by Teri Fritsma  

I just read “What Strong Teams Have in Common” by Tom Rath and Barry Conchie, published in the Gallup Management Journal.  It’s a fun read, and offers some interesting (and surprising) findings about what makes work teams successful.  The article is about teams, not individuals — but it offers good food for thought if you’re interested in being a better co-worker and making your team stronger.



Focus more on finding the best ideas, and less on who came up with them.

Rath and Conchie find that the best work teams are really focused on results.  People in these teams tend to be interested in looking at data and evidence to find the best way to meet a goal.  They’re less concerned with making decisions based on egos or opinions.  Sure, it’s natural to be attached to your ideas and want your team to adopt them, but you’ll be more helpful if you can set that aside and focus on the facts when making group decisions.


Don’t be afraid of a little conflict.

We Minnesotans aren’t all that fond of open conflict (or at least that’s the stereotype) so this one might make us squirm a little.  But it turns out that when teams are focused on results, arguments and even serious disagreements don’t rip them apart.  In fact, when everyone cares about the same goal, arguing can actually bring the team closer together.  So if you disagree with a co-worker over how best to accomplish something, it’s okay to speak up.  Be tactful, of course — and make sure your beef is really over results and not something personal.


Seek out co-workers who are different from you.

The best work teams are diverse work teams, say Rath and Conchie.  That’s because people of different backgrounds, ages, and sexes tend to have different ideas to share.  Teams that are open to lots of different  ideas and perspectives tend to be more successful than teams who aren’t.  So don’t avoid those who are different from you — instead, listen to what they have to say.


Don’t be threatened by other smart co-workers.

No surprise here: strong teams attract strong team members!  So don’t be surprised or concerned when others around you have good ideas.  Instead, take it as a sign that you work on a good team and there’s enough room for you to be brilliant, along with everyone else.


Have a personal life!  
This one is kind of surprising.  We often assume that the strongest team members are those overachievers who can’t tear themselves away long enough to have a family or social life.  But Rath and Conchie find that strong teams are “as committed to their personal lives as they are to their work.”  This could be because committed people tend to bring energy to whatever they do, whether it’s work or personal.  Or it could be that devoting attention to our personal lives gives us a break from work so we’re more committed when we return.  Either way, you might actually be a better co-worker if you turn off the Blackberry and let go of the computer over the weekend.