If you lead, manage, or serve as a member of a team, you owe it to yourself to read at least chapter 10 , The Hierarchy of Teams, of Po Bronson and Ashley Merryman’s latest book, Top Dog: The Science of Winning and Losing.
Through their discussion of the latest and most salient research on teams, I found myself rethinking many of my assumptions about what makes teams successful.
Here are my top 5 takeaways and major areas of rethinking:
- Clarify roles. Before the work begins, be sure team members communicate their areas of expertise. Bronson and Merryman cite Harvard Professor Hackman’s CIA post-9/11 team analysis research. Role clarification from the start guaranteed higher performance, without fail. Don’t let teams begin their work without it.
- Stop aiming for team member equality. It’s a myth. Some team members will be better at certain things than others. That’s a good thing. It’s not about equality, it’s about performance and outcomes. Stronger team members spur colleagues on. It’s healthy.
- Attend to high-performing team members. Don’t forget about them just because they’re outperforming, exceeding expectations, and making your life easier. It’s lonely being a high performer. They need your ear, your advice, and your coaching just as much as your mid- to low-level team members do. Don’t forget about them.
- Worry about team harmony. If it’s smooth sailing, it can mean that team members are prizing relationships and good feelings over outcomes and the difficult conversations that take performance to the next level. Add a team metric in for number of times folks disagree with one another. Add a metric in for working through those disagreements. See how performance changes.
- Watch how much you push team. Top talent worries that team means fewer opportunities to stand out, excel, learn, grow, and gain new skills. Make sure you balance the emphasis on team with the value that individuals bring. Be sure to support individual talents and skills.