Tips for working together as a team

I love to write and create as an individual, but my energy lifts and flows when I collaborate with focused, tight groups. This includes my team work at Catalog University, and with the volunteer work I do – especially in the theater. My family is also a great team. We get a ton done and have fun doing it!

So I was super psyched when Charles Duhigg’s new book Smarter Faster Better (awesome read) took a dive into figuring out what makes a great team. Charles writes about how Google spent four years on this problem. First, they looked at who was on a team and could find no pattern. It was only when they looked at how teams worked that they found magic.

So what do the most productive teams have in common?

  • The team has a clear goal.
  • Members believe the work they’re doing is important, and that their role on the team is important.
  • Everyone gets to talk.
  • Everyone listens.
  • Team members know they can depend on each other.

If you’re part of a team that’s struggling, look over these points and think about where your group is falling down.

  • If there isn’t a clear goal or defined outcome or schedule, add those to give the team direction and momentum.
  • If you’re on a team where someone isn’t contributing, try to bring them into the discussion. Maybe they don’t know how important this work is, or why they’re part of this team. Sometimes we get included on a team and sit there wondering if this is the best use of our time. Maybe they just need room to open up.
  • Or maybe you’re dealing with over-talkers. Sometimes one or two people do most of the talking. To counteract this, be a wonderful listener. Don’t interrupt. And repeat back or summarize key points made by others. We all want to feel listened to. A great way to do that is by listening.
  • On productive teams, everyone voices their opinions and feels safe taking risks. Maybe the team you’re on doesn’t feel like a safe place to bring up mistakes. If so, try offering some of your own. Admit to what you don’t know, and others will follow suit.
  • Or maybe the team you’re on has a trust problem. Sometimes teams pretend to get along and then bash the ideas once the meeting breaks up, leaving everyone feeling distrustful. You want to know that team members have your back. So have their back! No post-meeting bashing, please. If tensions arise in a meeting, try to call them out and get issues resolved while you’re all together.

Being part of a winning, productive team is awesome. It’s worth your time to help make it happen. Lead on, fearless organizers! 🙂

Wishing you the most productive thoughts on a chilly Maine day. 




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