Five Crucial Skills For Working Effectively In Teams

September 07, 2021


This is a brief recap of a webinar we hosted on August 17th, 2021. You can watch a recording of the webinar in its entirety by clicking here: Link to webinar

As humans, one of our greatest gifts is our capacity to collaborate and to co-invent with one another.

Every major feat of mankind—whether that be going to the moon, building architectural masterpieces, or developing vaccines—was only possible because of our ability to work together.

Despite our capacity to coordinate with others to accomplish great things, however, we are often not able to do so. Even when we agree to do something together, we can easily fail to accomplish what we care to accomplish. We don’t meet our objectives. We are late or over-budget. As a result, our relationships—whether that be with our colleagues, customers, or even loved ones—are strained, if not broken, despite our best intentions.

We all celebrate great teams and aspire to be part of one. Yet, the potential cost of poor team-work may make us weary of embarking on a collaborative adventure.

The fact is, most of us are never really ‘taught’ how to work effectively in teams. People sink or swim depending on their own innate abilities. Teams muddle along, adopt ad hoc processes and hope to achieve some level of coherence and coordination. Whether we are good at it, or not, we inevitably have to work with others, practically every day. If we are to take care of all that we need to take care of(including our work, family, community, and planet),we need to work with others. We simply cannot do it all by ourselves, even if we try.

The good news, though, is that we can learn to work more effectively with others. To do so requires developing a particular skill set. Among these skills, there are five that are essential:

The Five Skills for Effective Teams

1. Coordinating with others in language
2. Sharing, listening to, and exploring assessments
3. Navigating moods and opening possibilities
4. Building and repairing trust
5. Learning to learn on an ongoing basis

Each of these skills merits a lot more attention than I can give it in a short blog post. If you’d like to read more about them, you may want to take a look at Learning to Learn and the Navigation of Moods, or Conversations for Action and Collected Essays. Additionally, you may want to watch a recent webinar on this topic that my colleague B. Scot Rousse and I did recently.

For now, I’d like to emphasize that while these skills may seem obvious, they are skills that we learn to perform, not concepts to simply write down and understand. You may understand that it is important for a team to have trust; but understanding that in an intellectual way is not the same as actually learning to take the necessary actions to build trust, or to repair it when it is broken. Learning to take these actions is an ongoing process that requires practice over time.

Say you wanted to become a better soccer player, or a better chess player. To improve your soccer skills, you would do so by playing soccer or chess. If you want to get better at working in teams, you need to do so by working in teams. But how can you practice working in teams?

For almost 10 years, we have been offering Working Effectively in Small Teams (“WEST”) as an answer to this question.

WEST is an immersive three and half month experience conducted in a virtual environment, using multi-player online games as a platform for delivering education in a new way. We know people are busy, and have full time jobs and families. By practicing for a few hours a week with their teammates, WEST participants begin to embody new skills for building and leading teams—skills they can immediately use in their real life teams.

We initially created WEST to help people develop skills that would help them navigate the increasingly connected, yet dispersed and diverse teams that they found themselves in. We recognized that working successfully with others requires skills that enable engagement with a wide array of people, articulation of shared goals, and impeccable care for the commitments we make to each other. The need for the skills that WEST helps people to cultivate continues to grow. Since we founded Pluralistic Networks, we’ve worked with people from different industries, and from organizations large and small—like Salesforce, Skanska, Seguros Sura and Accenture—to help them develop these skills and transform the way that they work with others.

If you’re interested in enrolling (or just want to learn more about WEST), you can do so here. The next WEST cohort starts on September 21st, 2021, and there are only few spaces left!

I hope to see you there!

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