In our series centered around teams, we’ve characterized the various roles we may encounter within them, whether that’s during a crisis or in the day-to-day. And yet there are more ways to view these roles and team dynamics.
If you've read the past team blogs, (Characters in a Crisis and What's a Team, in General?) you’ll recognize these roles, but we’re going to look at them with a different lens. Rather than viewing them as individual roles with their independent behavior and characteristics, we’ll take a look at how they communicate and collaborate - and the challenges that brings - within their team as a whole. The reality is, working with others isn't easy to begin with, let alone a brand new team. We all have to take time figuring out how to work together. So, let’s meet our characters!
Polly, Jesse, and Bianca have just been hired into their new positions at the same company. They will be working closely to develop a new marketing plan to revamp sales of a product. Polly has been in the marketing industry for 35 years, and this new company is the third in her career. Jesse has worked for a wide variety of companies over his 20 years of experience. Bianca has just begun her career in this industry and is fresh out of an internship with a rival company.
Each of our characters have their unique perspective, ideas, and experience to make them successful in this new project. But how well can they come together as a team?
Jesse the Jokester
Jesse has come into the project wanting to use his knowledge of the various companies he’s worked for. He thinks that what he learned from his time spent there can be useful for this current project. Jesse feels pretty confident in his knowledge surrounding a particular tool and believes it can help. So, during the team’s first strategy session he talks excitedly about what the tool is and how it’s been used in the past.
However, Polly doesn’t have as much experience working with the tool Jesse is talking about, and Bianca has only heard about it - she’s never actually put it to use. As Jesse talks, he watches Polly and Bianca’s faces get more and more scrunched in confusion. “Well geez, ladies, I can see the wrinkles forming from here!” He says and laughs.
But Polly and Bianca are not amused, a bit offended in fact. Jesse had meant his words as a lighthearted joke, a way to relieve some tension, but he didn’t know his audience very well. He quickly apologizes and offers to pause for questions and suggestions.
Points of caution
- If using humor sound like you or something you want to do - try to avoid off-color humor and sarcasm, stick to irony, and read the room pretty carefully. If people aren’t ready for humor, don’t push it. And, if you do mess up - which, c’mon, no one has a perfect record with humor - acknowledge your mistake, apologize, and move on. Using humor is a way of communicating, and let’s face it, communication is crazy hard. There are going to be bumps along the way, but with time you can figure out a person’s sense of humor and use it well.
Well, Jesse had trouble making a great first impression - how does Polly do?
Although Polly didn’t appreciate Jesse's attempt at a joke, she can see he’s just excited about the project and didn’t mean any harm. It may be a new dynamic for Jesse - working with women - and he might need time to adjust. Polly likes that he’s enthusiastic, as she’s ready to begin working on the project too.
She notices that Bianca quickly moves on from the comment as well, and instead begins asking Jesse questions related to the tool he was talking about. Polly can see Bianca’s eagerness to learn and grow in her own skills. She resolves to be a good mentor for Bianca, and encourages her questions. She also likes to see that Jesse is very receptive to these questions, and carefully articulates his responses. After this first meeting, she makes a point of letting Jesse know this, and that she’s excited to be working on this project too.
Points of caution
- Sometimes what we see is not an accurate reflection of what’s really going on in someone’s head, so don’t let your assumptions stand alone. Be sure to verify the conclusions you’re drawing by asking questions. It’s really early on in this team’s relationship - there’s still a lot to learn by observation! But, if they each put in the effort to be a little more perceptive, they can grow in their understanding of how best to collaborate with one another!
Let’s see how Bianca handles this.
Bianca is confident in her abilities, and she’s not going to let Jesse’s comment slow her down. She understands that she has a lot of growth potential and can learn from the two she’s been placed on a team with. She tries to focus on asking Jesse questions about this tool. But, Bianca knows that Polly has a lot of experience of her own to utilize also.
While Bianca plans on getting advice and tips from Polly herself, she suggests the team lets Polly share what she knows best. Bianca explains that they all have something to give to the team effort, and they could take turns sharing key knowledge. She tells Jesse and Polly that the best way for them to succeed as a team is if they all understand and respect each other as equals.
Points of caution
- It becomes really easy for all of us to rely on a translator or an interpreter, rather than learn each other’s language. Polly, Jesse, and Bianca are still figuring out their team dynamic, but as they get to know each other, they should be learning each other’s language and how best to communicate amongst themselves. Ideally, they won’t always be relying on Bianca to do it for them. So let's be diligent as team members to not get complacent or lazy - we can all develop this skill!
Bianca, Polly, and Jesse used their roles to grow as a team, and successfully complete their project. It only took a little bit of communication and collaboration. So, how can you use these roles to develop communication and collaboration within your team?