Tag: teamwork

11/18/12 “Team Collaboration”

Good morning, team.
Team collaboration continues to be an important topic for me in my coaching practice. I recently read a study conducted jointly by the Concours Institute and the Cooperative Research Project of London Business School. They sent surveys to team members and leads, executives and human resources leaders at a variety of companies in different industries. The results surprised me in some cases and, in others, confirmed many of my observations about effective team collaboration.
Many companies rely on large teams of highly educated specialists to complete major projects. These teams consist of people from diverse backgrounds, often from many locations, who are brought together to meet an urgent need. They work together virtually, collaborating online and over long distances.
In the above-mentioned study, an interesting paradox became clear. Although teams that are large, virtual, diverse and composed of highly specialized professionals seem essential to major projects, these factors also make it extremely hard to get anything done.
The study showed that when team size increases beyond 20 members, the level of cooperation decreases substantially. Members are much less likely to share knowledge freely, learn from one another, shift workloads flexibly, or identify bottlenecks and help each other move through them. And, in my experience, subteams that work on just a portion of a major initiative get folded into a much larger corporate team and often get lost in the shuffle.
The study further discussed how the strengths of a team can become its weaknesses. Diverse knowledge and views can spark new insights and innovation. However, the less people were familiar with others on the team (their background, history with the organization, views and behaviors), the less likely they were to share knowledge.
Virtual participation is a way of life in all companies these days. Only 40 percent of the teams studied had members all in one place; the other 60 percent did not. The research shows that as a team becomes more virtual, collaboration declines. Unfortunately, the old saying “out of sight, out of mind” applies.
Highly educated people with a specific area of expertise bring a lot to the table in terms of knowledge and experience. However, the greater the proportion of highly specialized people on the team, the more likely team members were to argue from their sole viewpoint. In other words, if team members think they know it all, they’re often unwilling to learn from others or experiment with new ideas.
The study offered eight recommendations for successful collaboration:
Invest in environments that encourage strong relationships, such as open floor plans to foster communication, increased travel budgets so people can interact face to face, and meeting spaces that encourage activities beyond just sitting around a table so people can interact on many different levels. Anything that demonstrates a commitment to collaboration sends the right message.
Model collaborative behavior. At companies where senior executives demonstrated highly collaborative behavior, the rest of the team members also did.
Create a “gift culture” rather than a “tit-for-tat culture” — or rather, develop a culture based on coaching and mentoring. Such a culture helps team members build networks across an organization that they can use to do their work. Daily coaching increases people’s level of cooperation as well as their ability to feel empowered to take ownership. The study demonstrated that in such an environment, team members were less likely to blame others when things didn’t get done and were more willing to help them out when needed.
Teach people relationship skills, such as appreciating others, being able to engage in purposeful conversations, resolving conflicts productively and creatively, and managing programs.
Support a strong sense of community. When team members feel they are part of a community, they feel more comfortable reaching out to others. When a situation is not emotionally safe, people are reluctant to participate.
Assign team leaders who are good at getting tasks done and building relationships. The study found that focusing on task orientation at the beginning of the project and later focusing on relationships is most effective. Regardless of seniority, team members who weren’t willing to take on tasks and deliver results were seen as untrustworthy.
Build on the existing relationships within the team. Include a few people who already know each other to help establish a model of behavior that new members can emulate.
Be clear about roles, responsibilities and tasks. The study showed that cooperation increased dramatically the more sharply defined these elements were for team members.
This week, consider the size and effectiveness of your teams. Are you investing in their ability to relate and collaborate? How well are team members exchanging ideas and being open to each other? Is everyone on the team aware of roles, responsibilities and ownership tasks? Does everyone feel safe working together?
Don’t assume that just because a bunch of people are assigned to work on a project that collaboration will occur automatically. Try using some of the above suggestions to help your team members work more successfully together.
Have a great week!
© Copyright 2012 Pathfinders Coaching, Scout Search Inc., all rights reserved.


Good day team,

This week’s challenge is about teamwork. My husband, David, and I went to see some musicians perform this past week. Watching them play reminded both of us of the beauty of great teamwork. I wrote a challenge about it and asked David to edit it. His version was so much better than mine that I’m attributing this week’s challenge to him.

Bill Champlin is one of the best musicians you’ve probably never heard of. As a band-leader, song-writer, keyboard player, vocalist and arranger, he fronted his own 9-piece band – the Sons of Champlin – from the early 70’s through the mid 80’s. The Sons came out of Marin County, CA and brought a very funky and sophisticated sound to rock music. They rose above the 3-chord psychedelic scene with with elements of jazz, really tight horn arrangements and soaring vocal harmonies. Their songs had a decidedly positive feel and the lyrics were rooted in spirituality.

Bill went on to join the band Chicago with whom he still tours. But he wasn’t happy with the rather syrupy pop style that the band settled into.

Bill is a musician’s musician, often drawing people like Bonnie Raitt and Elton John into see and hear him play. He’s in his sixties with silver gray hair and back now with a new band of mostly very young players, touring again and doing his own music. We caught the early show Thursday night at Jimmy Mak’s – a great local jazz venue.

Watching and listening to the new Bill Champlin Band is a lesson in leadership and teamwork. They’ve picked up where the Sons left off as a funk band. If you’ve ever tried to play funky music, you know that it takes incredible teamwork to do well. It has to be tight. Everyone has to know his part and execute it with precision while listening to and playing off of the other band members’ parts. The drummer and bass player lay the foundation and have to work as if they are one. The keys and guitar have to follow the drummer’s lead and lay down a bed of syncopated chords and melodic riffs timed just right. If any part is weak, the audience won’t feel the groove.

Champlin and his band laid down a 90-minute set of really tight grooves, great vocals and harmonies, and some mind-blowing solo work. It was clear that Bill was the leader. But it was also clear that his leadership style left plenty of room for each band-member to show his or her strengths. The band worked so well because each player knew his role – when to lay back and be part of the overall sound, when to solo and wow the crowd with individual talent, and when to add nothing but silence. You could watch them communicate while they played with a nod or a smile, or a look toward Bill for a cue on timing. Everyone on stage was committed to the same objective – working together to create a sound that made people want to move to the groove and feel really good.

Try to think of your management team as a band and imagine what instrument each would play. Who are the leaders? Who are the ones who love to improvise and solo? Who are the drummers and bass players – the ones that keep the rhythm and lay down a solid foundation for the rest of the band/team? Would your team be good enough to play really funky music together. Or would it sound more like a collection of one-man bands? Who writes the music and who arranges it? And are you all reading off the same set of charts? And which band member are you?

Have a great week!


Kathleen Doyle-White
Pathfinders Coaching
(503) 296-9249

© Copyright 2009 Pathfinders Coaching, Scout Search, Inc., all rights reserved.