Last week my 12-year-old daughters homework included what turned out to be a rather complex maths problem that took our entire family’s talents to solve. The first person Tamsyn turned to was her Dad – he who more often than not has all the answers she’s looking for (unless it relates to buying her new clothes but that’s another blog altogether). However this problem was tough even for Kev who in turn enlisted the support of our 15-year-old son.
What Callan brought to the situation was the understanding of how to begin by applying a formula (I’d explain more but my strengths aren’t in the picture yet). Callan’s thinking provided a structured approach that now allowed Kev to bring his strength of trouble shooting to the challenge. While the problem was on its way to being solved I realised Tamsyn was not only out of the loop but rather confused by what her brother and Dad were talking about. This is when my role began – that of both teacher and manager.
Unable to help myself I stepped in and requested that ‘the boys’ explain their thinking to Tamsyn so she could not only contribute but also learn from the problem solving process. I remained in the role of facilitator by coaching my lovely family to either talk or listen. By now we were starting to get the problem solved however Tamsyn was still struggling to understand. She became particularly stuck on a point her Dad had made earlier in the conversation but had long since moved on from.
That’s when the final family member, our 19-year-old son Jordan took the lead. Requesting that Kev and Callan give him an opportunity to explain to Tamsyn, Jordan’s communication skills and uncomplicated approach helped our team across the line. It took him a grand total of 15 seconds to explain to his sister how the family had solved the problem. When he finished she beamed at him and then spun around to the rest of us and declared in frustration “why didn’t you all just say that?”
Rounding off my role in the process I explained to Tamsyn the contribution each of us had made and why our collective success had depended on each of our unique talents. I wish I had a photo of Tamsyn’s face to share with you – she looked at me with wide eyes and a big grin and said, “that’s so cool Mum! We’re a great team”. We were all rather impressed with ourselves and I was especially glad for what the experience had taught my children.
In business most of us know that teamwork matters. Its not news that diverse capabilities and perspectives are enormously important to an organisations ability to be at its best and compete with the best. And yet all too often I observe teams failing to collaborate and leverage their collective potential to optimise success. How well do you understand the talents of the people on your team? How well do they know your own strengths and what you bring to the group? Contemplate how often you deliberately leverage these capabilities to get the job done at the highest possible standard.