Have you ever come across a team who believe that they are the best ever? Productive, efficient, everyone gets along and they know it! Even their employer is content. It’s all good…or is it? Here’s a little exercise that I like to carry out with teams from time to time. Ask them to list six or seven of the most important characteristics of a productive functional team. Typically, characteristics such as rapport come up, maybe goal attainment or passion.

With the next stage of the exercise, I ask them to scale how they are doing in terms of these valued characteristics rating themselves between 1 – 5, one being very poor and five being excellent. Now for those teams that perceive themselves to be highly effective, they will typically score themselves between 4 or 5 across most of the characteristics and let’s assume for a moment that they are being genuine in terms of their self-analysis.

In these cases, it can be very useful just as they are all ‘high fiving’ one another and beaming with pride to ask them to consider the alternatives. So, what does that mean exactly? Let’s use an example for illustrative purposes. If a team has scored itself as five for ‘rapport’ then an alternative view is that they value friendship or comradeship far more than they do questioning or challenging. We know that where colleagues fail to question or challenge one another it can lead to groupthink or unhelpful shared assumptions. It may also lead to defensiveness and the exclusion of others that are considered to be ‘outsiders’. This can be a disaster in the long run for organisations and companies.

Let’s consider another example for a team that believes that goal attainment is an essential characteristic and that they believe again that they have scored a five in terms of their performance. Let’s consider the alternative again. What might it look like for this team not to be so focused upon goal attainment? Well, for one thing, it allows team members to consider alternatives. Hell, it might even allow the time for reflection. Where teams become obsessed with a singular purpose it can lead to tunnel vision and when they eventually achieve that goal it may longer be relevant or appropriate.

So, where does all of this lead us. Am I saying that good team rapport or a focus on goal attainment is inappropriate in modern organisations. Absolutely not! These are useful characteristics and ones that should be encouraged. What I am saying is that it is a worthwhile and valuable exercise to periodically consider the other side of the coin. Try it and you might be pleasantly surprised by the results.

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