If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.
There are very few, if any, truly solitary professions that exist today. Collaboration is no longer just a nouveau, industry buzz word. It has become ubiquitous in both 21st century learning and professional practice. While team structures and configurations are certainly context dependent, working with others, in some capacity, is virtually unavoidable.
But here’s the problem. Working with others can be hard.
The issue is that while most professionals share a passion for their craft, they differ greatly from each other in philosophy, experience, expertise and approach. Therein lies the complexity of bringing individuals together to make decisions as a team. Collaboration in theory differs greatly from the reality that exists in the frenzied professional arena. So while team structures exist, no one is helping teams to create their infrastructure.
What we Know About Teams
At Leadership Vision, here is what we know: We have worked for over fifteen years, helping people understand their own strengths and reveal their greatest potential. But what we were hearing repeatedly were questions like these: “So now what?” “How do I apply this on my team?” “It’s really helped me, but how can it help the rest of them?”
Essentially, we recognized that there was a gap between the individual strengths work and the integration of it at the team level. We knew that simply knowing your own strengths was not enough.
So, with purpose and intention over multiple years, we studied over 140 professional teams. Our findings were clear. Regardless of the industry, team size or structure, the obstacles to maintaining a healthy, high-functioning team centered around 3 core areas:
A common thread in our findings was that a team’s greatest potential for function or dysfunction existed in the alignment within these areas. So, we responded by creating a strengths based Team Engagement Model that will gauge this alignment.
How to Become a Healthy Team
Becoming a ‘healthy’ team is complex and often feels like a moving target. Our strengths based approach can both reveal and respond to the issues that exist. Once we identify these areas of challenge, we can help teams to find resolution and move forward.
The first step is a Reflection and Team Health Check. This is an opportunity for your team to take a pause from the daily routine and take the metaphorical pulse of the team.
- Who is racing ahead?
- Who has flat-lined?
- Who is erratic?
- Who is sluggish?
Note: We suggest purposefully scheduling these Health Checks into your regular team routine and initially having an outside facilitator guide this work so that everybody can participate equally.
- How are your strengths helping to lead, influence and impact this team?
- What strength(s) of yours is getting in the way?
- What are you most proud of with this team?
- Where do you see current areas of challenge for your team?
- What strengths can you leverage in yourself and others to stimulate positive change?
The answers to these questions need to be shared, preferably read aloud by each team member, one question at a time. For larger teams, these conversations can happen in smaller groups with share-outs to follow. The facilitator can help the team to recognize similarities, acknowledge a divergent thought, draw conclusions and establish a plan of action to address the current and future needs of the team.
When to do a Team Health Check
In our experience, the Team Health Check is the perfect opportunity for teams to be proactive with their communication rather than reactive. By regularly addressing issues and celebrating successes through the lens of strength, teams will experience better alignment, personal connection, and forward momentum.
In my upcoming posts, I will further explore our Team Engagement Model. More specifically, I will address the framework of Knowledge-Purpose-Trust and how this impacts the infrastructure of any team.
What have you found helpful when working with teams around strengths?