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It’s February, the month when some folks celebrate Valentine’s Day. So this month’s blogs are about people. What makes teams work well together? How can we manage teams in a world of rapid change? What are the critical roles on a project team? Collaboration, team building, and brainstorming are trendy words to describe various popular efforts to help teams work together more effectively. But do they work? The answer is: it depends on you. Here are four ways to help your teams.

Allow your teams to work out their conflicts.

When my boys were toddlers, there was a day when they just couldn’t get along. I don’t remember what their issues were on that particular day, but I remember well that I had no interest in helping them solve their problems. So, I sent them off to their bedroom and told them not to return until they had worked it out.

Allow your teams to work out their conflicts. Click To Tweet

For quite some time, it was my impression that they weren’t doing very well. The barbs were sharp, but as the conversation ensued, I became more convinced that I was not going to intervene. They were actually talking about what they were thinking. And then, I heard some pillow tossing and some laughter. I didn’t invade their space.

Several hours went by before the boys emerged in great delight to show me what they had “created.” When I entered their room, I have to admit some frustration in learning that they had been “coloring” ALL over their room – the walls, the carpeting, the books, etc. They were incredibly proud of this masterpiece that they had created together. I had to remind myself that they were washable crayons.

If a two and three year old can work out their arguments, your adult teams can as well. And the growth that occurs from this process is incredibly valuable.

I remember the story told to me years ago about the young girl who wanted to help the struggling caterpillar emerge into a butterfly and, in trying to be helpful, clipped a bit of the caterpillar’s skin. The butterfly that emerged couldn’t fly. It is in the struggle to break out of their skin that a butterfly develops the wing strength to fly.

Encourage the people on your teams to talk together.

If you haven’t seen my blog on the importance of talking, rather than solely communicating online, you can read it here. And as you encourage your teams to talk, remind them that they have two ears and one mouth. Thus, they should listen twice as much as they talk.

Allow everyone times of solitude.

For all of the talk about mind-mapping, brainstorming, collaboration, and open offices, there is good evidence that group-think is over-rated, and that individual brainstorming is more effective. Dr. Travis Bradberry, an award-winning author and co-founder of TalentSmart, writes in this blog that solitude can increase emotional intelligence, self-esteem, confidence, and individual productivity on cognitive tasks. Even extroverts need time to recharge. If you are working with smart people who are trying to do hard, cognitive tasks, allow them time to think alone.

Give your smart people, who are trying to do hard, cognitive tasks, time to think alone. Click To Tweet

Give your teams and your people, as individuals, a vision for what they can achieve.

Regular readers know that I am a strong proponent of having a vision. As I have said before, a powerful vision can propel your team during difficult times. When individuals on your team also have a clear vision for what they can achieve in their lives, it will energize their work. Ask your people where they want to be in five years and do everything you can to help them get there.

Collaboration, team building, and brainstorming are all valuable exercises but at the end of the day, the goal is to build a group of individuals into a unit that is greater than the sum of its parts. One of these days, I may write a book on that subject, but until I do, you can sign up for my newsletter.