I recently had the opportunity to meet with a small business management company and witness some collaborative work by a team of entrepreneurs. This team was full of fighters, constantly raising questions and challenging each others’ ideas and suggestions. The teamwork was full of disagreements, controversy, and a lot of bruised egos.
From my description, you might think that such a team would be ineffective. But this is actually one of the most dynamic and innovative teams that I know. When the fighting ends, the storm passes, and the dust settles, the results that are produced by this team’s efforts are sensational.
The reason for their success is that teams that do not agree on everything are able to challenge each other to come up with better and better solutions. If everyone always agrees, then the team isn’t producing anything that an individual member could not. Wild teams are forced to think outside the box and come up with innovative new ideas to solve age old problems. These teams are best at creative problem solving.
Of course, the trick is that even though the collaborative work may be full of challenges and contention, these teams must also ensure that team members feel respected and comfortable enough with each other to disagree.
Here are a few strategies for getting the most out of your wild team, while keeping things respectful:
- Brainstorm First. Brainstorming sessions should be free from judgment. If team members feel others are going to attack their ideas, they will censor their suggestions – and some of the best ideas often sound the craziest at first. You must create and maintain an atmosphere free of judgment during brainstorming. Once all the ideas are on the table, then people can push back on them.
- Ensure Mutual Respect. Team members can only fight well when they feel respected. Team members need to know that if their ideas are shot down, it is the idea, and not the person who proposed it, that is being challenged. Disagreements should not be taken personally and team members need to feel that no matter how much someone disagrees with their idea, they are still respected. Avoid personal attacks or exhibiting non-verbal behaviors, such as eye-rolling, that offend people.
- Do Backstage Work. When the teamwork is over, touch base with people to make sure they did not feel personally attacked or upset that their idea was shot down. Coach those who overstepped their bounds to behave differently next time. Perhaps try some team building exercises to bring everyone back to the same level. Take these steps to ensure your wild team won’t become untamed.
Have you ever been on a team that constantly challenged each others’ ideas? Or, perhaps you’ve been on a team where everyone always timidly agreed with each other. Which kind of team produced the most innovative results? What collaborative work or team building strategies can you add to the discussion?
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