Startups Need Strong Teams

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When a team works well together, great things can happen. Just ask Greece.

In 2004 Greece stunned the world when their national soccer team won the European Cup. Going into the tournament, the team had low expectations. Greece had never won a game at a major tournament and would have been satisfied with a single win.

Unlike more established teams with their roster of high-profile international stars, most of the Greek players were unknown outside their own country. But the Greeks made up for this with smart tactics and collective brilliance. Strong teamwork led to the highest success.

Startup teams can also overcome challenges and achieve great things when they function well. To excel, teams need people with the right skills and experience. But the most critical factor is not what each team member brings to the team but how team members work together as a group.

Alex Pentland, a professor at MIT, has studied work teams using a high-tech, data-driven approach. For his research, team members each wore electronic badges that collected data about their interaction.

Pentland discovered that members of the most successful teams interact energetically, contribute equally to conversations and connect regularly with each other, not just with the team leader. He concludes that patterns of communication are “the most important predictor of a team’s success”—more important than the intelligence, personality or skill of individual team members.

So to thrive as a team, you need to work well as a team. I believe this so strongly that I founded Grow, an online solution to help teams and their members develop.

The good news is that better team functioning and communication can be learned and practiced. Here are three activities that can enhance your team’s performance:

1. Check in

In meetings it’s normal to get straight down to business. But meetings are also a good chance for teams to strengthen team functioning.

At the start of meetings, team members should take a few minutes to check in. They can each share briefly how they are feeling, significant events in their lives or concerns they may have going into the meeting.

This kind of sharing at the start of a meeting helps team members build stronger relationships and understand each other’s perspectives better.

2. Define your team’s values

Your team’s values guide how your team works together. What does your team value most? Honesty and directness? A friendly work environment? Hard work? Mutual respect?

Your team can develop better self-awareness when members identify and agree on team values. By discussing these values, members can also get a better understanding of each other’s perspectives and uncover conflicting values.

Once you have your value list, your team can go back to it for guidance when making key decisions or addressing team conflict.

3. Choose a team development goal

In my experience, the best teams are always trying to improve. A good way to do this is to choose a team development goal. For example, your team may want to be better at sharing information. Or they may want to give each other more constructive feedback.

Your team’s development goal will set a direction for growth. To come up with a development goal, it’s important to have an open discussion with your team. You want to make sure you have your team’s buy-in or else team members won’t be motivated to work towards the goal.

When your team has a development goal, you can discuss ways of achieving it. Then check in periodically as a team to see how you are progressing.

Teams can use Grow to practice these activities and to guide their ongoing development. To learn more about how Grow can make your teams stronger, you can reach us using the form below.