Super Chickens – A rather different look at long term team development.

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As one of my New year’s resolutions I have decided that I am going to try to walk to work more often.  The 2 mile stroll will give me time to focus, centre and listen to all the podcasts and TED talks that I’ve not had time to listen to.  This week I came across a great talk by Margaret Heffernan about an experiment by William Muir.

Muir, an eminent Biologist conducted an experiment where he created 2 groups of chickens and watched them for 6 generations, monitoring their egg production and interactions.  One group was left to their own devices and the other group was selectively bred for maximum egg production.  At the end of the experiment the ‘control’ group production had increased over time and the ‘selectively’ bred group had only 3 survivors; the missing having been pecked to death by their comrades in the war for supremacy!

Traditionally this has been quoted by business minds as a lesson in the dangers of high achievers and how a team of highly functioning people can be more destructive than constructive.  In my opinion, I see another lesson here also; the group left to their own devices actually increased their own production over time, surpassing the ‘super’ group – maybe the correct support  could have increased production even more.

This brings me back to teamwork in general and how (as I’ve blogged about previously) that diverse teams, whatever that diversity looks/feels/sounds like are the most successful.

So, should we carefully manage talent, treat it as a destructive force, with no longevity and a quick burnout?  No, talent isn’t a cardboard cut-out, 1 size fits all, it doesn’t come with a flashing neon sign (well not always). Talent comes in a variety of forms and strengths – individual, and team talent are vital for success.  Appropriate leadership and support of all talent (whether inherently visible or yet to shine) is the way forward for all organisations.  Come on let’s not forget on our less obvious talent that is keeping us moving whilst the ‘high achievers’ are pecking each other to death.

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Thank you for reading and please do let me know your thoughts. Natalie

Is there an ‘i’ in Team?

 

I in team pic

There are many successful teams that we can recall at an instant.  The A Team, Chelsea FC last season, the Leadership team at Apple, the well documented Google teams and their Google culture… the list goes on.  It is also without exerting too much energy that I can recall a less successful team which led me to thinking about team dynamics and impetus.

The ‘Connexus’ team from BBC’s ‘The Apprentice’ this year lost the first 5 out of 6 tasks set by Lord Sugar.  Why does a team with a varied skill base and loads of energy go on to fail so miserably time after time?

The Apprentice candidates are striving for a short term win for each task and compete as a team, however the longer term goal for each of them is to become Lord Sugar’s business partner and so in the fight to come out on top overall the cohesion of the team suffers.  They are working towards a common short term goal but have opposing long term goals, so in essence what remains is many lone operators fighting for the ‘i’ in their team.

Team dynamics and success is widely discussed and personality and ‘role’ theories are often used to ensure that balanced teams are created.  Belbin believes a successful team should incorporate 9 ‘roles’.  These are:

  • Resource Investigator
  • Team worker
  • Co-ordinator
  • Plant
  • Monitor/Evaluator
  • Specialist
  • Shaper
  • Implementer
  • Completer/Finisher

Each team member is motivated to ensure that the team is effective and goal driven and having these personality types ensures that all stages of a project have an oriented person to guide the other team members.  However with so many varying personality types surely conflict is never far away and trust must be hard to build.  We should be mindful that the ‘i’ may be easily lost as the group works towards their common goal, or that the long term motivations of the individual team members may overshadow the team goal.  Engagement theory highlights to us that we are more comfortable working with like-minded people, yet we produce better results in diverse groups, we develop our skills more and develop our EQ.  How can we address this and remain balanced as individuals and as a group?  A challenge that I’m sure Lord Sugar himself would not relish.

Is there an ‘i’ in TEAM?  Yes there is, without the ‘i’s there would be no team.   The challenge is not to forget the individuals in striving for the end goal.  The individuals make up the whole, which if built and managed well can be greater than the sum of its parts.

These are merely my musings and thoughts on people.  Thank you for reading and please feel free to comment. Merry Christmas!  Natalie