Creating a dream team is an aspiration for every leader, but achieving it requires unravelling the misconceptions that often surround this pursuit. In this article, we delve into the realm of team-building and debunk the prevailing myths that hinder organizations from crafting their ideal teams. From the fallacy of “perfect” individuals to the myth of effortless collaboration, we shed light on these misperceptions and provide practical insights to help leaders navigate the complexities of team composition. Discover the truth behind building a dream team and unlock the potential for true success in your organization.
Myth #1 Everyone can be on the team!
Who’s on your team? If everyone is, you don’t have a real team.
By definition, a team is evaluated by goals requiring inputs from two or more individuals. In contrast, a working group is evaluated based on individual contribution tasks. Therefore, no large or complex organization can be truly called a team.
Research by J. Richard Hackman, the Edgar Pierce Professor of Social and Organizational Psychology at Harvard University, shows that often no team is better than an existing team if the boundaries are not scoped appropriately. Hackman’s interviews with 120 senior teams revealed that nearly all executives believed their team had unambiguous boundaries. However, when asked to describe the team, fewer than 10% agreed about who was actually on the team. And these were teams of senior executives! So first, decide who’s on the team.
According to Hackman, team numbers must stay below double digits as a rule of thumb.
It’s managing links between team members that gets the team in trouble. The work required to manage links for each additional team member increases at an accelerated, almost exponential rate.
Myth #2 Team harmony produces the best results
On a large financial organization’s executive group, findings showed the CFO needed to be excluded from the leadership team. He shut down discussions that started and stifled creativity. The team just worked better when he wasn’t there. Instead, the CEO pre-briefed and de-briefed with him to gather his input and relay directives.
Teams that produce something original include deviant members.
But in this scenario, lack of harmony produced lower results. So why did this team function better without the CFO?
The difference is that a team deviant who shuts down conversations contrasts with a creative deviant who promotes conversations.
Harvard Business Review’s studies showed that teams with deviants who asked questions that challenged the norms produced creativity, learning, and originality that differentiated final results markedly from the teams without deviant members.
Myth #3: Team familiarity and tenure make people complacent and stop challenging each other
After we’ve worked together for years, will we stop challenging one another because we’re too comfortable and start to simply accept each other’s foibles?
Actually, research showed the opposite. Teams don’t age like milk; they age like fine wine.
The problem is teams are often not given enough time to settle in and build trust for members to have confidence enough to challenge and be challenged.
A lone exception is Research and Development teams. Long-term productivity studies suggest that R&D needs a talent influx every three to four years to maintain high levels of innovation.
Myth #4 Meeting collaboration improves your team dynamics
MIT’s Human Dynamics Laboratory partnered with Sociometric Solutions’ team Taemie Kim, Daniel Olguin, and Ben Waber to develop a special badge that, when worn, allowed them to measure potential success predictors on a team.
The badges collect data on individual communication behavior—tone of voice, body language, whom they talked to, how much they spoke with each other, and more. They were used on teams in various industries and settings, from manufacturing to management to call centers, IT, etc.
Findings showed that the best predictors of team engagement occurred not during a scheduled meeting but outside scheduled meetings. Researchers defined the communication patterns with high-performing teams as a “buzz” outside formal meetings.
To test the hypothesis against industry-accepted best practices, they advised a call center manager to alter break times so that employees could socialize with one another instead of spreading their break times out. Productivity increased by over 20% among lower-performing teams and decreased by 8% overall at the call center. Employee satisfaction has risen across the call centers, sometimes by more than 10%.
So, to hit your goals: define and bind your teams, keep them as small as possible (under ten), make sure you have at least one deviant who asks hard questions and doesn’t shut the conversation down, give your team time to settle in, and don’t worry if meetings don’t have the buzz you want — but encourage it outside the meetings. Find out in this article the five surefire tips for building your dream team.