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Valuing individual differences – key to team success

Valuing Individual Differences – Key to Team Success

Seeing things in a different way can be the road to success. Leaders place a high value on being able to see things through different lenses. Successful problem solving teams and project teams value individual differences as the means of arriving at innovative ways to meeting their goals.

Most of us – based on our personal set of values, experiences, and a wide variety of other factors, develop a unique view of whatever we come in contact with. We each see things a little differently. In those differences lies tremendous value to ourselves and to others. It can be our greatest strength.

The keys in valuing differences as key to team success involve two dimensions.

The first is the external dimension – the overall team dimension. It’s the team’s ability to encourage, listen to and use the differences of team members to arrive at solutions and processes that far exceed in value and impact what any one member could provide. It can get messy. There is no learning without conflict. The ability to focus that conflict constructively is the highest order of skill in a team.

The external team dimension requires three critical elements to maximize the value of individual differences.

1 – Clear unambiguous structure focused on the goals of the team. Clear goals, sufficient resources, and effective team composition that recognizes cross functional contribution are all crucial to team success.

2 – An investment in team development of communication skills and the development of an understanding and acceptance of different behaviors, values and skills as essential to the best possible outcome.

3 – It’s crucial that leadership and sponsorship of teams be assigned to the top line leaders who will directly benefit from the team’s contribution, as the means of keeping focus on results.

The second dimension – the internal dimension – is the ability and willingness of qualified individual team members to value differences and share their unique perspectives.

This internal dimension requires the following from individual team members

1 – The conviction that the power of the group is greater than the power of any single individual.

2 – A willingness to share with others – and the communication skills to do so.

3 – An attitude and belief in plenty – plenty of opportunity for contribution, plenty of recognition for participation, plenty of reward for accomplishment.

4 – Having trust in their own perceptions – and believing their view is as valuable as anyone else’s.

5 – Persistence in presenting individual views – while at the same time broadening individual views through listening and interacting with the views of others.

6 – A climate and culture that accepts and encourages differences.

7 – The maturity to persist even after individual views are not accepted as part of the solution.

8 – A respect for leadership and a respect for followership. In any team, as the process of solving problems and defining projects evolves, different people often take leadership.

9 – The optimism and conviction that the answer to most team challenges is right around the corner – getting around that corner requires looking at things differently.

There are few more powerful ways to leverage talent in any organization than through the use of teams. And yet, in many cases, teams don’t meet expectations. In my experience, failure to value and build on differences is one of the main reasons for poor performance.

Take the internal and external dimension requirements from this article and see how team efforts in your organization can be improved. Maximize the unique value every person brings to the table.

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