Turning Great Individuals Into a Great Team

The 2004 Summer Olympic Games were a disaster for the United States men's basketball team. The 12-man roster consisted of some of the most talented athletes in the country. They were all-stars. Superstars. And their first game in Athens was a humiliating 92-73 loss to Puerto Rico, followed by a mediocre series of games and eventually a disappointing bronze medal.

How could this happen? The U.S. team had won every gold medal since professionals were allowed to play. They had quite possibly the most talented individuals in the game. For crying out loud, this was the Dream Team! The answer lies in that one word: team. A collection of the best individual talent often does not make the best team. In this case, the problem may have been poor communication, selfishness, too many leaders, or a number of other causes. Teambuilding can be a can be a frustrating problem for many organizations, but our case study shows how one company was able to overcome the challenge:

A talented leadership team was in turmoil, and the president needed help. Various individuals in worked together well in dyads, but when the subsets were mixed, performance went down. The group had no willingness or ability to explore where the difficulties occurred or how to solve them. The president needed to improve teamwork and performance, and (lucky for him) he found one of our partners.

The first step to a better leadership team was giving everyone an iWAM questionnaire. Each team member received individual feedback on his or her report, and everyone agreed to participate in a group session with a team profile (names attached). The next step was a 2 1/2 hour interpretation and coaching event that forever changed this company's leaders:

  1. It began with an overview of the iWAM and what it measures.
  2. Consultants moved through the results explaining what high and low scores meant and how differences in the team might play out.
  3. The team discussed their experiences with each other and how the profiles contributed to their interaction and effectiveness.
  4. It closed with some “contracting” about how the team might use this knowledge to increase their effectiveness with each other in the future.

At first, there were mixed reactions among team members. One person said, "I didn't learn much new," while another said, "there were some real surprises in those results!" What did the president have to say? He was especially pleased. He found his own profile to be very interesting, and was surprised to find out that some of the team members had some more extreme patterns than he. Overall, the team indicated that the exersize was very useful not only as a teambuilding tool, but also as a personal development exercise.

"The iWAM is not a magic pill for team problems," said the consultant on this project. "However, it proves to be an extraordinarily powerful template for understanding and improving communication and interaction in leadership teams.”

If you want the gold medal, help your team members work together and fulfill their potential.

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last modified: 2006/Aug/07 15:57 UTC