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June 29, 2016 No Comments

Always Rely On A Team, Not Individuals

What can we learn about business teams from sports teams? Quite a lot, actually. After all, both depend on individuals who are very ambitious, focused and able–and sometimes hard to manage. Both compete in environments where small margins make huge differences. And both put personal relationships at risk as rivals have to compete for spots on an elite team.

It is a myth that the best teams are made up of the best individuals. Similarly it is myth that working environment in the best teams is a of comfort.

What makes teams good can make them difficult, too. 

The qualities that make individuals useful for high-performance teams–drive, focus, perfectionism, high expectations and above-average intelligence–can make them difficult for others to work with. For example, self-confidence can aid your decision-making but alienate others when you come across as domineering. A superior intellect can help you get your head around complex problems but also lead you to too easily dismiss the contributions of others. High expectations lead to setting ambitious goals but sometimes leave others feeling unable to satisfy them. So you have to figure out how to maximize virtues while minimizing the risks they entail.

Individual star performance travels poorly across teams.

Whether in sports or business, individual star players find it difficult to replicate their superior performance when they move from one team/company to another. newcomers take time to adapt. A more interesting explanation is that the success of individual star performers is rarely the result of raw talent alone but also builds on the support structure around them. In other words, your organization may owe you as a star player, but you owe it for allowing you to be as good as you are.

High-performance teams are invariably fragile.

Teams in sports and business are rife with tensions. Individuals cooperate even as they compete with one another for resources or opportunities. Camaraderie and rivalry coexist, as do control and autonomy, the need to be creative and protocol, loyalty and open-mindedness, and focus on developing oneself as well as those around one. Those tensions can make teams feel dysfunctional even if they are anything but.

Occasionally it makes sense to sacrifice competence in favour of sociability. 

A socially cohesive team need not be a harmonious one. The relationship between team performance and harmony is a tricky one: Is interpersonal harmony a cause or a consequence of good performance? Experiments seem to suggest the latter, but a socially cohesive team can defuse, or at least constructively handle, interpersonal conflict. And that is no mean feat.

What are the leadership implications of all this? Choose your best team rather than your best individuals. Decide what level of destructive behaviour you think the team can absorb and where to draw the line, knowing that what makes the best members effective can make them difficult too. Realize that high-performance teams are likely to feel fragile and dysfunctional at times, but that the tensions that give rise to that fragility are entirely natural and can be put to good use.

When a team outgrows individual performances and learns team behavior, excellence becomes a reality

Adapted from an extract from an article by Mark de Rond, Cambridge Univ