I often open teambuilding sessions with this question: what’s the best team experience you’ve ever had? What made it great?
The answers I get usually fall right in line with our agenda for the day. People talk about having a clear vision, being on the same page with regard to the team’s mission, having stated values and norms, effective communication and conflict resolution, respect and trust between teammates, and a willingness to embrace change. All of these are critical aspects of a high-performing team. But I would argue that for a team experience to truly stand out in one’s mind as the best, for a participant to answer the question with that faraway, reminiscent look of passion in their eyes, there is something more.
I’ve heard it called “resonance” by more than one source. Truly great teams resonate, and that’s a characteristic that’s hard to put a finger on. The literal meaning of the word resonance is “the propagation of sound by synchronous vibration.” Great teams work together with positive energy, and have a sense of cohesiveness and pride. If you ask a member of a great team to self-identify her most important roles in life, she will say, for example, that she is a wife, a mother, a marketing executive, and a member of the Diversity Team. She will also say that she enjoys being with her teammates, enjoys their sense of interdependence, and is proud of their accomplishments.
How does one develop resonance on a team? To some extent, it comes from putting the other basics of team effectiveness in place: making sure the team is aligned around a common mission, vision and values, and giving them infrastructure to get to know one another well and develop positive communication and problem-solving norms. But I think it goes beyond that. Do you have to like your teammates to be an effective team? No—with a little hard work, you can develop trust and respect between people who don’t particularly like each other and with that, effectiveness is possible. But unfortunately, I don’t think you can develop resonance. I believe that comes from truly liking and enjoying the company of your teammates. And unfortunately, that means that taking a team from effectiveness up to resonance is more a matter of luck than of effort.
What do you think? Does anyone want to disagree with me on that?