It Works Better If We Work As a Team

Cathy Chen-Rennie

Payments Engineering Operations Manager at Google



"The definition of team is that there is dependency on one another while all working for the same company. There is an overall mission and this mission brings you together. However, with large companies, and especially when working with remote teams, the idea of team and team-building can seem not as effective when they go across silos. If you're not working with others on a day-to-day basis nor do you need to communicate with them regularly, other than to maintain the overall mission, there becomes no team dependency and, therefore, no reason to get to know those other people. So how, and more vitally why, is it important for everyone to know and be comfortable with each other within a company?"

Actions taken

First, ask yourself what's the point? What do you want to get across? As a leader, why is it important for individuals and teams to really know each other? Maybe you're thinking about the culture of your company and making sure the culture keeps on growing the way it is. Perhaps you're onboarding and it's a means to integrate the newcomers. Either way, knowing the purpose upfront will help you execute an exercise that is useful for your end goal.

Next, choose an activity. There are tons of get-to-know-you kinds of activities online and in books. An example, design your own personal shield or coat of arms using four quadrants to describe yourself. At the bottom, put your personal motto. Then gather in groups and have a discussion around what each person drew and wrote. Another, more serious one, could involve the company mission. Sub-teams talk about personal values and the values of the company. What does communication mean to the individual and the team? Does everyone value face-to-face communication transparency? An alternative exercise for team building comes from NASA titled Ranking Survival Objects for the Moon. The activity is completed first by the individual and then while in a group. Each time they are scored and later given the results. When finished, ask people if they scored better as an individual or as a team. The point being that most people score better as a team. These are just a handful of examples. Again, there are tons of exercises of this sort online.

Another approach is to use a personality assessment such as the Myer-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI). After getting the results have a discussion around the different personality factors and how individuals gather information. Talk about the advantages of the different personalities and bring it back to the group so that everyone gains appreciation for how others think and act. Additionally, consider addressing the 16 indicators in separate pairs, by analyzing the factors with their opposites. Explain what they are first, then design a simple activity around exploring which side each person thinks they belong to. Complete the exercise by talking about how the two sides can come together to make a decision or determine what are some conflicts that they would run into. Surfacing those difficulties and those kinds of conversations are fun.

Lessons learned

  • "Generally, you realize that other people are not like you and that they think differently."
  • "You gain some appreciation for both how other people think and how they collect information. Sometimes you're going to solve a problem one way and sometimes another, but knowing both sides of the coin will bring a sense of mutual understanding."
  • "It helps overall communication when individuals understand each other and realize that they have to flex in order to communicate well with each other."
  • "We do better work when we work with other people. We work better, we make better decisions, team results are better."

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Cathy Chen-Rennie

Payments Engineering Operations Manager at Google

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