How to Bring the Best Out of Your Team

Abbie was called into Lucas’ office. She hated going into that office, it was small and stinky, and to make matters worse, the heating was broken so people got chilled to the bone after a meeting.

“I want you to be in charge of Team Inneris,” Lucas suggested.

Project Inneris was notorious for being a mess. In the past, two different managers had tried to fix the team and neither of them succeeded.

“Everybody says the team is a mess, why do you think that is?” asked Abbie.

“Their goal is to drive traffic to our products but instead traffic is going down, so you tell me,” answered Lucas.

Abbie accepted the challenge and immediately moved to the Team Inneris office space, a remote corner on the third floor. When she introduced herself to the team, they weren’t thrilled to have her, quite the contrary. “Great, another visionary,” said Roger, one of the team members. “I’m not a visionary but I can see one thing: if the direction doesn’t change, we are gonna get fired in a few months,” she answered back.

During the first meeting, Abbie asked the team some questions to get to know them better. She wanted to know what they thought they should be doing, what they thought about the project and where they saw it going.

“The Marketing Department wants us to add more banners, but Sales says we shouldn’t add more but increase the price instead. Then, the Finance Department says our servers are too expensive, and the designers want us to redo the whole website. We just can’t do it all!”

Abbie asked them to forget about everything else and focus only on increasing the traffic. “If somebody wants anything not related to bringing in traffic, send them to me, please,” she stated.

Time passed by and some traffic was coming back like magic.

Abbie would ask her team questions about how they would increase traffic, and what they would need to make it happen. Most of the team was involved in the job, except for Roger. Abbie asked him to walk out of the room with her. “I’m sorry Abbie, you’re helping us a lot but you won’t be able to fix this one,” said Roger. “Is it something personal?” Abbie asked.  It was. “Take some paid time off,” she told him. “That would be awesome, thank you, Abbie,” answered Roger.

Abbie bought a small puppet that looked like one of the team members, put a cape on it and placed it on her desk. When people asked about it, she said it represented Charles, another teammate, and his superpower to catch errors before our clients caught them.

Time went by and traffic kept coming back. 

Roger returned from his days off and his attitude was completely different. He now was motivated, dedicated and focused.

By the end of the third month, numbers had never been better in Project Inneris.

Do you want to know how she did it? Keep reading.

The effective leadership of a team can make or break up a company. Understanding the following principles and using proper tools to bring the most out of them is of critical importance. You have to remember, then, that success depends on good leaders, too.

The Need for a Team

Why do we need a team in the first place? This is a fair question and it took me a while to properly answer it. The first thing that came to my mind was to speed up production, but that is also incomplete, although it is true. The correct answer to the question is that we need to surround ourselves with other people because we’re not complete. We need things that only other human beings can give us, such as labor, money, power, love, … and we exchange what we have an excess of. 

Sounds too easy to be true, right? As a matter of fact it is, but we tend to unnecessarily overcomplicate things.

How to look at a team as a manager

What defines a team is having at least one goal, otherwise it’s just a group of people. In order to achieve that goal, each member needs to give something to get something else in exchange. 

You can see the importance of knowing what your goal is in the previous example:  the team had different directions to go, and Abbie, very cleverly, made a step in the right direction by eliminating all the noise around the team. I say that was a smart move because Abbie, out of all the options, ended up choosing the right one, that is, what her boss wanted: the client. So if you don’t know which way to go, you should ask your boss, as it is their responsibility to set goals for your team.

Another characteristic is that a member always loses prominence in favor of a team. The whole group is more important than each of its members. In our example, Roger wasn’t focused on the job but the team was doing well regardless of his state of mind. 

We also need to take into account that a member isn’t just part of one team, but many different systems with their specific goals (work, family, friends, …). Roger wasn’t focused because he was struggling in a different system of his life. Abbie very cleverly, offered him the time not to worry about work for a while so that he could come back at full speed. An individual wants to make the right decision, on average, for every system.

However, it should also be taken into account that every action happening within a team affects everyone in the group in the same way that a rock thrown into a still pond affects all of the water molecules, not just the area nearby. If your co-worker is on paternity leave, the team will have to cover for him.

Finally, there are three laws that govern all growing teams. If you follow these principles, your team will most likely succeed.

The Three Laws

Bert Hellinger, who recently passed away, was the first to talk about these laws. He spent most of his life developing them, and I personally think he did a great job here, since I haven’t been able to find a better explanation so far.

The Law of Belonging

This law states that everybody in a team has the right to belong in there, no matter what this person has done.

One night we were playing darts in a bar and we got to know Olivia, a girl that had just moved to Miami for work but didn’t know anybody in town. We liked her, so we invited her to come back the next day to play some more. Eventually she became another member of the group. Few months later Oliver, another member, stopped coming with us and we didn’t know why. When we finally got to ask him what happened, he answered that Olivia had threatened him and he wasn’t comfortable around her any longer.

Does Olivia have the right to belong to that group of people? The answer is yes.

Of course you’re no longer going to let her stay in the group but she’ll always be there, not as an actual member but as a historic member. Her staying as a historic member is important because she showed a vulnerability to the group that can now be fixed and be stronger.

The Law of Balance

This law states that all exchanges between the members of the team have to be balanced. What you give and what you get need to be good enough for both parties.

Keep in mind that the value of a transaction is subjective, not objective. Don’t make the mistake of judging the interactions of others. That’s why people earn different salaries for doing the same job. Some people are okay earning less in exchange for getting new opportunities, recognition, status, etc.

It is important to say that the value depends on the moment of the transaction. You might be willing to sell a house underpriced if you urgently need cash, for a price that you wouldn’t accept otherwise.

The Law of Acceptance

How many times a worker has come to your place and said something like: “Oh my… Who did this? It’s a mess, everything is wrong!

The law of acceptance states that every system is perfect the way it is when you join it for the first time. That doesn’t mean the team cannot be improved, that’s the whole reason why you joined it in the first place. What I mean is that you need to honor the team exactly as it is today: it’s your responsibility to make it better, just exactly like Abbie did in Team Inneris.

How can I use this?

Selfish Reasons

Understand that we form a group of people for selfish reasons, since we need something from someone. We can get it from a team, and we give something back. The sooner you accept this idea, the better your life will be.

Does it mean that we are all selfish? Yes, but we’re healthily selfish: we get what we need from a system and we give others something they may be in need of, and that’s perfectly acceptable. The unhealthy selfish is someone who takes more leaving others without their share. Even Mother Teresa? Yes, even Mother Teresa. Her need was to see a world where people could be at peace so she did everything in her power to see it through.

Respect and Accept the Hierarchy

Hierarchy exists for efficiency. That is why we need somebody to overlook the system. 

Take into account, though, that the manager is at the team’s service, not the other way around as I commonly see in companies. The leader is also responsible for the team’s success or failure.

Recognize Performance

As a manager, one of your responsibilities is to judge how the team is performing and recognise the ones who give more to the team. You can see it in our example when Abbie bought the superhero doll.

WARNING: We tend to judge performance by our phobias and philias, meaning that we tend to reward people we like and not reward people we dislike. Be aware of this and look for the general interests of the team and the goal, instead.

Put Order

Imagine that you live close to a river where nothing has been built around it and every time it rains, the river floods the fields nearby. What do you do? You build a dam in order to control the flow of the water, thus getting the benefits and eliminating the negative aspects.

This is also your responsibility in a team.

Do you know the guy that’s constantly interrupting the team by giving ideas on how we could work better?

That type of energy is fantastic, but it’s poorly channeled and it’s flooding the team. Your job is to come up with a dam to channel the team’s energy.

Have Diversity

You need a diverse team so that you can match all the aspects required in order to achieve the goal. 

Create trust

This is, in my opinion, the most important idea. Be honest with the team, put yourself in their hands like they put themselves in yours. If you manage to create trust in a team, the team will grow naturally. Notice how Abbie involved the whole team in meetings by asking, facilitating and being aware of the interactions, and as soon as she detected that Roger wasn’t interacting, she took care of it. These are the actions that make people trust each other.

But I’m Not a Manager

I hope these lessons help great leaders. However, not everybody is or wants to be a manager. If this is your case, I’ll give you some advice that will improve every relationship you have right now, no matter if it is your significant other, co-worker, friend, etc.

Have adult relationships

There are only three types of relationships:

  • The ones you feel you’re in debt to
  • The ones you feel the other part is in debt with you
  • The ones that are balanced

If you want to have balanced relationships, follow these two rules:

Don’t give anything that you haven’t been asked for

It may sound weird the first time you think about it, but think twice. How are you treating a person when you give something they didn’t ask you for? The answer is simple: you’re treating them as kids, not as adults.

But what if I know exactly what the other person wants?

What I’m saying is that even if you think you know what this person wants, ask for permission first.

“I’m thirsty”
“Would you like a glass of water?”
“Yes, please”
Ask for what you want

Don’t expect the other part to naturally know it. How many times have you been in a conversation like this?

“Are you ok?”
“Yes, I’m fine”
“Are you sure? You seem a bit off today”
“If you loved me you’d know”

When you expect the other person to know something without telling them, how are you treating this person? The answer is you’re being the kid, expecting mom and dad to know how I feel.

Think about a relationship you have today, see which one of these two rules is affecting it, change it and let me know in the comments below. I’d love to know more about how your relationships improve.

Thank you very much for reading!

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