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Andrew Carnegie once said that teamwork allows common people to attain uncommon results. But not every team is able to be exceptional. How should we go about unleashing the full potential of our teams, to be more effective and create more value for the organization? Margaret Neale, Professor of Organizational Behavior at the Stanford Graduate School of Business, tells us how.
The ability for different people looking at the same things to think about different ideas, is an organizations’ incredible resource — to be creative and to adapt. We need to train ourselves to look at differences and conflict as a resource. It is the team leader’s role to realize this, and seek to harness this information and expertise of the team members, in a way that creates synergy and generates process gain, instead of a process loss (when more heads lead to less work being done).
We are too good at reaching agreements — sometimes too quick, and too early. We humans dislike conflict and differences so much that we naturally suppress them as soon as we can. People are social creatures, and we always want to be included in a team. If teams tend to form around similar people, team members will also try to suppress their differing opinions just to assure themselves of a position within the team. We fear exclusion from teams. Think of the times you were a kid in elementary school, when you did things that you didn’t like, but still did them anyway just because everyone else was doing it and you wanted to be part of the group. Peer pressure is a strong outcome of us fearing exclusion from social groups. Similarly, teams with members who fear exclusion will eventually lose the motivation to raise differing opinions, and lose the capacity to learn from divergent views.
Team formation must be an active process. If left to happen ‘naturally’, we will lean towards forming teams with people “who are like me”. Homogenous teams are much more efficient in getting to solutions quicker, and gets things done fastest. They also have less conflict, but also minimises information diversity of the team. Comfort will lead to resistance of opposing arguments within the team, and possibly even from outside sources. Choose your team members for their skills and expertise instead of how similar they are to you. (read more about the importance of heterogenous teams here)
Diversity does not directly lead to better performance. The correlation exists, but the key to this cause-effect relationship, is the presence of conflict in between. Diversity must lead to conflict, before it can result in improved performance. It is the way the group is able to handle the conflict, which allows the team to perform. Differences are not sufficient — they need to be surfaced and addressed before they can lead to improved outcome.
Creating homogeneity of goals will facilitate diversity. We want to encourage conflict that arises from the diversity of the team, but specifically only informational dispute. We need to consciously steer away from the more obvious surface diversity, such as ethnic, gender and social diversity. Instead, focus on what the different expertise, experience and perspectives of the members say about this solution to this problem. Dig deeper into information diversity, the differences in the ways team members think and process information. But before we can achieve that, we need to first create homogeneity of everyone in the team, and make sure everyone has the same goal — why are we here? This common goal will develop a sense of benevolence. By knowing that everyone has good intentions and the same goals, will make it easier to listen to differing opinions.
Contrarian roles need to be changed regularly. Do you want to be right or effective? If one person is always the contrarian in the team, sooner or later, he will become marginalized. Thus even if there is one particular member who loves to be the contrarian, the leader needs to rotate contrarian roles regularly within the team to maintain a healthy relationship.
Large teams need buzz groups. Spectators arise in a team for many reasons. this includes them feeling there is insufficient air time to share their opinions amongst all the team members, or they don’t feel motivated to speak up and are able to fade off into the background. The number of spectators increases with team size. Creating buzz groups will reduce the number of spectators, and increase the amount of air time that is shared amongst the team members, thus stimulating more intellectual input from all team members.
Consolidating the above pointers, here is a simple 7-step rule for you, as a team leader, to create the more efficient and productive team:
Choose your team for their skills and expertise (informational diversity)
Set the common ground (goals)
Assign (and rotate) roles and responsibilities (particularly the contrarian role)
Define task as a problem-to-be-solved, rather than a decision-to-be-made
Encourage participation from all team members
Set up norms that facilitate task conflict
Hold second-chance meetings
Stimulate divergence of intellectual input, then strive towards convergence to one final solution.
Margaret Neale, is a Adams Distinguished Professor of Management at the Stanford Graduate school of business. Her research focuses primarily on negotiation and team performance. Her work has extended judgment and decision-making research from cognitive psychology to the field of negotiation. In particular, she studies cognitive and social processes that produce departures from effective negotiating behavior. Within the context of teams, her work explores aspects of team composition and group process that enhance the ability of teams to share the information necessary for learning and problem solving in both face-to-face and virtual team environments.
Our last meetup was a hit!! Here’s showing Neil Patel, founder of Kissmetrics and CrazyEgg, giving us tips on how he attracts half a million visitors per month.
And of course, the house was full of startup founders wanting to learn to do the same!
As a bonus, the audience also got to meet Jennifer Russell Sion and Sandy Yujuico of Stanford Graduate School of Business, who came to speak about the all-amazing Stanford Ignite program. Yes, that’s where the Vorkspace team first met 🙂
It wasn’t just a meetup to learn content marketing. We wanted everyone to meet as many people as they can! This is amidst the “Igniter Matchmaking” session… we literally could not stop the excited people talking to the people next to them! =P Find out more about the session via twitter #IgniterMatch
And that’s us, the Vorkspace team, bringing to you our latest top notch speaker, Neil Patel. Hope you enjoyed the session! See you at the next one on 8th Oct with Hank Barry 🙂
It was our biggest sell out so far! With almost 150 attendees squeezed into a tiny room, we could see the power of Neil Patel. Everyone was so eager to meet him and listen to his expert opinions on content marketing! It was extremely packed, but we had a great time learning from Neil Patel, interacting with the inspiring audience, and networking over a wide spread of food, drinks, beer and wine!
Our 5 takeaways from Neil’s session:
The first social media real estate to invest in is a blog. Content marketing is the strongest marketing tool you can find online. And a blog is the best way to make use of that. Blog about relevant content, and know how the search engines work. Second up would be twitter and facebook, because everyone tweets and has a facebook account. A strong validation is that all tech-savvy businesses also use twitter and facebook. LinkedIn and pinterest, on the other hand, are last on the list. Their user base is not as wide as blogs (which reach out to everyone using the internet), nor comparable to twitter and facebook (not limited to age and career).
Create content that teaches. That is what your customers are interested in. That is what would keep them engaged. That is what will bring your customers coming back for repeated visits. Don’t be just a news channel, bringing the latest news to your readers. These news become old, and people will lose interest in it. They will stop drawing new readers and new customers once they become outdated. However, great content survives the test of time. It is always useful for the reader, and thus can continue to attract new readers, consistently bringing in more customers over time. For example, instead of blogging about the newest and fastest computer model that was recently released, blog about 10 ways that one can increase work efficiency. Delight your readers with what you write. Become an expert in the topic you are teaching, gain respect from your customers, and you will in turn receive love and loyalty from them.
Be consistently awesome. Face it. Customers are human, and critical ones at that. If you write one bad blog entry or one that offends anyone, you lose those who read it, and you potentially lose more who heard from those who didn’t like it. Each and every one of these are your customers and your revenue source. You cannot afford to lose any of them, so don’t think about putting out substandard products. There is no slacking allowed. No excuses. Be consistently awesome.
Every single blog entry should be targeted at your customers. Don’t blog about random things. But don’t pitch your product at every single blog post either. No one likes super pushy marketers. Instead, you want to blog about items that matter to your customers, problems that they face, and solutions that would help them. These can and should also include solutions that your product does not provide. For example, if your customers are blogshop owners, you can blog about topics such as website management, how to increase conversion per click, fashion trends, photography skills for blogs, consumer demographics and the like.
Do not crowdsource blog posts. Your blog should be one, integrated product. It is a standalone brand on its own, and should not be a mix of styles. Crowdsourcing blog posts could increase creativity and may be less work on your part to maintain a blog, but everyone has a writing style that is different. You want to stay away from that inconsistency. Create a strong and clear brand. Your blog branding is just as important as your product branding, because that’s what many of your customers see before they see your product.
View Neil’s slides here
Besides the session with Neil Patel, we had a matchmaking session with all attendees too! Knowing that sometimes the networking sessions are not as effective as we want them to be, we wanted to help our attendees meet the right people in the shortest time possible. We thus had everyone think of 3 things they “can do/can offer”, and 3 things they “need/are looking for”. For example, “expert in content marketing, need help in graphic design”. They then submitted their entries either on hard copy on via twitter #IgniterMatch @vorkspace. We looked at them, and created successful matches for over a third of the submissions, with some receiving multiple matches! 🙂 Check out some entries on #IgniterMatch, or put up your own with “#IgniterMatch @vorkspace” and we will help do the matchmaking for you! 🙂
What makes your team great? Or if you’re forming a team, what qualities do you want in your team? Here we suggest 10 top qualities that a truly great team should possess.
Trust. Everyone in a team has a different role, but every role comes together towards a single goal of the team. As such, everyone directly or indirectly depends on the other team members on producing work. But, if a team member does not trust another to produce the work, and starts breathing down his neck to make sure things get done, he is displaying distrust that his team member is capable of achieving, and there goes trust, respect and joy in the team. A truly great team is made up of team members that completely trust one another to get things done. If you can’t trust a particular team member, change your mindset or let him go.
Embraces different ideas and opinions. Diversity creates ability. We mentioned in our earlier blog post about how a heterogenous team generates the best ideas. But besides having a diverse team, the team has to embrace the differences for the benefits to shine. Friendly disputes are healthy, so embrace them!
Is not afraid to challenge. Fear is the biggest obstacle to creativity and growth. It is the cancer of a team, don’t let it grow! Be particularly attentive to members who either suppress others, or members who are to express their opinions. Strive to create a fearless team, challenge everyone to challenge everyone else.
Cooperates. A team that doesn’t work together, is not a team. It is merely a group of individuals.
Contains no procrastinators. Even though it’s not a crime to be a procrastinator, it’s something we don’t really want in a truly great team. The reason being, procrastination spreads easily, and if the team relies on work generated from each other very heavily, efficiency of the entire team can be affected by having just one single procrastinator. So procrastinators are not too desired on a team striving to be productive.
Is committed. Being committed goes a long way. Motivation, drive, support etc all rise from being committed. If your team members are all committed to the company/team, there will be no problem getting them motivated, and no problem getting things done, because everyone has the same final goal of bringing the company to success.
Is respectful of one another. Respect one anothers’ different backgrounds, personalities, cultures and preferences. Watch your language, and remember that even if you don’t mean it, sometimes it sounds more than what you meant to another person. A great team cares for their members’ feelings, and always thinks from their point of view before saying or doing anything, to make sure everyone feels respected. Being respectful is the first step to a happy team.
Supports each other to get things going. We all face bottlenecks all the time at work. Sometimes, a particular part of the pipeline gets clogged up and all work is limited by how quickly that person can clear his/her work. The best team is when all other team members come together to offer help in loosening that bottleneck when they realize assistance is needed there. They don’t care about losing their “free time” that they could otherwise have, they care more about working together, as a team, to get things done and move things forward. That, is what we call teamwork.
Shares openly and willingly. A team is a team for a reason, and we have to share our resources and ideas with our team members to make things work. A truly great team needs to have members that share openly and willingly, without having to fear their ideas or credits getting stolen by another team member. This, of course, requires trust first, as we mentioned right at the start of this list.
Knows other team members beyond a professional level. Admit it, we are social beings, and we cannot work like robots. Besides work, we also like to talk about our hobbies, families, partners, kids, holidays, personal goals, etc. Making an effort to know your team members would go a long way in helping the team gel together. A well-bonded team could easily achieve all the above 9 points.
Whether you have a website, blog, twitter, facebook etc, the key to success is having a load of visitors. No matter how interesting and how visually attractive your site is, if there are no readers and no followers, it is nothing. So how do you attract the hundreds and thousands of visitors to your site? How do you compete with the billions of other similar sites out there? How do you get the highest visitor rates ahead of everyone else? Neil Patel will teach us how, at our upcoming meetup on 6th September 2013. Tickets are already running out fast, so RSVP now!!!
Neil Patel is a Seattle based entrepreneur, angel investor, and analytics expert. He is best known for his work in digital marketing and as the cofounder of the analytics companies KISSmetrics and Crazy Egg. He also helps businesses to increase their traffic and revenue. Among other 20 major brands, he has worked with Microsoft, Amazon, and TechCrunch. Neil also runs a popular blog, QuickSprout.
In his own words:
My name is Neil Patel, I’m an average Joe, I love eating Taco Bell and for the last 11 years I’ve been an entrepreneur. I’ve done quite a few start-ups, some have done pretty well, a lot have failed, but, luckily for me, the ones which have failed made up for all my losses. Most of my start-ups are in marketing space. I really enjoy B2B type of start-ups, so I’ve done analyst company called Crazy Egg, my current one is KissMetrics and I also blog about marketing and business at QuickSprout.
Checkout the 7 Business Mistakes to avoid for your startup
As an added bonus, Bethany Coates who heads Global Innovation Programs, the Stanford GSB department that offers Stanford Ignite, will also be present to talk about the awesome Stanford Ignite program offered by the Stanford Graduate School of Business. Come by if you’re interested in knowing more, want to sign up for the next batch of Stanford Igniters, or just want to interact with awesome Stanford entrepreneurs and founders from the Bay Area and more! 🙂
So what are you waiting for? Sign up now!!!
Inspired by Smith Magazine’s 6 word memoirs, we decided to play a game with our friends at the recent Igniters meetup. It was a chance to reflect upon the people we work with every day, the people that share our dream, the people who live and breathe the same startup that will bring us to stardom.
This is how we describe our Vorkspace team:
Everyone was extremely excited, and eager to share their 6 words with the people seated around them. Some hot favourite 6-word phrases also won prizes! But we were reluctant to let all these other awesome 6 words go into hiding. They were too good not to be shared with everyone! So here are some of the best ones we received:
“Just the beginning, but let’s go!” — David Goodall, World Financial Group
“Always put postponing off till tomorrow!” — Rama, Lsbiopath.com (Winner)
“Random inspirations searching for flawless execution” — Juanri (Winner)
“Small, but fun to work with” — Anonymous
“Doing it because it is hard” — Anonymous
“What did we decide last time?” — Anil, InstaMenu
“Ask for advice, get money twice” — Stan, PartMyRide.com
“Crazy, smart, and just crazy enough” — Joshua Lichtman, Elias Lab (Twitter Winner)
“Do everything with nothing, rinse, repeat” — Tom Brennan, Acme Data
“A ragtag team of game developers” — Jeff & Emma Sulm, Redshift Interactive
“We live and breathe new music” — Priya Shekar, Shazam
“Driven, innovative, resourceful, committed, sacrificing, outward” — John Recendez, 101 Voice
“High efficiency, diverse, hard to decide” — Jorlen Li, EVA Team
“Save people one at a time!” — Walter Lee, No More Stroke
“Want a job? Call me ASAP” — Shailesh Date, Amphis.com (Winner)
“Rookies who solve world water shortage” — Alan Luo, Pure Blue Tech
“Games are huge. So is education” — Brice Morrison, The Game Prodigy
“Simplify your company’s story through video” — Dan Morrison, danmoco
“Preemptive genetic testing for online dating” — Michael Bajcsy & Lennon Lee, PainWise
“Change how people see at night” — Barry Burr, Beams Lighting
“Crowd source knowledge for busy professionals” — Suyash, GIST
Are you now inspired to think of how you can describe your startup team in 6 words? Share it with us on Twitter!
[company]: [6 words] #Igniter6word @Vorkspace