellation, but what if all those individual stars don’t have the skills or the knowledge to function together?

For many people, working collaboratively doesn’t come naturally, especially if the group environment is new and unfamiliar. However, it’s not unreasonable to expect your team members to work together as well as they worked individually – as long as you have a plan. You, as the leader, must approach the team-building task with a plan in order for the group to stand a much greater chance of succeeding. Create a clear structure and process for how they will best work together and learn from each other and ensure you have everyone’s buy-in.

Establish a Common Vision

Establishing a collaborative environment where your team members can speak up, listen to each other, and disagree respectfully takes effort, patience, and yes, planning.

So how do you plan for a team’s success? Create a framework for how they will work together and establish a clear vision toward a common goal. This is best done with the group’s input and is a great way to break the ice around group communication. Here are a few questions that will help get you started:

  • What is our guiding philosophy?
  • What can we accomplish as a team that we can’t do individually?
  • What is the philosophy that will guide operational processes?
  • What are the areas where, if we were to collaborate, we could greatly improve?
  • How can we have vibrant and open discussions?
  • How do we make sure we respect the different approaches of our team members?

Collaboration Coexists with Conflict

By exploring and formalizing a process for how best to work together, team members agree on a way in which to respectfully address the misunderstandings and conflict that will certainly arise. In order for people to collaborate, they need to hear each other, listen to each other, understand each other, and work through differences in approach. This takes courage, commitment, and trust while the plan provides accountability.