What does team work look like to you?

With all the new technology promising to simplify our lives, reduce email overload, and make our communications easier – how do you see your ideal team work? How do YOU see collaboration in YOUR company?

Is it creative chaos – where everyone knows their roles and scope, and keeps iterating and delivering on them – until roles change?

Is it controlled chaos – where the same as above happens, with a semi-transparent layer of workflow or oversight above it?

Is it self-managed – where you team works mainly independently, only focusing on their assigned tasks? Tiered? Waterfall? Agile? Scrums?

Argh – all those terms, and the only question you really want answered is: “is my team doing a GOOD job?” Of course, a wiser leader would be asking “is my team HAPPY doing what they’re doing?”

How colourful is your team? And I do mean this literally. Do they have different backgrounds, cultures, languages, soft skills and experience to properly fill out the spectrum of all your products/brands? Let me be blunt – are they of different colour and gender? Or are you basically surrounded by Jeffs? Jeff wears skinny jeans with checkered shirt, most likely has facial hair, designer eye-wear, maybe even a man-bun and is really into slow-drip coffee. Sorry – had to use a stereotype that I see a lot of – thought this one was safe :) Sorry, Jeff.

Do you see your projects/brands evolving, along with your team, and with you? Is it mainly through culture or process? Driven by you or the team? How quickly do they pivot during bottlenecks? How easily they come up to you for help or advice? In person, or in a group? Organically, throughout the year, or only at the HR-mandated reviews, during pesky paperwork? What if your culture starts to rot? Too much agreement? Too many “yes” answers to all kinds of queries? Too many Jeffs? How do you even detect and measure it?

Welcome to blind spots – things that can (and will) derail you faster than you can say ‘comfort zone’.

These questions, of course, are mostly rhetorical – but I wanted to point them out, and remind you – they should be on your mind regularly. Not just when a big project is completed, or when HR is requiring those yearly team reviews. Answer these questions in your mind, or out lout, for your teams – new and old – regularly. Technology only helps so much. Instinct only guides you when you pay attention to it. And the teams – they are always on the go, always building/delivering something – so they need to be managed, invested, and cared for.

So take yourself out of comfort zone. Regularly. With a teammate, with a product, with technology. Ask “why do we…” just as often as you ask “how can we…” – and be genuinely open to any feedback you receive. Then you can see collaboration as it was meant to be – transparent, productive, and transformational. Only when you start welcoming, and seriously considering any ideas and all feedback – you can openly, and creatively grow, as a team, as a leader, and ultimately, as a company. Collaborative teams and companies are force-multipliers, and if you don’t fear leaving the comfort zone, and keep iterating, and evolving – very little can stop you or your team. Now that’s teamwork!

Then again, if you’re comfortable, and the team is hitting all the targets, and your products are all in line, and clients are all happy – you can just keep coasting, and not realize your ship is already rotting from the inside.