Five Strategies for Leading a High-Impact Team

Nobody sets out to lead an ineffective team. In fact, leaders agonize over fostering teams that work well together and deliver smart solutions time and time again—the kind of teams that, in Leigh Thompson’s words, “go through the various storms, the successes, the failures, and keep coming out alive.”The only problem? Many of the strategies leaders have adopted to improve teamwork, while well-intentioned, are not all that effective. Thompson, a professor of management and organizations at Kellogg and an expert on teamwork, clears up five popular misconceptions. In the process, she offers a roadmap for building and maintaining teams that are creative, efficient, and high-impact.SUBSCRIBEGet the latest from Kellogg Insight delivered to your inbox.1. Teams are not cocktail parties: don’t invite everyone.When building a team, business leaders often fall into two traps: they make the team too big and too homogenous.Trying to be overly inclusive leads inevitably to a team that is too large. One strategy for managing team size is to consult specialists only when their expertise is required rather than keeping them on full time.Adding some fluidity to team membership can also help with the problem of homogeneity. In team sports, you hear a lot about the importance of team chemistry—that innate understanding that leads to the no-look pass or the intuitive hit-and-run. While building a team of like-minded individuals may create a safe and comfortable environment, it also elicits a narrower vision and less productive friction than a team that is diverse both in personality and function.“We found that changing the membership of a team—taking out one member and putting in a new member while holding everything else constant—actually leads to an increase in creative idea generation,” says Thompson. This process also prevents so-called “cognitive arthritis,” which happens when static teams start to think along well-worn mental ruts.

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