We’ve all heard this story…
…a stern professor saying to his class:
Look to your left. Look to your right. One of you won’t be here next year.
This line was immortalized at Harvard Law School in the classic movie, The Paper Chase. The big message is that hard work is needed to be successful. This is true. But the unintended message is that your success occurs when others fail. Clearly, this message inhibits teamwork. It’s hard to collaborate if you view (consciously or not) your colleague as the competition. Self-preservation is a powerful force.
Leading teams to success
This kind of message drives all kinds of bad behavior in organizations.
- I’m just going to hold back that piece of information (information is power).
- I’ll just stick to my side of the street and make sure I look good.
- I’m not going to help him, yet, let’s see how he does on his own.
Author Amy Edmondson, explores next evolution of leading teams and the mindset shift needed. Instead of the old school approach, a team leaders need to tell his team ”Look to your left, look to your right.”
- How quickly can you discover the talents, knowledge and expertise that each member of the team brings to the table?
- How quickly can you convey what you bring?
- How quickly can we accomplish something together?
Team leaders must paint success as something shared and expansive. Leaders almost have to sell the upside of collaborative work to deprogram years of individual work. When leaders sell well, they can focus on what it means for the company’s value proposition – and for their customers. Our competitive instincts are channeled into competing against other teams or organizations, not other individuals. Leaders have to teach smart, talented people (who have got to where they are because they preformed well as individuals) how to work together. Here are three tactics those of us leading teams can use to get your team started on the right path.
- Model the behavior you’re hoping to inspire — for example, demonstrate curiosity and interest in the people you work with, ask them genuine questions, and respond thoughtfully to what you hear.
- Place a high value on and reward successful teaming more than individual performance.
- Frame the challenge ahead (the work, the initiative, the project) as something in need of diverse perspectives and skills.
To learn more, check out the latest and greatest teamwork resource: Building the Future: Big Teaming for Audacious Innovation