Team work isn’t optional. Management theorists tend to over-complicate things by differentiating between groups and teams, but I like to keep it simple.
I frequently work with leaders and teams who ask me a version of this question:
“What if we’re not a great team and we don’t all really trust each other?”
Which is a necessarily honest and courageous start.
In my work I encourage my clients to consciously re-think what we mean by “teams”; to go beyond the idea that a team is only the group of people who report to one manager or one project lead.
We all belong to multiple teams
If you need other people to contribute to your output at work, then you’re part of their team. Their contribution might be time, advice, encouragement or materials and the contribution may be big or small, consistent or intermittent.
Team work is about co-operation and contribution
Great teams work well when the individuals have the mind set:
“What can I contribute?”
“What can I get out of this?” or “How can I get other people to do what I want them to do?”
Don’t obsess about trust
Of course, trust is a fundamental aspect of a high-performing team, but the reality is that we all have experience of belonging to teams where trust might not be optimal.
Virtual teams, matrix organisations and a tendency to promote managers without formal training; mean that politics, turf wars and competing agendas are bound to get in the way of team work.
Teams don’t have to be perfect
I think that we have a tendency to romanticise the ideal team, when “good enough” is sometimes a lot better than average.
Instead of waiting for some magical time when trust will emerge or crossing your fingers that you’ll get some budget to hire an outside coach to help you strengthen those bonds, you could just do five things.