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The Effectiveness of Teams: ‘We are meant to work and thrive with others.’

Today’s post comes to us from Nanne Finis, RN, MS, Chief Nurse Executive at UKG.

My comfortable world was jolted a bit this past week when my cell phone was stolen. I quickly contacted Apple Support — or at least I thought I did. In actuality, my search for a support number transported me rapidly into the land of hackers. At first, three men were involved in the handoff of taking my purse and passing from one to the other. Then, a separate call to protect all details from my phone led to a fraudulent “team” supporting me. Twenty-four hours later, I realized that their interest was only to forward cash to other team members. 

“Teams” like these come in all shapes and sizes, and these back-to-back events prompted me in an awkward kind of way to step back and consider things.  

As I sit and ponder the world from my comfortable home, I have to wonder what leadership lessons I have learned throughout my professional career, from the events of this past week, and particularly during this prolonged period of isolation. Honestly, all of us who have been involved in one profession or another understand that there is always learning to do; no one has this leadership thing entirely “buttoned-up” and solved. Our work as leaders must constantly evolve, change, and be informed by others.

Nursing as a profession has many of these attributes. Nursing leaders — myself included — continue to work towards improving our skills, knowledge, and abilities. However, I will say that nurses understand the value and excellence that working in a team can bring, as the health of others depends on each of us who have clinically practiced.

Though I can cite many research studies on the effectiveness of teams and the construction of ideal team dynamics, I thought it would be more helpful in this format to share just a few nuggets of what I have lived and seen in healthcare that are success factors towards building high-performance work teams. All familiar examples to you, I will bet — but I have to assume that, just maybe, the expanding number of hackers and increasingly sophisticated criminal minds out there share some of these team practices, too. All different and all successful in their own view, perhaps.

Organizing for Success

  • Have a unifying focus for the team.
  • Make sure that the composition of your work team mirrors those who are being served by your team. From a workplace perspective, a study by McKinsey and Company found that companies that have gender and racial diversity are more likely to perform better than companies that don’t by 15% and 35%, respectively.
  • Get to know each other, each other’s life stories, and motivations for the work ahead.
  • Create opportunities for each team member to contribute in their own unique way to the team think and planning.
  • Organize a process so that each team member personally feels well-informed on the status of the work team.

Getting to Action and RESULTS

  • Determine the team’s metrics of success.
  • Develop a plan for how to measure the ultimate outcome and the improvement metrics required to get there.
  • Have a cadence to the team’s work so that these metrics are visible to the team and discussed.
  • Continue to learn, adapt, and refine the work as success — or lack thereof — presents itself.

I have vivid memories of working in the emergency department, side by side with my colleagues, caring for the most vulnerable patients, the most complex illnesses, and often the most tragic losses imaginable. Our joint experiences brought us closer together as a team, knowing we were all there for one mission and that we could count on each other to step in whenever and wherever needed. We were proud to be on the team, and, in an odd way, I wonder if my phone criminals feel the same about their teams.

Maybe that is what is missing in our society: the goodness and impact of well-intentioned work that teams bring to life. It takes effort, personal desire, and intensive learning to be a successful team member, leader, and follower. The teams I know and have worked with for more than 40 years still meet in many circles to share their wisdom, care, and concern for each other. This isolating time has elevated the urgent need for and power of teams. 

I encourage you to step back in your own worlds and watch how teams continue to mature, unfold, and drive success as we enter this new phase of the pandemic. Maybe I am just trying to justify learning from an experience that I do not want to relive again — but I’d like to think that we are meant to work and thrive with others and it’s up to us to engage with the many powerful lessons that are all around.

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