February, the month when we celebrate love, has prompted me to write about teams – the people with whom we work every day and often spend more time than family and friends.
I know. We usually don’t think “teams” when we think about love. But the relationships among team members are at the very heart of your team’s success – and your personal satisfaction and success as well.
In my next few articles, I’ll be writing about how to create resonant teams – how to design, structure, and manage them so that you can truly love working with them.
So how do we fall in love with a team? There’s the outside appearance, team dimensions we can observe on the surface. Then there’s the inside, non-observable team dimensions, below the surface, which count just as much.
What is important about the outside appearance of teams?
Let’s begin with team size. With teams, size does matter.  In fact, it’s the most important predictor of team innovation and maximum effectiveness.
Jeff Bezos, founder of Google, once said “If a team cannot be fed with two pizzas, it’s too large.”
Now, I anticipate he was not talking about a team of teenage boys.
But, how many of you are working with a team that is so large that communication, then conflict, become problems, and process and progress bog down. Or your team is so small that team members are overwhelmed with responsibilities, stressed, and can’t proceed because there’s not enough people to share the workload?
So what’s the optimum size? Depends on what you want to achieve.
There are actually two answers.
One, optimum team size is 4 – 6 for the maximum satisfaction of team members.
Two, optimum team size is 5 – 10 for maximum team innovation and effectiveness.
Team diversity is also important.
When considering the diversity of your team, consider three questions:
1 What do you require of your team?
2 What dimensions of diversity do you already have on your team?
3 How is “outside” or “inside” diversity helping or hurting your team?
First we’ll look at “outside,” readily observable, diversity. Some experts refer to it as “surface level” diversity. This is the diversity of demographic dimensions like age, gender, education, cultural background and tenure.
If your looking for innovation and creativity, age and tenure have little affect on your team’s success, but you’ll definitely want job-related diversity of high educational background and areas of functional expertise.
It’s not simply about including the observable dimensions of diversity. What often trips up teams is the how lines of diversity form in teams.  Strong similarity along multiple dimensions in your team can cause, demographic “fault lines.”
Here’s some examples:
1 If your team members are from the same dimensions of ethnic, age, gender or area of expertise, you have a weak fault line. Example – team members are all white female salespeople in their 20’s.
2 If everybody on the team comes from different dimensions, you also have a weak fault line. Example your team members are all from different ethnicities, ages, and areas of expertise.
3 BUT, if your team is represented by groups that are strongly lined up along particular lines of demographic diversity, you’ve got a strong fault line. Let’s say your team is divided in two groups of people – one, members coming from the same ethnic background, age, expertise, and gender working with another group of people coming from a different alignment of similar dimensions.  A specific example: A team made up of white men, in their 20’s, in marketing working with Asian women, in their 40’s, in sales.
Some of you don’t have the opportunity to select your teams. Kind of like an arranged marriage, your given your team and expected to make it work.  Take a hard look at the team that you are working with, assess the demographic diversity, and evaluate how you can better manage these dimensions to create a team you love.
Fault lines by themselves, are neither good nor bad, but they can cause earthquakes in the form of subgroups. Subgroups that share demographic dimensions also share deeper, non-observable dimensions. Cultural, gender and generational perspectives, beliefs and values held by one subgroup can cause conflicts with other subgroups who don’t share them.
If your team is in this situation, it’s absolutely critical that you work with your team to create shared vision, goals, values and commitment in order to overcome strong demographic fault lines. As a team works together over time, the effects non-observable diversity become greater. Strong team cohesion toward team purpose will keep it performing and moving toward success.
Let’s go a little deeper and take a quick look at team personality.  If you are fortunate enough to select your team, look for team members who are open to change, conscientious, agreeable and emotionally stable. These are the people who comprise confident, respectful, and productive working relationships.
If your team is already established, assess team members’ strengths, understand their gaps, and structure their responsibilities accordingly. Do not give the most important tasks to the weakest team members. Be aware of social loafers who are not fulfilling their responsibilities and making others carry a heavier load. They will take a toll on the patience and commitment of their teammates.
If you are building a team, take your time to evaluate what you want to achieve and then develop a team of people who fit your goals and are a good fit with each other. Make a match you can love working with.
If you are in an arranged relationship with your team, you can still fall in love by the way you manage your people. Bring them together through a strong sense of shared values and goals and then cultivate their growth through a learning culture.
In both cases, understand what your team members are good at and where there are gaps. Create ownership of goals among team members and make everyone on the team feel valued important.
Wishing you success in creating a team you can love,
Anna Beetham Goldenberg, ACC