Productive Teams is Child’s Play

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Recently, I had my nieces over for a sleepover and a couple with a daughter of the same age for dinner that same night. The three girls were a really excellent example of successful teamwork notwithstanding the challenges that faced them. It got me thinking – ok, nostalgic even – about how poorly most business teams work together and how much they can learn from these 3 ten year old girls. So read on!

Now, I love my nieces. They are great. They are really bright, curious children. Much like my own daughters were at their age, and probably they way your kids are too. However, no matter how much a sponge they may be they are still limited by their own experiences and learning. Basically, they speak English and little bit of Italian.

My guests are French and Italian, and their daughter speaks french fluently and some Italian.

These three little girls had never met each other and barely had one language between them but they made do.

We got out some lego blocks for them to play with and they set themselves up in a corner of the bedroom to play. Just before dinner was served I went to get them and found them playing together, building something or other with the blocks, and finding very basic ways of collaborating. After dinner, I could here mumblings. Sounded like Italian. Which was later confirmed when the little girl ran back and forth between the bedroom and the table to ask her mother how to say lizard, frog, and so forth in Italian. But what really blew me away was finding this sheet of paper with drawings and words.

Using images to communicate

I do not know of many teams that came together out of the blue and made their collaboration work as well as productively as these 3 little ten year old girls. And, regarded themselves friends after just a few hours. Do you?!

Some of my work is with Project Managers who are experts in all sorts of PM methodologies – like Agile – none of which I have much understanding of but they have nothing on these three little girls. Not all the techniques and methodologies in the world can be a substitute for people actually wanting to achieve something together!

As leadership coach, I am constantly reminded and constantly remind my clients that regardless of your constituency, regardless of the stakeholders, everyone has to want to be there to do something together. You can’t force people to play nice together. They have to want it.


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