Great teams flourish when three conditions are nourished. The first is clarity of purpose. The second is space to contribute. And the third is respect for every team member.
Clarity of Purpose
I'm amazed in my coaching and facilitating work how many teams lack clarity of purpose. They think they have it. Most just take it for granted. They seldom talk about it openly with each other, though they do complain about it secretly with chosen colleagues. Lack of clarity about purpose too often becomes a toxin infecting team performance.
Teams achieve clarity of purpose by talking, through conversations. There are usually expectations set by the larger bodies of which the team is a part, but the detailed sense of purpose for the specific team in the specific situation is best generated through open and thorough conversations about how to frame the attitudes and execute the actions that will meet the expectations. That usually takes more than one conversation. But the time spent clarifying purpose in the initial stages of a project will be rewarded many times over in the time saved fighting the fires of confusion later on.
Space to Contribute
A lot of team leaders talk too much. They dominate conversations. They leave little or no room for others to contribute. This amounts to overfunctioning and it leads necessarily to others underfunctioning because they have no space to contribute.
Teams need space that invites everyone to contribute the best they have to offer to achieve the clear purpose. Teams need space for everyone to be able to learn ways of contributing they never imagined prior to the conversations about achieving the clear purpose. Teams need space where it is safe to make mistakes and learn from them. Teams need space filled with appreciation. Teams need space that invites imagination, creativity, and innovation, where talented people generate new knowledge, connect it with new things and produce new benefits. Such a space lends itself to willing contribution.
Respect for Every Team Member
Too many leaders lack the courage and confidence to build their teams with people who differ from and complement them. They are looking for compliance. They breed complacency.
Teams thrive on diversity and dialogue, but only if every member brings a willingness to respect every other team member. Respect does not mean agreement, or similar talents, or lack of constructive criticism. It does mean a willingness to listen, to appreciate, and to explore in a common search for the best way forward to achieve the clear purpose through willing contribution.
Just Like Jazz
A great jazz group has clarity on the melody it's playing and the on the key and rhythm that will get them started. That's their clarity of purpose. Things change and evolve during the performance as they experiment with different ideas, but the core purpose remains constant - interpret with passion and innovation the melody being played.
A great jazz group flourishes in a safe space that provides room for everyone to contribute their best and invite/challenge the others in the group to do the same. Mistakes become opportunities to explore new possibilities, some quickly rejected but others opening up new avenues of exploration.
A great jazz group has respect for the skills, talents, and potential of each member of the combo. They intentionally find ways to provoke, support, and develop the capacity of each member to play their best and then play above that in using the space to achieve the purpose.
And it all happens through the quality of conversations that you are convening.
So, commit afresh to managing your conversations with the same intention and passion as jazz musicians bring to managing their instruments.