No More Boring Meetings, Please!
Lessons from the Costa Concordia: A Case For Company Values

Team members make two common mistakes:

Mistake #1:  Thinking it’s the team leader’s responsibility to pull the team together and waiting passively for that to happen.

Mistake #2: Accepting mediocrity because they assume there is nothing they can do.

Ultimately a team’s success depends on the team members, not the team leader. In fact, over-dependence on the team leader can prevent a team from reaching its full potential.

 What you can do as a team member to support your team on its journey to high performance.

Teams move through predictable stages of development, but how quickly and easily they progress depends on whether the needs of the team are being met during each stage. And sometimes teams can get stuck. Here’s what you can do, depending on what stage your team is in:

Stage 1: Setting the Foundation

Before jumping into the work, teams need to first lay the foundation by creating a common understanding of the team’s purpose and how they will accomplish the work. They need clarify how they will make decisions, share information, and approach the work.

If they don’t understand the importance of laying the foundation, or if they are impatient with process, or if they are too eager to begin, they will jump into the work prematurely. Ultimately they will need to clarify all these things. It’s much easier to do it on the front-end instead of making mistakes and having to backtrack.

What you can do:

  1. Don’t assume it is up to the leader to ensure you team is successful.
  2. Be aware of what teams need to clarify during this stage. See “Setup Your Team for Success” for more information.
  3. Ask for a discussion to gain agreement and clarity if your team does not have a common understanding of their purpose and how they will work together to achieve it.

Stage 2:  Dealing With What’s Under the Table

As work gets underway, tension arises as the discrepancy between initial hopes and the realities surface. There is a growing sense of dissatisfaction or impatience, which might be directed toward the goals, leadership or other team members.

This is an important stage.  It is where trust develops because by successfully resolving conflict, the team members develop a deeper understanding and appreciation for each other. And it is where collectively the team calibrates to develop a believable shared vision of what they will accomplish and how they will work together to achieve it. Think of it as the grain of sand in the oyster that creates the pearl.

Denying and avoiding dealing with the issues during this stage lengthens this stage. And some teams get stuck here and never move on.

What you can do:  

  1. Put it on the table: identify the issues and what you see happening in a descriptive, non-judgmental way.
  2. Look at what is happening from a group perspective. If a few people are active (ex. engaged in conflict or pushing their agenda) and others are silent, the group is out of balance. Ask those who are silent to weigh in.
  3. Describe what you personally are experiencing and how it affects you.
  4. Suggest that the team review its purpose and operating values.
  5. Be aware of the team member skills you can use.

Stage 3: Becoming Cohesive

A sense of cohesion arises once the team has developed a collective mindset and has learned to successfully manage conflict. There is a real sense of team identity and a “we” mentality.

But the newly formed trust is fragile, and sometimes team members will avoid conflict because they don’t want to rock the boat. The fact is that avoiding conflict will actually send the team right back to the previous stage.

One of the biggest dangers for the team during this stage is getting into “group think,” where people withhold opinions that are different from the majority.

What you can do:

  1. Don’t hold back. Present your point of view when it is different from others’.
  2. Observe how the team functions in areas such as communications, decision making, and problem solving.
  3. Don’t participate in decision making until the topic has been thoroughly discussed and all viewpoints are on the table.
  4. When the team makes a mistake, ask, “What can we learn?”

Stage 4: Achieving

At this point, the team has learned to work together, appreciating and utilizing the talents of each team member, and flexibly adapting to circumstances to achieve its goals. Leadership can arise from anywhere depending on what’s needed.

The danger for the team at this point is in resting on its laurels and getting bored or sloppy. The team needs new challenges.

What you can do:

  1. Be an active participant.
  2. Set challenging goals.
  3. Maintain a big picture perspective.
  4. Model and monitor the team values. Don’t ignore mistakes.
  5. Recognize others’ contributions and the team’s success.

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