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
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-
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.