How big of a role does respect for fellow team members play in the development of great teams?
Respect for all the members of a team is a critical part of good teamwork for problem solving teams. When there is a lack of fundamental respect, it can cause rifts and conflicts within a team. When respect is present among all team members trust increases, communication is enhanced and ideas flow more easily throughout the team.
Not long ago I saw a good example of how respect for other team members can supercharge a team’s ability to solve problems. I got a call from an organization that gathered CEO’s from different companies to learn from each other. They wanted to come and participate in a team building activity at our escape room. I remember thinking to myself, “This is going to be interesting.” I was going to have 8 CEO’s and founders of multi-million-dollar companies trying to work together under time pressure. I envisioned some real conflicts with 8 very much “type A” personalities clashing over ideas as they tried to solve problems. I couldn’t have been more wrong.
What I witnessed as I watched this group was a classic example of respect for fellow team members. It was obvious to me from the beginning that each member of the team was extremely self-confident. They were all entrepreneurs of high standing, many of whom had successfully started more than one company. They had strong opinions and were not afraid of stating those opinions. I initially thought their strong personalities would lead to communication problems as they tried to work together, instead it was a strength of the team because of one key ingredient, respect.
I was expecting there to be a conflict in team leadership as each team member jockeyed for the leadership role in the group. What I found was that they all viewed themselves as equals. They respected each other, and no single individual was able to dominate the group because they all were leaders in their own right. Each had valuable experience that could lead to solutions. If any one of them found a clue or had an idea for a solution, they would voice their thoughts without reservation to the rest of the group. They voiced with confidence to the point that a few times I’d hear them interrupt the conversation to get everyone’s attention, so they could read a clue out loud or state an idea for a solution. They would all stop what they were doing and listen discuss the concept brought forth by their team member and resolve a course of action. This happened repeatedly through the process of their exploration of the room.
As the group progressed through the room there was a natural ease with how information flowed through the team. If any team member was stuck they felt no problem in asking for help from other team members. The focus was not on who solved the problem but rather on that the problem got solved. When they cam across a situation that they didn’t understand they didn’t quietly retreat from the group to try and work out a solution, they brought the problem to the group and asked for ideas. If someone in the group had an idea or experience with the problem, they took charge of the problem and lead the discussion toward a solution. Sometime this shift in leadership moved from one person to another several times before the problem was solved. No one person dominated the situation. Each idea was treated with equal respect as was each person.
The sharing of information was done in an efficient manner that kept all team members up to speed with the work of all other team members. Even when multiple puzzles were being solved at the same time they would broad cast new information to the whole team. If a solution was found they let everyone know what the solution was and what they did to solve the problem. In this way everyone was current with all the clues and puzzles discovered in the room and could use the new information on their own puzzles, if it was connected to the new information.
What I Learned
What I took away from this experience with the 8 CEOs was that their respect for each other allowed 8 leaders to work together in a seam less way that was very effective. They performed extremely well in the escape experience.
In the thousands of teams that we’ve observed one thing is very common and that is the hording of information. When I say hording, I mean that some members of a team will read a clue and work for a solution without informing the rest of the team. Often a problem is solved by some team members without the knowledge of the other team members. This isolation of information leads to uneven knowledge, that slows the team down because some team members have vital information that other team members need.
There are obviously many reasons for this hording of information, but respect for other team members is usually at the heart of the problem. For some reason the person or group of persons have isolated themselves from the rest of the team. This isolation happens because of the following reasons:
They feel confident in their own abilities and don’t need help from the other team members.
They feel the other team members are busy and don’t want to interrupt them.
They don’t feel confident in their abilities and want to keep failure a secret.
They’re focused on their own problem to the exclusion of other problems.
They feel the solution to the problem only has relevance to themselves.
They want to go on to the next step and don’t think to let anyone else know.
In each of these cases respect for the talents and abilities of the other team members is part of their decision. When the team respects each other to the point that each team member feels confident in voicing their progress, or lack thereof, to the rest of the team, a more powerful problem-solving team emerges. Respect for oneself and for all other team members plays a vital role in the development of effective problem-solving teams.
If you’d like more information about our research into teams and team behavior contact Les Pardew at firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you’d like to schedule your team to visit Mystery Escape Room go to www.mysteryescaperoom.com.