“How do you manage people who are better than you?”
There Is An I In Team: HBR Presentation w/ Mark De Rond and Angela Herrin
I listened to a recent web presentation provided by the Harvard Business Review titled, “There Is An I In Team”.
I’m fascinated by collaboration among team members as a result of having had a couple of long term boyfriends who played Division I sports (Hot!).
It made very little sense to me in college that men can experience anger and frustration with a teammate or rival, duke it out, then grab a beer and hang out as friends the following day.
They seemed to be able to separate their roles on their teams from who they are off the team. But, how?!?!?
These abilities — a) getting over setbacks and moving forward, and b) separating one’s role on and off his/her team — are paramount to one’s chances of success in large organizations (i.e. Professor Xavier’s school for the gifted, or if you prefer reality, large world class corporations).
The HBR presentation I mentioned is one of the better studies on how the best teams function, what makes teams effective, and how to manage teams to accomplish wins. De Rond takes his observations of university rowing teams and boat races to examine coordination between team members.
One insightful observation De Rond discovered in the results of team surveys is that high performers typically underestimate their own teammates**. And, as we all have experienced, this makes high performers or those who are highly intelligent dismissive of others.
If this is true, what can we do to exploit the value high performers can provide while mitigating the risks these high performers’ behavioral tendencies often cause?
Surprisingly, the answer isn’t found by forcing all team members to get along. It turns out that expressing emotional experiences and venting to teammates create winning performance***.
While most of us define team harmony as an absence of competitiveness between members, this is only half of the story. Competition (“lack of harmony”) cannot truly be forced out of individuals because it is innate. If suppressed, competition resurfaces in more destructive forms under the radar of team leaders and creates more dysfunction than if they were acknowledged, accepted and resolved in a psychologically safe and moderated space.
My favorite take away from this presentation is this:
Harmony cannot be forced in teams. Harmony is created naturally when teams experience wins and achieve great things through collaboration with one another.
In other words, if you want your team to get along, it’s essential to experience rough patches, then experience resolution and moving forward from these challenges.
Teams surviving such challenges and creating wins together naturally create harmony. There are no shortcuts to achieving true team connectedness.
Survey questions De Rond asked an audience**:
1. Your choices – How confident are you in making good choices (in business/professional)?
2. Others’ choices – how confident are you in the members of your team’s abilities to make good choices?
The results he found from the above survey is that our teammates are more capable and reliable than we think.
3. When you die, will you go to heaven?
** Responses gathered from survey reveal that high performers typically underestimate their team members
E***How to you exploit the value and mitigate the risk in high performing individuals. De Rond found team meetings wherein individuals feel safe to vent helps rowing teams perform at their best:
- Provide psychological safety (safe space for others to communicate with one another – i.e. “irritant meetings”)
- Establish ground rules: confidentiality
- No stomping out of the meeting – stick it out until we move forward
- Establish agreement on the rule: when one person speaks, others must listen. Everyone will have a chance to speak.
- “Tell each other how the problem has made you feel”. This exercise particularly helps separate emotional anxiety from the problem.
- “Tell each other NOW what the problem is (post emotional letting)
- What commitment will you make to solve this problem? Enlist other team members for help.
Suggested books: Alpha Male syndrome,
“Steven’s question” – will doing this help us win the boat race?