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Building Extraordinary Teams

In my role as NC State Faculty & Staff Ombuds, I think a lot about how people work together. Workplace interactions are the focus of an organizational ombuds’ as people often bring concerns about how they are treated by others. Thus, what, if anything, guides such interactions? In this context, “guide” refers to what direction, requests, rules, standards, codes, etc., are in place to help foster constructive and productive workplace interactions? While there are “legal” directives to prevent and punish discriminatory and harassing behaviors, I’m more interested in the “informal” – what else is in place? I believe how we interact is the heart of the matter as an organization seeks to think and do the extraordinary. This is NC State’s goal – to be an extraordinary university.  

And, this fits with Google’s Project Aristotle that examined how to build great teams in the workplace. Google considered “teams” as interdisciplinary and somewhat independent as being different from work groups; however, at the university setting, I believe there is overlap and still lessons to learn from this project.  Google identified five keys:

  1. Psychological Safety – people feel safe to take risks
  2. Dependability – people get things done
  3. Structure & Clarity – people have clear roles, plans and goals
  4. Meaning – work is important to people
  5. Impact  – the work matters

I recently did a Lunch & Learn program for one of our colleges titled “Creating Extraordinary Teams + Ombuds Office Update” where I focused on strategies to build great teams. As part of the session,I asked those attending: Think of a team you’ve been on that was extraordinary. What did its leader and its group members do to build it?

Summary from the zoom Chat – input was valued – setting boundaries – leader listened to all – when leaders show vulnerability, their teams feel more trusting – developed our values together – truly listening….. being adaptive to change and consider the thoughts of others – created Core Values including that each person has unique talents/expertise that is valued for team goals/outputs and the leader leans into that – don’t yuck someone’s yum – leaders that approach situations with an open mind to all ideas – clear upfront expectations – leave preconceived notions behind – pull my weight – be open and vulnerable – be supportive of the team – step up to plate and out of comfort zone – consider that I am not always “right” – seek out the introverted person’s feedback – try to learn everyone’s roles on the team – don’t rush to immediate solution – don’t be afraid to ask questions or seek clarification – search for each individuals strengths and use them to support the group – social connections – we build on each other’s ideas instead of thinking exclusively about our individual ideas – freedom of expression, celebrate success together, work through difficult challenges and feel included – a common goal that all can buy into – in our office when someone needs help with a project they email everyone in the office and everyone who is available comes to help – in the team, the “leader” assigned duties based on individual strengths so that everyone could take the lead on something but as a TEAM we tackled the project – we all had a defined role on the team and recognized / valued the collective requirement to each bring our strengths

My thanks to everyone who contributed as this is a fantastic list of things a leader and all group members can do to build an extraordinary team! That’s what we do at NC State – we Think and Do! And, if you or your team needs some help and not sure where to turn – Go Ombuds!