Although I’m not a fan of typical ‘team-building’ discourses that we read so often in management books and online, I found Randy Pausch’s tips for working successfully in groups rather appealing:
1) Meet people properly: It all starts with the introduction. Exchange contact information. Make sure you can pronounce everyone’s names [especially if you’re working in a diverse cultural group. I still can’t pronounce the names of some of my teammates-turned-friends because I never asked in our first meeting!].
2) Find things you have in common: You can almost always find something in common with another person, and from there,it’s much easier to address issues when you have differences. Sports cut across boundaries of race and wealth [absolutely!]. And if nothing else, we all have the weather in common.
3) Try for optimal meeting conditions: Make sure no one is hungry, cold or tired. Meet over a meal if you can; food softens a meeting [unless you’re a vegetarian and the others aren’t. Then food just hardens it more]. That’s why they do “lunch” in Hollywood.
4) Let everyone talk: Don’t finish someone’s sentences. And talking faster or louder doesn’t make your ideas any better.
5) Check egos at the door: When you discuss ideas, label them and write them down. The label should be descriptive of the idea, not the originator: “the bridge story” not “Jane’s story”.
6) Praise each other: Find something nice to say, even if it’s a stretch. The worst ideas can have silver linings if you look hard enough.
7) Phrase alternatives as questions: Instead of “I think we should do A, not B,” try “what if we did A, instead of B?” That allows people to offers comments rather than defend one choice.
I found these in his book, The Last Lecture. An awesome, inspiring, moving read. I’m almost done reading it and almost tempted to read it again. It’s a keep sake. I’m writing a review for it soon.