Productive work teams are few and far between. Synergy means your team should achieve more together than each individual contributing team member is capable of. Synergy should be your goal.

Productive work teams

Few teams I observe ever achieve that level. Leaders understandably get frustrated at the many challenges of building a great team. People can be complex to lead. Yes, that’s a polite way of putting it.

“It’s hard to soar like an eagle when you’re surrounded by turkeys”.

Adam Sandler, Mr Deeds

Leadership decisions

Indeed, as a leader, you may feel like that sometimes! But sometimes the team dynamics you are facing now are the result of a decision made earlier. Decisions of who to hire, where they best serve the team and how the team operates will all influence how productive they are.

Below are some of the changes you might consider to help your team achieve synergy.

Hire for motivation

Skills can be taught more easily than grit. In his book Clockwork, Serial Entrepreneur Mike Michaelowicz says, “Hire people with a great get-it-done attitude, high energy and high intelligence, people who are a strong cultural fit and have a desire to do the work you need done”.

Align people with values

Hire people who align with your team’s culture, vision and goals. Individual team members need to believe their contribution really matters and their values need to align with those of the team. Misalignment can cause friction between individual and team values (and indeed goals).

Flexible business units

Traditional bureaucratic organisations have been slow to respond to a rapidly changing world. That wouldn’t be a problem if companies existed in isolation but they don’t. Globalisation has forced every organisation to be extremely competitive. In order to do that, we need to be flexible and adapt as required.

Setup 2 x pizza teams

Jeff Bezos, founder of Amazon, has a 2 pizza rule. Every team should be small enough that you can feed them with 2 pizzas. People need to work as part of their own team and across teams in the company. Small teams are more efficient and having ‘many small teams’ makes the company scalable.

Identify and clear bottlenecks

When you pause to observe how your team operates, you might notice certain choke points or bottlenecks. Those are the points in the team that are slow or inefficient. If you can find a way to make this point of the process more efficient, your team as a whole will perform better.

Limit communication channels

As your team grows, so does the complexity of how team members communicate and indeed operate. I know some teams who communicate using formal and informal channels -within the team and with clients. Knowing where you stand, when you’re trying to sort out who said what to a client or another team member adds a layer of complexity you don’t need. Limit the number of communication channels your team can use, so they don’t waste time searching records or worse -not have a record when they need it.

Know individual strengths

Do you know where each of your team members works best? Consider the strengths of each team member and then ask yourself, “What is the highest point of contribution this person can make to my team?” You might be surprised to learn it may not be the job they’re doing currently.

This article explores the mechanics of great work teams and suggests a few of the ways to step closer to team synergy.

Of course the most challenging piece of leadership is to bring individuals together from different political backgrounds, cultures, religions, classes and viewpoints and get them to work together effectively. Perhaps also the most rewarding, if you get it right.

Examples of productive work teams

Have you worked somewhere that’s an excellent example of one of the above changes? Or have you implemented them in your own team? We’d love to hear about your experiences below. What worked? And how did you do it?

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