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Why a star team will always outperform a team of stars

Creating a Psychologically Safe Workplace is the key to performance

It is easy to think that if you were to assemble a team of the best individuals (stars) in your organisation that it will become a high performing team. Unfortunately, that is never true! In the quest to decode the ingredients of successful teams, researchers at Google in an initiative called Project Aristotle looked over the last 50 years of academic research. As the research continued, they were able to identify two behaviours that the successful teams shared.

  1. First was equality in distribution of conversational turn-taking”, that is each member would speak or contribute in roughly the same proportion. If only one person dominated or a small group spoke all the time, the “collective intelligence declined.”
  2. The second behaviour was related to the social sensitivity of the group members, that is, how skilled they were at understanding how others felt based on their non-verbal cues such as tone of voice and facial expressions. They would know if someone was feeling upset or left out and take action to remedy this.  What this creates is interpersonal trust and respect and a sense of ‘psychological safety’ where team members can be themselves and can speak up or  take a risk without fear that they will be embarrassed, rejected or punished for it.

Teamwork and Trust go hand in hand 

It’s very difficult to have one without the other. Open communication is consistently pointed to as the main facilitator in building effective teams. Relationships are built on conversations. Individuals telling personal stories weave a connection of empathy among the participants. Discussing both private values and company values is an important way team members can bond.

It is essential that colleagues feel safe and comfortable sharing honest opinions about problems or issues with others, including both team members and management. It is equally important for people to actively listen to others and involve them in team actions and team decisions. If a team feels unthreatened by resolving conflict, they are more likely to confront challenges within the project or the team itself.

The power of a team is exponentially increased by their openness and diversity. When multiple members of an organisation come from varying backgrounds, whether the differences are in culture, age, sex, skill sets, talents, education or even their roles in the company, these numerous perspectives allow them to leverage their experiences to solve even the most challenging work issues.

Another key component in a successful team is the ability of the individuals to carry their own weight in a workgroup. If even one member is inconsistent in following through on commitments and promises, there will be problems with the entire group. Trustworthiness is important in the team being able to follow through and coordinate their efforts more efficiently.

One way to encourage individual follow-through is to be clear when setting expectations. What needs to be done by specific individuals, and what are the time frames for completion? Which tasks need to be completed collaboratively by the entire group? Assigning specific milestones is essential for making productive and consistent progress in any project.

An agile team requires an adaptable culture, not only in a specific division but from the entire company. Being inflexible in the face of today’s ever-changing business environment is tantamount to actively encouraging failure at multiple levels.

When everyone collaborates, from the leaders of the organisation to all levels of employees, business solutions can be arrived at in a prompt fashion. Successful teams and successful organisations involve everyone in finding actionable answers to overcome obstacles.

What Is a Star Team Player?

Highly effective team members aren’t necessarily the most outgoing or talented people in the group. However, they are committed  and engaged, and they work well with their colleagues, toward team goals that meet organisational objectives.  They encourage and support their fellow team members, listen to other people’s points of view, respect differences, and take responsibility for their own actions and mistakes.

These individuals develop mutual trust  with their co-workers, respect and value others, and put their own issues aside for the sake of the group. They understand the importance of building good relationships , including with their boss, and they make developing these a priority. This leads to better decisions , increased creativity , and greater productivity.

There are many ways to become a star member of your team.  In their articles, Jon Gordon and John Reed of Robert Half Technology provide their top suggestions for how to be a star player.

These are:

  1. Set an example. Instead of worrying about others’ performance, productivity or commitment, it’s a good idea to start by leading by example  and focusing on your own hard work, passion and commitment. When you do your best every day, you’ll raise the standards and performance of everyone around you.
  2. Use your strengths to help the team. The most powerful way you can contribute to your team is to use your gifts and talents to help it achieve its vision and goals. Your team needs your effort, focus and talent to succeed. You can do this by developing your strengths , so that you can help build a stronger team.
  3. Share positive, contagious energy. Research shows that emotions are contagious, and that your mood affects the people around you, whether it’s good or bad. When you share positive energy and avoid negativity, you enhance the team’s mood, morale and performance. For example, if you had a tough commute  into work, try to leave your irritation outside and remember that your colleagues aren’t to blame – put a smile on your face as you walk through the door.
  4. Put the team first. Highly effective team members always put the team first. They work hard, develop themselves, and serve the group. Instead of taking all the credit for success, remember to give it to the people who earned it, and to the whole team. As part of this, make sure that your ego  doesn’t get in the way of the group’s mission and purpose – this can be challenging because we all have our own goals and desires, but it’s an important step to improving your team’s effectiveness.
  5. Build relationships. Relationships are the foundation that winning teams are built on. Highly effective team members take the time to connect, communicate and care, so they build strong bonds and relationships. You can be the smartest person in the room but, if you don’t connect with others, you will find it difficult to work effectively. Take the time to get to know your colleagues, and try to build meaningful connections with them, and build trust. Even simple things like asking about a co-worker’s family or going out for lunch together can improve communication and break down barriers.
  6. Trust and be trusted. Strong relationships can’t exist without trust. Highly effective team members trust their colleagues and boss, and they’re trusted in return. You can earn this trust by demonstrating integrity, and by being consistent, honest, transparent, open, and dependable.
  7. Hold people accountable.  Sometimes, people make mistakes and don’t meet the team’s expectations. So, don’t be afraid to hold your fellow team members accountable. However, make sure that you build trust and relationships with them first, otherwise they may not allow you to challenge them.
  8. Be humble. Highly effective team members are humble, which means that they’re willing to learn and improve. Make sure that you’re open to feedback and suggestions, so that you can grow, build strong relationships, develop your skills, and put the team first.  Be aware of the tremendous power in humility  that makes you and your team more effective.
  9. Be a good listener. The most effective team members don’t feel the need to make themselves heard all of the time. Instead, they feel comfortable participating through listening. As a result, they’re usually highly aware, informed and knowledgeable. Of course, there are times when you should speak up, but it’s a good rule to listen more than you talk.   In a team environment, some people will always compete to be heard, but those who listen well are rarer – and are potentially much more valuable.
  10. Accept criticism.  Highly effective team members understand that criticism provides an opportunity to improve the end product or service. This applies whether you are giving or receiving constructive criticism. Accept input with an open mind, and be open to exploring alternative solutions. Likewise, when you have to offer criticism or feedback to others, be direct and respectful, as this will likely inspire people to want to improve their work.

 

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