Today’s environment of rapidly accelerating change continuously gives birth to new markets, new solutions, and new opportunities. Consequently, business structures everywhere have become decentralized and more fluid as managers are discovering the critical importance of highly responsive and productive “teams.” Today, the work force at a large organization typically comprises teams that assemble and dissolve in response to specific needs. And when it comes to developing leaders for an organization, a business owner is less inclined to look for a lone superhero who will lead the way to profitability, and more inclined to find “team builders” who can achieve results within a changing business landscape.
So, what’s the best way to build a highly productive team? Do you search for individuals with specific skills and a certain level of intelligence? Or should you look for people with complementary personalities and similar life experiences?
According to a recent article in The Economist, “Teams work best if their members have a strong common culture.”1 Fair enough. But if that is all there is to assembling a productive team, then why do so many teams with a common culture fail to achieve desired results?
Think about it – whether we’re talking about business, sports, or other activities, we’ve all known of (or even been part of) a cohesive group of skilled, intelligent individuals that still could not achieve anything close to the potential of the combined talents of its members.
On the other hand, many teams function very well in spite of the fact that they do not include the most talented or even the most intelligent individuals available. Additionally, some highly successful teams (in sports and in business) have included individuals who do not even like each other.
In truth, “common culture” has little to do with team building. Assembling people who like each other and who have similar personalities may be a good recipe for a social club – but it’s not the way to build a highly productive team.
The most important factor in team building lies in how each member of the team will take action – in other words, their conative MOs, or natural way of problem solving. A team of highly skilled, highly intelligent, and friendly individuals will have a very low chance of success if it suffers from a lack of conative diversity (i.e., “cloning”). For example, a team of smart players all of whom are detailed, thorough and specific (initiating Fact Finders) may consider themselves to be very compatible with one another. However, in the absence of anyone who simplifies, finds shortcuts or creates a sense of urgency, the team will likely collect truckloads of data but never accomplish a darned thing.
On the other hand, a team of change agents experimenting and improvising options (initiating Quick Starts) might create (and even execute) several innovative strategies within just a few days, but never achieve their objectives because no one has gathered sufficient background data to justify their solutions. Additionally, since the team includes no one who was designing systems and bringing closure to open initiatives and ensuring that proper procedures were followed, the team might produce more problems than solutions.
To build a highly productive team, a manager (or a coach) should look for individuals with different conative strengths – people who will bring out the most in their teammates. That means finding people who “initiate” and people who “counteract” in each of the four Acion Modes® (Fact Finder, Follow Thru, Quick Start, and Implementor). And don’t forget the importance of finding individuals who will “ReAct” and pull the team together!
During “March Madness,” the best college basketball teams from all over the country put their reputations on the line and compete in a single-elimination tournament. For a few teams, individual talents come together in beautiful harmony. These teams are often said to be “playing over their heads.” However, such descriptions don’t come close to capturing the poetry of five different players meshing on the court. When a coach knows the individual strengths of each player and then deftly mixes and matches these talents as the game progresses, and the players accept that their individual talents are magnified when they play in concert with one another, that’s when synergy is achieved, and usually a new national champion is born.
What’s true for teams on the basketball court is also true for teams in the office: The talent, personality, and intelligence of the individual members are important factors; however, in the end, those teams with the right balance of conative strengths will stand the best chance of victory!
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Kolbe Corp EVP Frank Reid has started a blog to share some of his insights gained over a 30+-year career in human resources.Take a look a one of his latest posts and let us know what you think.