I was late in my introduction to The Walking Dead. I had heard about it for years, and couldn’t fathom why anyone would waste their time watching a show about a zombie apocalypse. Turns out, I was a fool. Sure, the number of not-quite-dead people roaming around the screen is plentiful. And yet, once I sat down to watch it, I couldn’t stop. This show primarily turns out to be about human interaction when things go very, very bad. In short, it’s not really about what the dead people do. It’s about how the alive ones choose to engage.
Perhaps it is just my way of justifying the binge watching of a multi-season series, but I am completely intrigued by the way human relationships evolve when in the face of crisis. In this particular case, a group of people with varying ages and backgrounds end up bonding together in their need to survive the horrors that they are facing. By putting the safety and survival of their new “family” above their own self preservation, they form an unbreakable bond. Wouldn’t it be amazing to have that type of incredible tie with the people you work with? You can. If you are feeling like your team isn’t quite zombie-battle ready, read on to diagnose where things might not be as healthy as they could be.
For a team to come together and achieve great things, each member needs to understand and live two basic fundamentals: what they are working towards (the big goals) and what their own roles and responsibilities are in contributing to that goal. While some of the foundational skills in the jobs may be similar, zeroing on each person’s unique skills and contributions goes a long way in strengthening the success of the overall team.
Team Question: If asked what the team’s goals are, would everyone share the same answer? And can each person articulate what their roles and responsibilities are in achieving those goals? Bottom line: you can’t work effectively together as a team if you are all working towards different things.
As mentioned above, everyone plays a meaningful role in a successful team. As a result, each person relies directly or indirectly on the other members for producing work. However, if one member doesn’t trust another to get the job done (or because they take all the credit...or they make success all about themselves, etc.) trust erodes. When that happens, so does respect, morale, and productivity of the team. A team must trust each other to be successful. If you can’t trust a particular member, either find a new way to partner with them or elect to part ways.
Team Question: Does anyone on your team ever withhold information in order to avoid conflict, or to make themselves look better? Have you ever caught that person doing something you know in your personal life you’d condemn? (like lying, cheating, or making a situation worse for a team member?).
No matter how smart an individual might be, there is no team that doesn’t benefit from a broad and diverse mindset among its members. Of course, this may mean not every conversation is simple or conflict-free. However, when you embrace different points of view and ideas, your team is bound to thrive as a result.
Team Question: Do we actively solicit input from everyone when we are making big decisions? And if we do, do we apply the best ideas, regardless of where they come from, to get to the right solution?
When a team is thriving, even the most reserved of members feel as though they have a voice worth listening to. Team members encourage each other to push past their comfort zones into the “stretch zone.” When they do so, members find themselves building upon ideas, enhancing their creativity, and bettering the outcome.
Team Question: If we know someone isn’t as inclined to speak up, do we proactively ask them to share their thoughts and ideas in an encouraging way? Do people speak openly and honestly?
A great team will care about each other’s feelings and perspectives. You can all be different people with unique passions, interests, and approaches - but when you truly respect one another, a healthy team is a result.
Team Question: Do you tolerate each other, or do you truly respect each other for your strengths and differences?
At the core of it, we are people, not “human resources.” No matter how professional our work environment, each of us walks into work with our families, hobbies, and goals floating in the back of our minds. Getting to know each other on a more personal level goes a long way in getting people to connect, and ultimately build a stronger team.
Team Question: Does your team know about the spouses, children and/or pets of one another? How about how each of you likes to spend your time out of the office? Shared a meal together that didn’t involve work talk?
1+1 = 3
The simplest formula to grasp that you have a true team vs. a posse of individual contributors comes down to a matter of support. We all get too busy trying to make a deadline, or just can’t solve that tough problem. It’s how you come together during those peaks and valleys that make all the difference.
Team Question: Do you have each other’s backs no matter what? Are your team members willing to grab a shovel to aid one another?
Teams are dynamic entities; even the strongest among them can hit down times. However, by revisiting some of the basic fundamentals of what makes a team healthy, you may just stay ahead of the curve. No zombie apocalypse needed.