It seems so easy, doesn’t it? Put talented people together and expect them to team in talented ways. But it doesn’t work that way.

Go listen to your local philharmonic orchestra and you’ll likely be amazed. The musicians are impeccable in their unified effort. While it appears they’ve played together for a life time, it’s likely they only practiced together for a week with the guest conductor before performing in public.

Why can’t every team play together so well? Part of the answer lies in knowing that the orchestra plays the same score of music each night.

There’s predictability; the musician can have the confidence that the notes on the next page are the same as the night before.

That’s likely not your experience. Your team has to play different notes and songs with each performance. You have other teams across the enterprise with which you must partner to deliver your product or service to different and unique customers. Adding to the complexity is the evolving market, including changing regulations and a digitally-savvy customer.

Despite this common wisdom, the vast majority of teams in the corporate setting rarely practice together. Therefore, here are the two reasons why great teamwork is a mystery – but shouldn’t be:

1.)   Leadership invests considerable resources in their annual planning (determining what score the team is going to play in the year ahead) yet comparably spend very little to develop the team’s strength to deliver the plan. These are critical questions to ask: Will the thinking and actions our workforce is currently demonstrating deliver our new plan? And, if not, what will we do to enable everyone to function together in ways necessary for us to succeed?

2.)   There’s a false belief that if you put talented people together they will team in talented ways. This is patently untrue. Teamwork is a skill; connecting with one another as human beings in ways where we can trust each other, communicate and solve problems effectively requires consistent and purposeful attention (practice).

If a team says, “We don’t have time to step back and align on how we’ll think and act in unison,” then they are saying one of two things:

  • The thinking and actions the members of the team are currently demonstrating are precisely what is needed to deliver the new plan.
  • Or, they’re saying this: We’d rather spend the next year sub-optimizing our talent with hopes we get lucky.

History is full of teams who thought they could run into the future and deliver their business imperative without first aligning themselves to their unique human imperative: the specific thinking and actions the business will require of them to succeed. There is little mystery why they failed.

Your team has a plan for the future. Are they prepared for how they’ll deliver it together?

Are you optimizing your talent?

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