Communication. It’s not hard. It’s everything.

Back to one of my favorite topics today, communication. It’s the center of everything. It’s actually even more important than that in real estate. There’s nothing worse than implementing some amazing new office only to learn the business had decided to double their headcount and they won’t fit. Communication.

Sadly, one of the main reasons that communication breaks down is “too much work.” When people get busy they don’t want to “waste time in meetings” or “spend all day answering emails” or “stop and chat on the phone.” Said another way: they get too busy to communicate.

I’ll be the first to argue that many meetings are a waste of time. Some days it feels like many meetings are primarily a way for some people to appear busy without achieving anything at all. Other meetings feel like they are ripe with potential to achieve great outcomes only to be foiled by poor planning. Communication without thought is often worse than no communication at all. At least with no communication people may feel compelled to use their best judgment.

Communicating is the core component to every job. You need to be able to relay the thoughts in your head. You need to be able to convey the needs of your team. You need to be able to receive the current state of your partners. You need to be open to understanding your vendors. You need to be able to participate in group decisions.

On the surface, communication isn’t hard. But somehow most people fail at successful communication much of the time. Even successful communicators sometimes forget what to do.

Internal competition and desires to win does not make the situation a zero sum game

It is really easy to fall into the trap of thinking someone else’s victory is your defeat. That their achievement makes you seem smaller.

This thinking is so wrong as to be dangerous. Internal teams may compete and even keep score but the competition must be friendly. There are not winners and losers. My success does not diminish your own.

In fact, our collective successes may even enhance the individual achievements.

Any action (solo or collective) that enhances the business helps everyone else. Any other way of thinking is destructive to long-term group achievement.

Inefficiency can rise from overly flexible work hours.

One of the great things about agile working/work-from-home is the ability to set your own hours. When your performance is measured based on what you actually do, you are liberated from the need to simply tick a timecard.

There is a downside to this flexibility. When your peak productive hours vary dramatically from those of your colleagues, you lose the ability to leverage each other effectively. The misalignment of these hours leads to a reduced ability to ask questions, longer time between back and forth responses, and less ability to brainstorm outside of the day-to-day tasks.

My favorite part of being part of a team is learning from the people around me. I love to learn and ask questions and get an insight into areas I’m not intimately involved in. I definitely try to work on the timezones and schedules of those around me to take advantage. Are you doing the same to ensure you are not just a cog in the machine?

What is the value that you, personally, add to your team?

A good team is comprised of members that make each other better. Teams built to shore up individual weaknesses while also having broad capabilities will generally have greater success.

The thing about teams is that they are built from individuals with all of their strengths, weaknesses, quirks, idiosyncrasies, personal lives, and future plans. Over any given period of time, individual motivations and capabilities will change – sometimes dramatically and unexpectedly. Dealing with this reality is what will make teams successfully over the long run.

Great team dynamics start with self-reflection (yet another idea that I love). Understanding your personal shortcomings and areas for growth gives you the ability to ascertain that your team is there to help cover those areas. Asking for help is a sign of maturity, not a sign of weakness. 

Similarly, your strengths can become the strengths of others through your ability to support and lift up others. Your value gets maximized because you can share it with others. Life and work are not zero-sum games. One person’s success does not mean that someone else failed. One team’s success does not mean that another team failed. When things are hitting on all cylinders it is entirely possible for every team to be winning simultaneously.

Want to get things done? Worry about your team’s chemistry.

We are used to hearing about team chemistry when it comes to sports. Coaches apply some mystical spell on their team and suddenly everyone is moving in the same direction or no one buys into it and the team falls apart. It’s binary and all about the coach. Sometimes there’s the “on-the-field leader” who is bringing the team together as well but it’s just a branch of the same logic about the coach.

The reality is much messier. Teams aren’t successful simply because of their leader. They are successful because each individual on the team understands the job, strengths and weaknesses of the people around them. They are successful when they pick each other up and play to their collective strengths. They are successful when they can communicate effectively when the “leader” isn’t around.

Simply put, success starts with each person on the team knowing what needs to get done and how they can best do that while taking into account how everyone else is doing the same. There are no duplicated efforts, there are no useless activities, there is no faulty communication, there are no incorrect assumptions.

The job of the leader is to ensure that the team is given an environment to thrive in. No two teams thrive in the same environment because the work and individuals are different each time. Even the same team that was successful in the past can fail in the future if their approach no longer matches the work that needs to be completed.

True leaders understand these variables and can adapt to make it work. They understand that sometimes you need to make your team uncomfortable while other teams you need to hold their hand. The way you treat one member of the team is not the same way you interact with others. There’s planning and thought put into every interaction.

Teams are what get things done. How are you helping build your team to get the right chemistry?

Sometimes it pays to move slowly instead of getting everything done as quickly as possible.

I love the theory of failing fast. If you are going to get something wrong, it’s best to know what it is so that you can get the solution put together just as quickly. When trying to get a solution to market time is often your enemy.

But there are many moments when time is your friend and a quick solution can actually work against you – even if it is the right one. When dealing people and organizations, some things just do not move quickly. When you need consensus and support from others, it is easily possible to move too quickly and alienate the support that you need. Maybe your priorities are different from theirs. Maybe the solution is less urgent than you believed.

When you move quickly there will always be people that were not ready to move as quickly as you did. If you don’t need their support for success, or you can get them bought in after the fact, there is no problem. But if they are going to cut off all of your oxygen because they don’t like how you did the work, you could be in trouble.

Basically, how you solve a problem can sometimes be more important than the solution itself. It’s important to know what success looks like – a standalone answer, team building, organizational consensus, greater coordination, or something else entirely. The answer may not actually be the result.

Sometimes the best way to have control is to delegate out responsibility.

Control and responsibility go hand in hand. Some people see that they have responsibility and then try to control everything around them through micromanagement. Some people see that they have responsibility and become paralyzed by the inability to choose a path forward.

Then there are those that realize responsibility and teamwork go together and that the only way to really move forward is to delegate out the responsibility to those around them. The reason that micromanagement rarely works is because it maintains control while taking accountability away from those doing the work. When you have people doing work with no accountability you often end up with people not caring about the results of their efforts.

The entire philosophy of teamwork is that everyone is responsible for their individual part. To have everyone move forward effectively make sure they all understand their responsibilities, how they fit in with everyone else and how to ask questions and raise issues. Rarely can people pull off the Steve Jobs and go total dictator. Figure out how to build your team and make sure you account for how the people around you are most effective.