When minds meet

Collaboration, at its best, is a meeting of minds. When two or more people come together, share a vision, and give each other “gifts” of insight, information, effort, value toward making that vision real, it is an exhilarating feeling.

Collaborative teams create a sense of urgency, and a feeling that they can’t be stopped in reaching that goal. Their members are fully engaged. They keep each other energized and focused.

Any business aspires to having this description of their teams. But having these teams sometimes seems more like luck than something that can be purposefully built. By understanding the characteristics of excellent teams, we can look for and encourage these traits, and assist these teams in forming.

1. Ensure a clear mission.
The very best people, with the greatest talent and passion, can’t converge into a team without a mission to serve. That mission needs to feel important and unique. For the marketing team, it can’t be “generate leads” but more like something that says “let the market know what’s special about us”. It needs to be both aspirational and concrete – a heady goal that engages both creativity and execution skills.

A poorly defined mission will fail to engage people, leading to lots of business without generating real value.

2. Respect.
The team members need to appear credible to one another. They should be introduced to one another as worthy peers, and excellent leadership will constantly reinforce the value and credibility of each member to the others. When you approach a table full of people that you respect, you approach differently. The tenor of debate is higher, the interest in one another’s ideas and contributions is sincere.

3. Trust
If you trust your teammates, you can discuss challenges and problems. You can look out for one another. You can offer more ideas, reach more deeply, and feel as though you don’t want to let each other down. Intimacy develops, ensuring that this meeting of the minds deepens.

4. Commitment to continual improvement
Trouble is out there. Find it, embrace it, and it becomes your source of power to constantly innovate and move forward. Associate blame with it, or pretend it doesn’t exist, and it will always be suppressed. It will be your undoing. An excellent leader will address trouble head on. They will give voice to problems so that they can be addressed – not always solved, perhaps, but acknowledged, considered. An excellent leader will not be intimidated or afraid of facing issues, and will encourage the same in their team.

The purpose of collaborative technology is to encourage and enable teams to pursue their goals, meld minds and do more than any individual could ever do. Social Collaboration tools are particularly useful in doing this. But no tool can make a team form – they can only support existing teams.

There are people who believe that collaboration replaces leadership. Not true. Leaders shepherd the mission and goals, orchestrate activity, reveal talents, encourage connection, create urgency, and leave people alone to get their jobs done. In the ideal team, leadership is reflected in every team member, so that they can act as leaders as well.

I’m looking for more documentary evidence of great teams, and great examples. If you’ve ever been on a team like this, you know what I’m talking about, and you probably don’t want to settle for anything else. Please share your story with me.


  1. I really like these four points. Here’s another take I’ve thought about from the “motivation” field via Daniel Pink.

    I’m not sure I agree with the “science” presented as evidence, but Daniel Pink has a Ted talk where he talks about Autonomy, Mastery and Purpose that I really like.

    In your fictional team for instance, if somebody comes in every month and changes your “Clear Mission” and then tries to micro manage it collaboration will probably fail. This is the function of Autonomy.

    Mastery implies that the members are trying to become if not the best in the world, at least highly skilled and constantly learning.

    And finally, if you’re team has the clear mission of finding out better ways of selling tobacco in the third world that probably isn’t going to be quite as collaborative as it could be either.

    I think if you can create all three of these (and the ones you’ve mentioned) there is a probability of the fourth element – fun, which will hopefully lead to a team working together over the long term which creates a virtuous circle.

    1. sandy – your insights here are dead on. and i love the ted link. thanks. but i’m surprised you know so much about the dysfunction of changing mission and micromanagement 😉

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