BLUF: A team's ability to go above and beyond the call of duty is based upon their level of compassion and investment in one another. To develop a great team, one must create a climate of compassion and investment--not only toward the organization or this mission but towards each member of the team. If teams cannot go beyond the barrier of merely getting along, the final result of their efforts will suffer.
What Makes a Team Work: Compassion, Investment, and A Heart of Servitude
For a team to work, the team must be invested in both the goals and invested in each other. A great team must be able to lift each other when they are struggling and be skilled enough to take on another team member's work if they are out of commission. The willingness to humbly serve one another as opposed to competing with one another is what creates a harmonious team. This is not to say that competition is dangerous. Facilitating competition within a team is a great way to encourage hard work and mitigate procrastination. However, an essential factor in teamwork is developing a compassionate team with a heart of servitude to work together collaboratively. If a team is not harmonious with one another, then the goals suffer. Even if team members get along and respect one another, if they are not invested in the team's paradigm, then they will simply go through the motions and may even avoid working collaboratively and therefore lack investment in each other's work. The work may, thus, become solitary, leaving the final result to be of unequal quality. This uneven quality of work can be easily avoided by engaging with team members who care for each other's work. A team that is willing to invest in each other is a team that will perform great feats.
Team Investment: It is a Daily Practice
Investing in people is not necessarily something that is encouraged in the workplace. Investing in people may be in the organization's mission, or it may be a theme of the quarterly training, however, as a whole, when we are taught various methods of professionalism, it is often interpreted as treating each other as something slightly above a stranger. People spend their entire careers knowing and recognizing friendly faces but often fail to develop compassion for their fellow workers. However, investing in your team is a daily practice. Each individual has to tear down their preconceived notions, their biases, and their laurels, and be able to genuinely work for their fellow workers, not just with their fellow workers. Practicing investment in your teammates manifests in various ways. For instance:
- If your team consists of members of a historically marginalized community (women, people of color, disabled, etc.), take the time to make sure their voices are heard. Do not do this simply because of their identity, but because their identity introduces a different perspective.
- If you are keen on your team's strength's and weaknesses, allow your team members to play to their strengths, but do not allow them to limit their growth. Encourage team members to seek training, attend a webinar, or to shadow one another from time to time. Developing a climate of compassion means caring for the marketability and upward mobility of your team.
- Facilitate comfortability with briefing and debriefing. Team meetings can be intimidating--deadlines, progress reports, fear of silent judgment--everyone has something they despise about team meetings. However, team meetings do not have to be a fearful event, nor do team meetings have to be a time-consuming practice. A compassionate team means a communicative team. Team meetings and briefings should work for the best of the group, not just the best for the group's schedules. For instance, perhaps integrate weekly progress reports where teammates email each other their completed and in-progress tasks. That way, there is written accountability, and less time spent in the boardroom.
No matter how one decides to develop their team, it is essential to make sure that a climate of investment and compassion is facilitated as well. A team that merely "gets along" with their teammate is not a team that will likely go the extra mile for each other or the organization. This does not mean that they are lazy or malicious; it simply means they are not invested.