~ Henry Ford
Unless you are going to bury yourself in a cave and work from a laptop for the rest of your life, it’s inevitable that you will be a part of many groups in your lifetime (work, personal, school, etc…). The success that Henry Ford refers to in his quote is, in my opinion, a direct result of not just working together, but more importantly working together effectively and efficiently. Whether you choose to call it teamwork, synergy, or cooperation, the ultimate goal of any group is to exercise certain skills to achieve a common goal.
I’m sure you’ve heard the saying “The whole is greater than the sum of its parts.” While this equation certainly doesn’t hold true in a mathematical sense, it is completely accurate with regard to human relations. Habit 6 of Stephen Covey’s 7 Habits of Highly Effective People refers to this process of creative cooperation as Synergy. In fact, he uses a mathematical equation to support the notion that the whole really is greater than the sum of its parts. His equation is 1+1 = 3 or more. In other words, it’s not about my way or your way. Ultimately, it becomes a better way or a higher way, which can only be achieved through creative cooperation.
Below are three critical components of effective groups or teams.
#1 – Trust
The level of trust in a relationship (personal or professional) greatly affects the speed at which you are able to communicate. Let me give you an example of this in the classroom.
Mrs. Jones chooses to randomly select groups of 6th graders who will work together to complete an end of the year project. Unfortunately, Keith and Adam were picked to be in the same group. Earlier in the year, Keith was informed that Adam had been spreading false rumors about him. Their relationship was rocky to say the least.
As the four group members (Keith, Adam, Julie, and Stephanie) sat down to discuss their project, the feelings of hostility and anger on the part of Keith were palpable. In fact, both of the girls did all of the speaking while Keith and Adam refused to even look at each other. The story could go on, but you can clearly see that the lack of trust that exists in this group will greatly impact the quality of their project.
#2 – An abundance mentality
I’m sure each of you has experienced the frustration of being assigned to a group that consisted of one or more members who thought or acted completely different than you. In a situation such as this, it’s quite easy to demonstrate a scarcity mentality and assume that your way of thinking is right and theirs is wrong. Unfortunately, this right or wrong mentality only leads to a judgmental environment that simply cannot support creative cooperation.
I saw this a lot in the classroom as a 4th and 5th grade teacher. Shortly after assigning groups, I would frequently have a student come to me and say…”I can’t work with them.” Typically, their apprehension was based on the fact that they simply couldn’t agree on anything with this particular person. In other words, it was often a power struggle that was never really resolved.
While it seems logical to want to surround ourselves with like-minded people, there is great value in working with someone who thinks differently than you. In fact, some would argue that the greatest ideas are generated within groups of people who think different.
#3 – Authentic listening
The safest environment to share with others is one in which you feel completely understood. The only way to truly understand someone is through a process of authentic listening. It’s important to note that understanding isn’t necessarily about agreeing with everything another person says, but rather valuing the individual as a human being void of any judgments or stereotypes.
A group based on trust, abundance, and authentic listening is much more likely to achieve the success that Henry Ford referred to in his quote.