Understand team dynamics.

An organization’s success is largely determined by its employees’ ability to work together efficiently to achieve goals. In organizations, much of the work is performed by teams of people working together. All teams will undergo varying levels of change, so it’s important to measure team performance over time. It’s also a must that all members of the team continue to practice self-awareness and be transparent so they can best communicate, make decisions, and execute the team’s strategy.

All teams must strive to become high-performing. The senior leadership team must work exceptionally well together to execute the strategy and set the tone for the rest of the organization when it comes to making decisions, collaborating effectively, and taking action. The same standard of high-performance should extend to all teams throughout the organization, at all times.

Best practices for understanding team dynamics include the following:
  1. Consider each team as a mini-organization.
  2. Create awareness of team members’ similarities and differences.
  3. Create flexibility and the ability to adapt to change.

1. Consider each team as a mini-organization.

Think of each team as a mini-organization with its own strategic objectives and team dynamics. From a talent optimization perspective, a team exists when multiple people are working together as a cohesive unit in pursuit of a shared set of stated objectives.

There are typically many types of teams operating in an organization. Senior teams own the highest order of strategic direction and tend to include functional leaders responsible for their own teams. Functional teams own a subset of the broader strategy, and their priorities may be specialized or only partially related to the broader organizational strategy. Cross-functional teams cut across business boundaries to pursue complex strategies. Yet each type of team must operate in a cohesive and high-performing manner if the organization is to produce optimal results.

2. Create awareness of team members’ similarities and differences.

Everyone on the team, including team leaders, must have self-awareness of their own behavioral preferences and abilities as well an understanding of the behavioral preferences and abilities of the other team members. They should use these insights as early and as often as possible. 

Employees can’t maximize their effectiveness if they don’t know their own preferred working style, strengths, and caution areas. Team members also need to know each other’s working styles, strengths, and caution areas—and how these interact when different people are paired to do work.

This applies to senior teams as well. When leaders don’t understand the behavioral drives that shape the way they think and work, they’ll struggle to execute their plans—and overstretch their organizations in the hope of making up for missed results.

Consider the following questions at each of these three levels of team participation:

The performance needs of the team, the needs of the individuals on the team, and the needs created by the team dynamic must all be met. This can only happen when all team members reflect on individual and collective insights and adapt their working relationships as needed.

3. Create flexibility and the ability to adapt to change.

There’s plenty of scientific and academic research validating the business value of diversity in building capacity for innovation and change in organizations. Both innovation and change require:

  • Multiple perspectives
  • An environment that respects and values these perspectives
  • Norms and processes that translate perspectives into actions

One way to improve flexibility is to build well-balanced teams across the organization from an expertise, skills, and behaviors perspective. Your teams should naturally include a collection of individuals who are well aligned with your strategic intent. Where possible, however, also include people who bring diversity of behavioral styles and thinking to balance your team dynamics.

Those differences should be embraced and celebrated. Take a look at a team example of a balancer below.

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