Us versus Them Mindset is an impediment to collaboration: between individuals working in teams and across teams working in different disciplines and for different employers.
That is where you, and your team, come into play.
Understand Team Concept. We are hired to work in companies. Human Resource professionals place us on teams within specific departments based on the apparent homogeneity of our professional skill sets and education. In certain departments (not all departments, mind you) potential employees are administered assessments to determine whether all the children will play well together. The goal is to create homogeneous output.
Sounds good in theory. How about in application? Your task is to identify areas of homogeneity as well as diversity on every team in which you work.
Consider Team Composition and Focus. If you work in companies where your team is physically – or hierarchically – isolated from the rest of the company, the thought is that you are better able to stay on task (Us), identify and eliminate unproductive outliers (Them) and focus on accomplishing goals.
Your team basically is working in a task-oriented vacuum wearing professional blinders similar to a post-industrial assembly line.
Realistically, does your team benefit from feeling included versus isolated? Your task is to identify factors which serve to isolate your team from what is going on in the rest of the company. Team ignorance does not promote operational bliss.
Scrutinize Intra-Team Dynamics. The integrity of team homogeneity is played out daily. Consider the impact of: a) performance assessments (We are doing better than They are); b) team-building activities which encourage intra-team competitiveness (Our Dodgeball Team beat Their Team’s Butts); and c) compensation-related contests (I won, or our team won, the quarterly or annual sales contest and we all get a trip to somewhere exotic) which can work against maintaining intra-team homogeneity.
Once competitiveness enters the team landscape, Us versus Them Mindset takes center stage. Your task is to thoughtfully consider, with your team, whether how your corporate culture develops intra-team dynamics is an asset or liability to your overall sense of professional well-being.
Explore tempo and context in Inter-Team Dynamics. What happens when your team (Us), has to work, let alone collaborate, with teams from outside your professional discipline? How well does your team play with teams of Them: technical, R&D and engineering teams, teams of accountants and lawyers or teams of sales and marketing professionals? Your team’s first reaction is to contrast how your team operates compared to their team.
Inter-Team dynamics, cross-discipline team collaboration, showcase differences in how thoroughly people approach problem-solving. Transactionally-based teams focus on quarterly deliverables against financial goals. Technical, engineering and manufacturing teams have projects with longer endpoints: multiple quarters elapse before problems are solved, projects are created and solutions are implemented.
That singular observation, and how you collectively act on it, presents opportunity.
The sales-engineering interface® between technical and non-technical, transactional and translational, is where you, and your team, come into play.
Inter-team tempo and dynamics create rich diversity of perspective and approach to problem-solving. Everyone learns from each other when you collectively collaborate to:
- Identify similarities – rather than differences – between team members and across teams.
- Explore overarching themes across professional disciplines.
- Develop a common vocabulary to communicate cross-functionally when developing and implementing solutions.
Consider how you, and your team, currently reinforce Us versus Them Mindset in your own organization. Then put these 5 hacks into play each day.
The difference you make impacts current and future business outcomes. What are you waiting for?
Babette N. Ten Haken is a strategist, analyst, author and blogger. Her focus: the interrelationship between teams, leadership and culture in technology and manufacturing. Her Workshops target excellence in the execution of strategy. Babette began her career in clinical research where she was asked to bring clarity to stalemated cross-functional conversations. Her Playbook of collaboration hacks, Do YOU Mean Business? is available on Amazon.com.
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