Achieving success and satisfaction often requires dealing with a team of people. You’re probably a part of several teams – marriage, family, coworkers. Your job almost certainly requires that you deal with teams of people, and how well they work together will make or break your day – maybe even your career. How well your relationships with your loved ones work is another huge factor in determining your level of happiness.
Teamwork is an essential ingredient for a well-functioning life. But do you know how teams work? What makes some teams operate so smoothly, while other teams can be so frustrating? The answer, according to research conducted by Rosabeth Moss Kanter, a professor at Harvard Business School, boils down to confidence.
As teams start to experience success, the individuals involved begin to believe that they are part of a winning effort and they put in an extra effort when challenges arise to ensure a positive result. People’s confidence builds as their team’s collective effort produces positive outcomes. Achieving objectives creates positive momentum, putting people into an upward spiral toward even more success.
In a similar fashion, a few failures will adversely affect people’s expectations. As a team falters, confidence evaporates, and failure feeds on itself as the team tumbles into a doom loop. First, teammates stop talking to one another. In the absence of constructive conversation, a culture of blaming other people for problems begins to evolve. No one wants to be faulted, so team members start avoiding contact with each other. Without teamwork, nothing much gets done, and people lapse into feeling powerless.
To turn a poorly performing team around, Dr. Moss Kanter recommends finding ways to create small “wins” in order to get people going in the right direction. She suggests 4 steps for re-establishing success:
One, team members must become accountable for setting and accomplishing some short-term goals. These goals must take into account the expressed needs of everyone on the team in order to attain buy-in.
Two, the team must establish regular meeting times to discuss how they will work together toward their desired outcomes. Teammates increase their respect for each other as they realize how each person is contributing to creating results. Collaboration builds confidence.
Three, as the team’s trust level increases, people must develop a feeling of security in order to suggest innovative ideas. Security also inspires teammates to take the initiative to implement new ideas. The team’s confidence will improve immensely as team members support each other’s efforts and reinforce incremental improvements.
Four, people who participate on a winning team must keep the experience of an occasional disappointment from becoming catastrophic. Thinking optimistically prevents teams from developing a destructive negative attitude because their strengths focus enables them to remain confident about their prospects for rebounding.
Once a team has experienced some initial success, the Harvard study shows that there are four different strategies to boost confidence and sustain a winning streak.
- Upward spirals of performance that produce sustainable success are fueled by positive emotions. When people on the team start seeing themselves as winners, their good mood becomes contagious – boosting the morale and energy of anyone with whom they interact. People who are experiencing positive emotions make even more of an effort, thereby enhancing the likelihood of achieving further success.
- Positive emotion produced through collaboration reinforces people’s confidence in their relationships. People who view others in a positive light are more supportive, tolerant, committed, and generous with their time and energy. As relationships become more secure, people can talk openly and honestly about their struggles. When positivity prevails, people are open to receiving feedback designed to help them learn a great deal from their mistakes. This, too, builds and broadens the chances of success.
- People become increasingly invested when they participate on a team that produces both positive outcomes and emotions. As people become more confident in working together, the upward spiral of success is strengthened. This increases their commitment, which creates stability and collective wisdom within the team – another key component of sustained success.
- Success brings recognition and rewards from outside of the team. That might mean the admiration of friends and family, adoring fans, or attention from the big boss. When people are seen as successful, it opens up connections to people who have information and influence. It builds mutual confidence within the broader context of people’s lives. For a winning team, that may mean more resources, less scrutiny, and increased opportunity to try even more innovative ideas.