Teams exist where every issue, problem, or opportunity becomes a matter of dialogue, deliberation, and consensus. That may sound like a positive, but it is not: these teams sink under the weight of decisions that ought to be made autonomously by individual team members. On the other side of the equation, teams exist that are teams in name only … they are actually groups of Lone Rangers who just happen to sit around the proverbial campfire on occasion to exchange news. These teams, too, ultimately fail because there is no collaboration on matters of mutual import. High-performing teams avoid these twin pitfalls. They recognize that they must solve problems and make decisions independently or collaboratively as appropriate.
As we discussed previously, great teams know and affirm each other’s roles. This empowers team members to act autonomously with confidence. For example, Marketing can decide on a new social media campaign or Finance can purchase new accounting software without making it a matter of team discussion. It makes no sense to collaborate on matters that fall squarely within a given team member’s bailiwick; doing so will only stall the forward progress of the business.
That being said, great teams recognize when decisions require the input of the group. The current pandemic has given rise to many issues where collaboration is essential, such as when teams have to make:
- Strategic decisions that affect more than one business area, e.g., the decision to launch a new health-related product or service.
- Time-sensitive decisions that have significant ramifications, e.g., the decision to close offices on short notice due to the pandemic.
- Resource decisions that are outside of the approved budget, e.g., the decision to purchase a new security system to prevent cyberattacks targeting remote workers.
- Cross-functional decisions that rely upon cooperation and dependencies among teams, e.g., the decision to move from a brick-and-mortar model to an online business model.
- High-impact decisions that have the potential to influence the company and brand, e.g., the decision to deny service to customers who refuse to wear masks or practice social distancing.
It is important to recognize that some decisions which are typically handled independently should be elevated to become a matter of group discussion if the potential ramifications are significant. For example, a VP of Software Development would not normally involve the senior leadership team in hiring and firing decisions. But if the VP believes that their best developer is a toxic superstar and all efforts at redirecting feedback have been fruitless, then it is time to bring the situation to the leadership team. Firing the toxic superstar could impact the company’s products and revenue: this changes what would normally be an independent personnel decision into a collaborative strategic decision. High-performing teams recognize that when a decision crosses a certain threshold in terms of potential impact, it should be brought to the group.
When it comes to solving problems and making decisions, the members of a high-performing team always accept responsibility. They accept the responsibility to make independent decisions that keep business flowing, and they accept the responsibility to actively collaborate on important matters. In doing so, they streamline daily operations, maximize everyone’s time, and position the business for success.