I’ve been thinking about teams recently. There are a number of reasons why. It would take multiple posts to explain it all, if I even decide to go there, and I probably won’t. But a few minutes of recollection reminded me of four very different, and significant, team experiences I’ve had professionally.
Two of the teams were part of new hire training. We did not know one another. We did not choose one another. We were simply grouped together and told we were a team.
This first team was, in one sense, a team, but only by definition. In another sense, an important sense, it was not a team at all. Let’s describe it as a “nominal” team. This team was a failure from the very beginning because certain members pursued a strategy of intentionally embarrassing other members in front of management, making their teammates look bad in order to promote their own interests. The result was complete failure, at least from a team perspective. (Whether it ultimately advanced anyone’s personal career, I don’t know.)
The second team, also nominal, was also a failure. The failure resulted from the team being factional and quarrelsome from the very beginning. It essentially split into competing sub-teams and success was never achieved.
That leaves two other team experiences, and they were extraordinary.
The third team evolved naturally. We knew one another. We had worked side-by-side for many years. We gravitated toward one another and developed friendships. We had total trust and confidence in each other. Each of us was competent in the complex technical things that we needed to do, but each member also had their own highly-specialized areas of expertise that made us significantly more effective working as a team – fewer problems, faster resolutions, flawless execution. I think back often about the privilege it was to work with Valerie and Johnny.
The fourth team also evolved naturally, but in a different way. I was with a new company, returning to a technical role after five years of doing something more staff-related. My new situation was a little different organizationally. There were fewer of us, working from our homes, scattered across a large geography. But, over a span of time, I again had the privilege of working with two amazing teammates, Jane and Van. Interestingly, I think the thing I valued most about this team was the friendship and support. It was often the peer-to-peer dialogue, the mutual understanding of the challenges and complexities we were facing, that was most valuable. Basically, we could rant to one another as needed in order to reduce some of the stress. But they also had great strengths in their areas of specialization. I benefited from that while, honestly, offering them very little in return. That team dissipated late last year and there is not a day that goes by that I don’t reflect on what great teammates they were.