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Learning To Share The Sandbox Is A Key Elelment Of Team Building

The business world’s reliance on teams is constant.  Whether people are involved with project teams, cross-functional teams, virtual teams, global teams, or boards, people are regularly being judged by their ability to participate in or run those teams.  Yet the realities of the 21st century have made  being an effective team leader or teammate harder than ever. 

Dean Brenner, CEO of the Latimer Group, Olympic Gold Medalist and world champion sailor, explains that being a good team leader or teammate is about three things – the ability to contribute to the performance of the team, the ability to observe and meet the interests and needs of the other team members, and the ability to put the needs of others before one’s own.

Yet creating great teams is trickier than ever.  Now that the Internet has given people nearly unlimited access to information and the ability to share it, everyone thinks that he or she is an expert.  Thus trying to obtain group consensus can be particularly difficult.  Moreover, people change jobs and industries faster than in the past.  This means that teams are composed of people with many different business and life experiences, perspectives and sensibilities.  And finally, teams are often global, virtual and more remote than ever before.  Leaders and teammates need to learn how to work with people they may never meet face-to-face who come from cultures and backgrounds far different from their own. 

“A team is a collection of individuals.  Each person is unique, and so it follows that each team will be unique,” Brenner says.  “This is a key concept in the 21st century, because as people become more informed, more connected and more opinionated, each group situation becomes more complicated.”

Brenner says the solution to effective teamwork is alignment.  Strong, functional teams are aligned.  Everyone is working toward a common goal.  Brenner’s acronym ARROW best describes this:

  • Alignment = Roles and Responsibilities – Clarity for team members on their roles and responsibilities ensures that no one wastes time duplicating efforts or leaving other areas of the project untended.  Without this clarity, team members may also step on each other’s toes, which usually creates tension.
  • Respect – An aligned team respects members’ roles and responsibilities, confidences and the process of decision-making.
  • Ownership – It’s important for team members to care about the outcome of their efforts and care about doing whatever they can to contribute.  Members must do more than just take orders and stand around waiting to be told what to do.  They must contribute to the planning and want to add value.
  • Willingness to Work – On an aligned team, everyone actively contributes to the bottom line. Everyone is willing to roll up his or her sleeves and actually do the hard work to generate a positive outcome.

In addition to ARROW, Brenner explains in his new book, Sharing the Sandbox, how to build teams from the ground up as well as how to work with teams that already exist.  He discusses the various personality types that can exist within a team and shows how to manage them. 

He also analyzes the most common issues that contribute to team failure and tells what to do about them.  “Good teams don’t waste any competitive energy focused inwardly at others on the team,” he says.  “Bad teams do.  Good teams are aligned, have ownership, good communication, good leadership, trust and respect.”


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