I am really am surprised sometimes how some ideas are connected in our brains. On my way to work the other morning, I happened to see a firetruck barreling down the highway, lights flashing, horn blaring. My first thought, of course was, where are they going? Car accident? House fire? Cat stuck in a tree?
When I mention it now, sure it makes sense. The firefighters work as a team to avert disaster, etc. But my focus was someplace else. The synapses in my brain were working overtime because of what I saw on the highway as the firetruck sped by.
In perfect form, the other cars on the road slowed down and pulled over to let the truck pass. It was actually quite inspiring to watch. Each person driving each car new exactly what to do, and they did it when they were supposed to do it. If only our teams at work could perform so flawlessly!
Maybe they can. Lets look at why this played out the way it did.
They knew what to do. No matter where they learned it, each driver knew the procedure for what to do in that situation.
They shared a common goal. Its one thing to know what to do, its another to want to do it. Each driver may have had different reasons for getting out of the way, but they all shared the desire to accomplish the same goal.
They carried out the action correctly. Each driver did what they needed to do in concert and cooperation with the other drivers. In the snapshot of behavior I witnessed, there was no honking, swerving or single-finger gestures that got in the way.
The really amazing thing to me is that in all likelihood, none of these drivers knew each other. They’ve never communicated and I doubt they have ever collectively sung Kumbaya around the campfire. They kind of defy the modern logic of what it takes to work as a team.
This REALLY got me thinking because when you explore dysfunctional workplace teams, it often comes down to communication. It seems that a lack of respectful communication and an unwillingness to accept people for who they are is what contributes to a majority of the dysfunction. THEN, as leaders we are called upon to reverse those effects with “team building” to get people to work together again.
So for teams who actually talk to each other, lets add another key the three points listed above.
They must be respectful of one another.
We should probably start there. Then the rest won’t seem like such an emergency.