#199 from R&D
Innovator Volume 5, Number 2
How to Grow
Dr. and Mrs.
Lundin are business partners at Psychological Dynamics, S.C., in
Whitewater, Wisconsin (608-883-2229), helping companies through
workshops in team building, culture change, and presentation
skills. They are
authors of The Healing Manager (Berrett-Koehler, San Francisco, 1993), Building
Positive Relationships at Work (HRD Press, Amherst, 1994, Working
With Difficult People (AMACOM, New York), 1995, and Three
Values of Leadership (Worklife Productions, Whitewater), 1996.
president attended a two-day retreat on team building.
During the flight back he tingled from the good-fellowship
and stimulating ideas. He
hummed themes from the rousing musical finale--the 1812
Overture. Back at
work he announced, "We need teams.
We're being left behind."
You are appointed a team leader.
Great things are expected of team leaders.
The retreat promised dream teams.
A week after the
vice president's return, corporate matters were in his face, the
tingling had disappeared, and Tchaikovsky was forgotten.
But you still had the assignment to develop a dream team,
make the members tingle and inspire them to produce.
How Do You Get From Memory to Reality?
It works this
way. The vice
president has to stop long enough to observe his own behavior and
save you a lot of heartache.
You can't copy another team's inspiration.
It wasn't you who tingled or heard the inspired music.
doing, not the speeches, that matters.
don't always snap.
long time between peak experiences.
Please don't give
up though if you have a team-building assignment.
There are ways to create dream teams, although few know how
to do so on command. Its
possible to accomplish what the vice president assumed could be
easily created if you know the pathway to the dream team.
The pathway's always been there, but like all things
natural, bountiful and free, it's overlooked.
The pathway to a
dream team will lead you through those grinding, grating, often
frightening, sometimes smooth and harmonious, uplifting interfaces
of life--the emotions. Some
will say through our souls, others through our hearts.
We prefer through our relationships, a more neutral
concept. But most
leaders, many of whom are trained in finance, marketing or the
applied sciences, are more comfortable with the analogs of
relationships--diagrams, charts, topologies--than the real thing
with its irregular outlines and messy edges.
Others will tell
you team building is a question of the right process, rules,
regulations and the "what-to-look-out- fors."
They present case histories of best and worst examples.
What they don't tell you is that imitation is flattery, not
building rests upon the proper handling and employment of positive
emotions--of feelings and relationships.
That's the secretif it can be called a secretand
here's how we rediscovered it.
During the past
30 years we've observed the evolution and dissolution of
teams--dream to pseudo--in many different organizations.
Some dream teams last a few weeks, months or seasons.
Others go on for years running large companies, yet unable
to replicate themselves. A
brief look at the life and death process of dream teams in
particular can teach us something.
Take note of some of the structural elements we've
combinations of people with grossly unequal talent seldom become
dream teams. Change
of people with equal modest talent (very significant for
organizations to know) can become a dream team under conditions of
caring, democratic leadership.
Autocratic, bullying leaders will not work here.
If the mix
of people isn't producing quickly, the chances that they will grow
into a dream team is slim. Change
functioning dream team within the context of one corporate culture
may not do as well if the corporate culture changes through events
such as a new CEO, drastic downsizing or restructuring, mergers or
There have always
been dream teams, most accidental and some designed on purpose. For
a time you may even have been part of a dream team. We'll ask you to recall and hold that experience in
mind--paying attention to the emotional and relationship
elements--because they will serve as a model along with one other,
the creative person who is a dream team unto him or herself.
To deserve the
label dream team, the individual or the group should be able to do
one of the following:
way a project is usually carried out.
way a problem is usually solved.
function of a component or product.
Find a new
way to create a process.
Find a new
explanation for an accepted concept or belief.
idea that leads to a useful object.
As you read those
words you may be able to associate to things you've done, been
part of, read or heard about.
History tells us
one person working alone can do all of the above.
But put a group of specialists together and too often they
seem to become dumber than any one of their members.
Part of the reason can be accounted for by the structural
elements previously listed. Let's
look at the paradox more closely.
working alone--Thomas Edison is the paradigm example, others are
Galileo, Jonas Salk, the Curies, too many to mention--will
suddenly find harmony between the right and left brain, between
inspiration--a new insight, and application--how to get something
to work. Harmony
within a radical freedom to recombine the old is the key concept.
Rules and habits of social and internalized regulation are
Some think of
such an experience as spiritual--the writer watching phrases
appear as if on their own, the hunch being followed against all
odds--the mind pulled forward by some kind of out-of-body force.
Others have referred to it as diligent application,
perspiration, trying over and over again.
But whether serendipity or a bolt of lightening, teams
seldom produce the sort of miracle we associate with the
individual artist, inventor or scientist.
Yet that is what
organizations are hoping to see--and need--in all departments.
The new product or marketing idea, be it a drug, software,
electronic time and brain-saver, toy, fast food or beverage.
That is the miracle they expect a team to deliver, but few
The approach we
recommend is this: try and duplicate for the group what happens to
the individual. Here
are some clues on how to make a dream team appear for you.
a Dream Team Could Talk
"team" inside the brain of the solitary creative person
has talked through memoirs. We
hear about trusting one's visions and hunches, determination, of
internal conflicts and doubts, of a search for truth, and of
course, luck. We hear
about a driven, almost super-human purpose and eventually about
teams have also talked, through their coaches, individual players
and sports writers. But
they are not our best examples for the following reasons.
Coaches are too dominant a force, superstars are necessary
to perform the function of a spark plug energy center for team
members, and high economic rewards are motivators which are seldom
duplicated in the workplace.
Nevertheless, when common core qualities are searched for
and finally found they turn out to be these simple human
expressions--trust in team members, faith in one's self and
optimism about the future (the next game).
qualities we've personally observed among dream team members in
come to like the team members as people
trust each other's behavior and intentions
about one another
identify with a team member's achievement
pride in belonging
high expectations of one another
That being said
about the creative person, the athletic team and the work team,
the question is now squarely before us.
How to make it happen?
Dream Team Elements That Must be Jump-started
By jump-start we
mean preparing team members to behave toward one another in ways
that facilitate the emergence of dream-team behavior. Team members will need lessons in learning how to live with
and trust one another before they tackle problems that management
throws at them. Most
leaders are uncomfortable with what's just been said because
relationship factors are seldom given serious recognition as
motivators of behavior. When
it's discovered that teams aren't working right, the panic
response only confounds the problem.
If teams disappear for lack of the right start, the
organization will suffer. Recent
data shows that bureaucracies reemerge when teams dont produce.
The topics to
master and lessons to learn in advance of undertaking team
assignments are these:
HELPING OTHERS GROW
useful to induce members to:
game rules to promote dream-team functioning
relationship interactions they would want to see occur during
actual team meetings
the benefits and liabilities of each topic
how they feel about each topic
scenarios which give practical meaning to each topic
themselves and team members experiment with different ways of
handling each topic in work situations
should employ an outside facilitator to conduct such workshops.
Or you can teach yourself through various books and manuals
on the market, two of which are ours.
But even without outside catalysts, any group in a pre-team
mode can help itself toward dream team status by discussing and
arguing about each of the topics listed above.
The very experience of coming to grips with these topics
will go a long way toward preparing your group for
All you need to do is convince management that the time it
takes to rehearse for dream-team excellence is a better
alternative than wheel-spinning in the format of a pseudo-team.