When teams work well together, they can conquer the world. When they don’t, in some cases, they risk destroying it. Over the past few years of college, I’ve worked in teams as a student, as an RA, as a club officer, and as a researcher. Throughout these escapades, I’ve noticed a few tricks in synthesizing the perfect team. In this thought, I’ll share a couple of what I think are the 4 most important mechanisms in building a highly effective team.
- A mix of different personalities
I used to think that a team of one particular personality would create the best team. However, once I began working more in groups, I realized that a balance of introverts and extroverts is essential for pleasant team dynamics. For example, pretend that you have this entire group of extroverts; if you sat down to have a meeting with them, you might find that they’re all competing for talking-time. They’re all outgoing, possibly talking over each other, and they want to be talking to someone at all times. Conversely, with a group of introverts, you might see that no one’s talking to each other–they’re all pondering silently in their own minds. You need a healthy balance of every personality to create that optimal group dynamic. When I first thought about this, I thought it was counterintuitive; I figured that the personalities might clash. But, think about it this way: with that balance, you have people in the group who naturally want to talk, and others who naturally want to listen.
- Team members who are specialists in different areas
When I was in high school, I tried to have minimal experiences in a variety of areas. But, once I got to college, I drifted towards my niche–writing. From a engineering discipline perspective, when I interned at Texas A&M this summer, I had the most experience with chemistry. So, even though I worked at a biomedical engineering lab, I worked on a chemically based project. I think that having a team who has expertise in multiple areas promotes effectiveness because there is someone whose spent extensive time on a particular subject available to you; and you have an expert opinion for each detail or problem you come across. If you have a team who knows a little about many things, you can’t fully rely on any of them for an expert opinion, which is something a team might require.
- Team members who want to improve
This is pretty simple to me: if your teammates don’t want to improve, your group won’t improve. Challenging how we think and complete tasks is how we discover better ways to accomplish things. If the team members decide that they are flawless coworkers, then they’ll have no desire to get better.
You can also think about this another way–if the teammates don’t have enough energy to commit to improvement, or they aren’t fully invested in the project, I believe that the cause could suffer. To create the most effective team, I think that every team member must be invested in the project and bring a prime amount of excitement for their job that drives said refinement with time *and energy*.
- A mentor who believes his/her team is worth teaching
Blatantly stated, if a mentor has no interest in working one-on-one with his/her team, the team won’t improve. The mentor is the team’s guide through the shadowy path to achievement. The mentor likely knows the necessary steps to take in order to complete the task at hand, while the team members might not fully understand the necessary protocols. Frankly, the mentors probably knows the answers. And if the mentor chooses not to share those with the team, s/he risks a team who doesn’t fully understand how to complete the project most accurately or efficiently. Appropriately, if the mentor believes that his/her members are below him because of their experience or education, or because the members are not on his/her “level”, an undesirable power dynamic reveals itself. However, if a mentor spends time with each team member, s/he comes to understand each member’s strengths, backgrounds, and weaknesses that they bring to the team. S/he can also provide appropriate guidance based on each member’s target contribution to the goal. This goes along with playing to the strengths of the team–if the mentor spends appropriate time caring for his/her members and fostering their potential, a more desirable outcome could subsequently grow from it.
All in all, from my observations and experiences, I believe that it’s a mixture of personality, expertise, will for improvement, and mentor mentality that drives a world-changing team. What do you guys think?