Nick Fury, Captain America, Iron Man, Thor and The Hulk… the perfect intergalactic crime fighting team! Today’s guest blogger (and the newest perfect addition to the Ryan Gately team) Elaine Marsden discusses the importance of leveraging individual strengths to build successful and cohesive teams…
I recall in college that when the lecturers advised that we had a teamwork assignment I would inwardly groan… another assignment where I would do all the work and other people could take the credit. Looking back on it, I’ll readily admit it I was a swot, getting my assignments in early, doing the extra study and the discretionary reading – I found it a challenge that the other students in my class were not the same. When it came to teamwork I would be keen to get started straight away, to assign the research and ensure that we all had an equal number of tasks. As the time for submission drew closer and my ‘team mates’ had not even started I would get increasingly anxious and start doing their tasks for them. I would get increasingly cross with them for, in my view, being lazy and satisfied to ride on my hard work.
What I had failed to recognise was that (strangely enough) not everyone works in the same way as I do. Some people work at a different pace whilst others simply do not see completing a task early as a priority. I could not recognise that there was a definite contribution that they could make – it was just very different to mine. We were not a complementary team fit! Only one person in the group was focused on completing the task and the detail required to do so, whilst others I was often placed with were the ‘ideas people’ happy to contribute to discussions but easily distracted when it came to completing the task.
It has taken time and experience to allow me to reflect on these experiences and accept that I was not ‘in the right’ with my approach, it was not a case that the others were wrong – we were a poorly matched team from the start. What we were not in a position to realise was the opportunities that could have come from identifying our strengths and weaknesses at the start of each project. Even with the most highly skilled team if they are mismatched and cannot work well together the project is doomed for budget overrun and potentially failure from the start.
There are a number of factors which will impact on any team’s ability to work together and succeed! A great tool I have seen help businesses to identify and use these differences effectively is the Team Management System Profile. This tool helps you to identify your individual preferences and working style and from this will support the identification of complementary preferences for team success.
Through combining knowledge of working style preferences with trust in colleagues and managers teams can be put together who are complementary. For example, a team of ‘completer/finishers’ is not going to tolerate (for very long) thinking through the big picture and ideas – they will want to get started and get things done. Equally a group of ‘ideas people’ will not be focused on getting through a task and driving to meet deadlines. However, a combination of people with complementary preferences will allow for both greater group cohesiveness and a successful outcome.
Karen Gately is an accredited TMS facilitator… For more information about using the tool to assess your team’s fit contact Ryan Gately on (03) 9670 6711