I was in the UK last week. No travel after a lot of travel. Time to catch up instead of trying to catch up. Catch up with my family, with my work, with my time zones and with my sleep.
I also caught up with my thinking and planning. We have a number of exciting projects coming up and one of the decisions we need to make is who to have on the teams. More importantly, what do we want the team to be able to do and deliver and how…and what skill sets do we need…and therefore who.
I have been on many teams – and sometimes I have even had the pleasure of being on a high performing, highly enjoyable, and very successful team. And it is always all of those people on the team who make all of those things true about the team. So what and how and who…whenever we have the chance (or the time) to consider. So I thought.
I recalled a team I once had that contained two very different individuals. One was very good at coming up with different and innovative ideas. She just wasn’t as good at making them a reality. Another was very good at putting ideas into practice…he just wasn’t as good at coming with ideas of what we should do in the first place.
I saw myself as a good coach (not sure why but there we go) and needless to say found myself working with both team members to develop the skill they lacked to complement their respective strengths. Eventually the obvious hit me – in truth my own boss (who was indeed a very good coach) explained the obvious that I was missing. ‘Why don’t you encourage them to work together directly, to focus on their respective strengths, and complement each other?’
Like most good insights, it was blindingly obvious when pointed out to me. Rather than investing all that time and effort on the individuals. I focussed more on the team and how they worked together. And sure enough the idea generator came up with some superb new ideas for us to do…and the implementer partnered with her to ensure that the ideas we selected and advanced were achievable and deliverable.
Better yet, they seemed to learn more from each other by working together than I had been able to coach (by a long way), they relaxed, engaged and enjoyed themselves. And the team was very successful.
Sometime later I came across a different scenario. One team member who was very instinctive and intuitive in their actions. Another who was much more scientific and analytical in assessing options. And sure enough…
…I missed the obvious again. I started down the path of coaching each to be more like the other – convinced (and flawed) in my belief that I could change them both.
The only good news here is that I realised my mistake relatively soon (with a little help from my special relative). And I moved my approach to encouraging them both to work together closely. Looking for how and where they could complement each other in how they approached and solved situations.
My learning then was twofold. The risk of kidding myself that I can change anyone. And secondly the importance and opportunity that manifest when we think about the team rather than just the individuals.
What do we want our team to be able to do and deliver? How do we need the team to work together? What skills and abilities, ways of working and thinking are essential? And then…who are the individuals we invite to join…
…and only then.