How to Improve Team Dynamics Through the ComputerBy Courtney Godfrey, Senior Client & Team Experience Leader
The 1992 USA Men’s Olympic basketball team is known globally as the Dream Team. This team was made up of some of the best players in the history of the sport: Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen, Magic Johnson, Charles Barkley, and Larry Bird. While the team was made up of talented individuals, just bringing these top players together did not automatically equate to team success.
In fact, during a practice scrimmage game, the Dream Team lost by eight points to a group of college players. Commenting on their defeat, Scottie Pippen stated, “We didn’t know how to play with each other.” Acknowledging this, making right adjustments, and committing to collaboration, the team went on to consistently achieve impressively high-scores (100+) in each game they played and ultimately won the Olympic Gold.
When we ask our clients all over the world in just about every industry, they remark that between 50-90% of all the work that goes on in the organization is done in teams. Strong team dynamics make those efforts more efficient and fulfilling. While I wish I had some secret knowledge of exactly what this team did to win all those games, I can infer that both the individual strengths of each players and coming together toward a common goal were important. Better put, it was their team dynamics.
Before we go into how to increase team dynamics on your team, simply defining the term team dynamics will help us better understand what happened to bring this team to success:
Team dynamics: A collection of individual forces working together to stimulate growth, development, or change within a system or process.
Pivoting your attention back into your own organization, why is improving your team dynamics important? According to Gallup, leaders account for 70% of the variance in employee engagement, which is the emotional commitment you can contribute to your team. Therefore, you have a significant opportunity to influence and inspire your team member’s willingness to contribute which affects the overall team dynamic.
As you are considering ways to increase your impact on the dynamics of your team, here are three steps to follow:
1. Assess team strengths
Whether it’s DISC, Emergenetics, or a Korn Ferry Leadership 360 (all assessments Chapman & Co. uses and recommends to shed light on thinking and behavioral tendencies), give your team members a tool to understand their unique skills and how they positively impact your team. This also increases the chances you are putting people in the right position – just like ensuring Michael Jordan was the guard, not the center, on the Dream Team.
When it comes to building team rapport at this time of increased virtual connection, consider some non-conventional ways you can lean on individual strengths. Is someone a music junkie and can DJ intros and outros to your team video calls? Is someone an internet wizard and can find and share a funny meme or video to add some laughs to your calls? Even simple things like music, jokes or even shared recipes can allow team members to contribute in unique ways and add some humor and improve personal connection within your team.
2. Align tools and systems.
Once team members have greater awareness of their individual strengths, building and collaborating in teams is more strategic and effective.
Here are a few suggestions of how you can align strengths and leverage systems on your team:
- Build project teams based on individual strengths and team needs. For example, having both a conceptual thinker and a structured thinker ensures both visionary, imaginative ideating sessions and the right structure and guardrails to make sure the work gets done, leading to higher success.
- Leverage video whenever possible. The ability to see faces and read non-verbal communication allows for better understanding and action when collaborating.
- Continue to give consistent feedback so people know what they are doing well and what they can improve. If you don’t already have a system in place for this, simply start modeling feedback as a leader by asking for it. And give affirmative feedback to your team anytime you identify an opportunity.
3. Recognize people for their contributions.
“Everybody wants to know who they are and what they do matters.” Tying back to step 1, knowing and recognizing team members for their unique gifts and talents helps them not only feel valued but can help connect their contributions to the overall impact on the organization.
As a leader, the recognition you provide is most significant. According to Gallup analytics, the most memorable recognition comes from a manager (28% more effective) or a high-level leader (24% more effective). At Chapman & Co., we set our meeting agendas to start with recognition. This ensures a space for all team members to consider ways they can recognize efforts, excellence, and achievements for each other.
Another best practice I use is repurposing the bonus time I get when a meeting ends early. I commit to using this time to write a recognition message to a team member. Handwritten is the most impactful but if you don’t want to wait on snail mail you can always take a picture and text it to the team member.
Improving our team dynamics takes intention and consistency. But we know it makes a significant impact on a team’s ability to improve and ultimately generate more value to each other and to the customer. So while the open courts to practice together are closed, you can still use these three steps to build your “Dream Team.”