• Westwood International

Are Your Newly Defined Teams Focused and Engaged?

Updated: Nov 3, 2021

When two or more disparate teams are brought together by enterprise leadership, collaboration can easily veer down a rocky path unless a conscious effort is made to get all members on board in advance of the change.

In today’s rapidly-shifting and increasingly global marketplace, leading experts Amy C. Edmunson and Jean-François Harvey in their book Extreme Teaming, see “[the] team as a process [my emphasis], rather than an entity.” They believe that team is evolving to become more of a verb, rather than a noun; flexibility and adaptability are the critical skills needed to stay at the front of the pack.

Your teams may be operating in overwhelm mode and the thought of adding

steps to what they already perceive as a stressful project schedule can cause

members to push back in frustration and confusion. Without information, they

often perceive the transition as inefficient or unnecessary, opposing the mandate

from management from the start. This break can erode morale and increase a

sense of mistrust in leadership.

Several years ago, I was called to the west coast to facilitate the integration of

three disparate teams in a large multi-national organization. Each team felt that

the extra layer in the process that it took to collaborate would bog them down.

They weren’t given the tools to envision the bigger picture---how working

together could improve creation, testing, research, submission and ultimately the

delivery of their new products to market. They were never given the “why”, so

they had not been able to fully embrace the new procedure.

I emphasized to leadership that creating enterprise-wide positive change cannot

be an overnight process but rather must be seen an investment of time and

energy in the most valuable asset of any company---people.

We began the process of bringing the teams together by helping the individual

members understand their strengths and weaknesses and how they played a part

in the larger picture. We were able to identify the gaps in each team’s process

and together as a group, we mapped out barriers to communication, areas of

responsibility that overlapped and ways that the teams could become more

efficient by consolidating efforts.

Although within the teams, a culture of confidence and cohesion had been

established over time, we needed to open the dialogue between the teams to

foster trust and understanding. We had previously witnessed how knowledge-

sharing between departments so often has the fortuitous result of sparking

innovation and creativity as new perspectives are incorporated. We wanted to

expand their thinking about what was possible.

In his ground-breaking book Flourish, Positive Psychologist Martin Seligman

outlines the five elements (PERMA) that contribute to guiding individuals on the

path to happiness, inner growth and meaning. Expanding on the model, we asked

the teams to respond to questions from the personal, team and enterprise

perspectives. (It is important to note that although we were dealing with teams

and departments, we considered the individual is our “unit of measurement” in

our work.)

Below are some of the ways enterprise leaders can work to support teams in

transition using Seligman’s PERMA model as a basis for inquiry.

Positive Emotion- How can you as the team leader inspire optimism about the

new changes? How can you highlight the positive impact without appearing

disingenuous? Hint: Soliciting positive and meaningful input from the team

increases buy in, strengthens perseverance, sparks creativity and stimulates


Engagement- Engagement is about locking in the focus and attention of the whole person---strengths, challenges and talents---in a meaningful way; being in the flow. How can you utilize the new structure to facilitate the reduction or elimination of non-valued work and/or procedures, thereby more fully engaging your team? How can you maximize your team’s intellectual and creative talents to invite deeper engagement?

Relationships- How can you increase opportunities for meaningful and

productive relationships with other departments? This might take the form of a

mentor/mentee relationship, or even informal social interactions that can lead to

a deepening of trust, more creative outcomes and ultimately, better inter-

departmental communication.

Meaning- Meaning, although different for each person, is about envisioning how

one’s input impacts the greater goal. Without a sense of meaning, positive

emotions, engagement, and relationships suffer. What activities can you offer

your team to reflect on and uncover their internal motivation---their “why?” and

how can you best model and thus foster a sense of fulfillment?

Achievement/Accomplishment- Achieving a goal helps build self-confidence and

provides a deep sense of accomplishment. In a team, group accomplishment

fosters cohesion. How can you as a team leader foster a sense of mastery and

accomplishment in your team, both as individuals and as part of the whole? Has

your team been informed of and are they inspired to fulfill the daily (smaller)

goals, as well as the overarching mission?

By adapting Seligman’s model, we were able to set the teams on the path of a

deeper sense of belonging to the whole, a greater appreciation of collective

responsibility, a renewed feeling of personal fulfillment and opportunities to be

more creative, focused and engaged; all ultimately contributing to an increase in productivity.

Greg Z

Westwood Intl.

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