August 21, 2015
Teams vs. Groups of People
The main difference between a team and a mere group of people is that the team has decided to work together towards a shared goal. They have agreed on a definition of success. They pursue success together. They are, in a word, focused.
I believe that focus is the primary reason teams outperform groups. Sharing resources, sharing costs and benefits, and otherwise participating in organizations that provide economies of scale can have benefits; but the benefits of being part of a team provide the same benefits as well as the added benefit of focused effort in pursuit of a common goal.
Doing Better Together
Unfortunately, building teams across various professions has been made more difficult by the ever-increasing volume of regulations with which businesses and professionals must comply. This has become the case to such a degree that it usually doesn’t even occur to people to reach out to other professionals to form alliances beyond networking. And networking events are often merely a few dozen to a few hundred people in a loud room, all trying to sell to each other or each other’s clients.
None of those professionals are in the same boat, much less rowing together.
Instead of depending solely on networking, professionals enhance their productivity by being part of focused teams who all share common goals. One team may focus on improving customer or client satisfaction. Another team might be oriented around improving professional standards and ethical business practices. Yet another may focus on developing leadership and improving business processes. Best of all, these teams can be comprised of people from a wide variety of professions, each bringing a unique perspective and valuable insight to the team.
You Gotta Keep ‘Em (Somewhat) Separated
As I mentioned, above, regulations make it difficult to build cross-professional teams. What you need, really, is to identify your team as an “all-star” team comprised of professionals who each usually play for a different team, but have come together for an exhibition series for the love of the game and because they represent the best of what their regular teams offer.
Leaving aside the sports metaphors, let me say this can be accomplished by using contracts and carefully worded marketing materials that disclose to clients, customers, and other interested third parties the precise nature of the team. You want to tell these third parties: “We’re working with these great folks, but they’re not part of our company, per se.” It’s important to make sure you’re not inadvertently creating a partnership when you build your cross-professional team.
Using written contracts between all the members of a team is another great way to keep all your potential liabilities compartmentalized and reduce your potential legal exposure. There is no reward without a small amount of risk, but those risks can be easily managed if everyone is willing to acknowledge them, and work together to address them. Ultimately, the rewards of cross-professional team-building far exceed the risks. Just remember, as you start putting your team together, to include your General Counsel in the discussion about what precautions to take.
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