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Maximise Your Team’s Potential With This Simple Strategy

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Maximise Your Team’s Potential With This Simple Strategy

To maximise your team’s potential, place people who are able to bring out the best in each other in close proximity.

You’re probably familiar with the popular phrase, ‘you are the average of the five people you spend the most time with’. This idea seems to make sense – sort of.

Yes, the people we surround ourselves with can greatly influence how we think and feel, how we grow as individuals, and how we perform. We’ve known this since childhood.

As a business owner, I’m sure you notice how your closest team members and partners can draw you into their own world, shape your views and shift your moods. If you’re lucky, they are fun to be around and inspire and support you to excel. Or perhaps some of them can drive you crazy at times and drag you down.

But no, you’re not destined to blend in and to lose your edge.

The richness of your thinking, your ability to solve problems, or the extent of your creativity, for example, are not capped by the limits of your environment – or by any sort of average, for that matter.

Furthermore, the collective power of your team can be much greater than the sum of the qualities, strengths and weaknesses of members. Your people can bring out the best (and sometimes the worst) in one another.

As a well-functioning team, they can conquer new territories and come up with ideas and solutions that none of the members could have achieved individually.

Everyone can win.

Leadership and management experts can teach you countless techniques to improve the effectiveness of teamwork. But here is one frequently overlooked strategy I’d like to bring to your attention, helping you maximise your team’s potential. It’s beautifully simple, essentially free to implement, and makes everyone a winner.

Make sure that members who would be positive influences on each other work in close proximity.

You can achieve this by creating a seating arrangement where members are placed strategically. This concept might sound a bit mundane at first – we’re not school kids anymore. But it still works. You might be surprised to find out the extent to which careful seating arrangements can boost your team’s performance.

Alternatively, if your team members have some freedom to choose where they work, you can teach them to make informed choices about who they sit (or stand) next to when they come to the office.

Before jumping into action, first, let’s look at how people working closely together can influence one another’s performance.

The status quo.

Thankfully, only in a few rather bureaucratic organisations, you can still see people seated together based on their status. In today’s business climate, this arrangement has little benefit on individual or team performance.

In many workplaces, people are grouped by discipline, while in other project teams with multiple disciplines sit together. These two types of groups have different dynamics, but both can make it easier for members to exchange knowledge and learn from their neighbours.

When you have a question, someone nearby might know the answer. Or you can just listen in to conversations near your desk and learn something relevant to your expertise or project.

In workspaces where people can choose where to sit, like-minded people naturally gravitate to one another, which can have obvious upsides.

Members with compatible personalities and work habits can mesh well. With shared values and views, they tend to be great at motivating each other, bouncing ideas back and forth and providing emotional support.

In contrast, people with vastly different temperaments and work styles sitting side by side can make each other’s lives quite rough.

The larger-than-life ‘resident MC’ and the introverted nerdy analyst, for example, are unlikely to do well in each other’s pockets. One is inspired and energised by passionate, animated conversations, while the other craves some peace and quiet and the chance to concentrate.

In these situations, distraction and conflict can occur way too often for anyone’s comfort.

People will naturally do whatever they can to avoid this kind of stress, which is why organically formed teams rarely have a diverse make-up.

So if you go for an obvious choice when it comes to allocating desks, or leave this decision to your team without discussing the following strategies with them, you will likely end up with groups formed around similar expertise, goals or personalities. None of these scenarios are actually bad, but you could do so much better to maximise your team’s potential!

Speed and quality of work.

Superstars who consistently produce top quality work at top speed are practically non-existent. Everyone has some strengths and weaknesses, but weaknesses can often be improved. And sitting next to the right people can make a real difference here.

Researchers suggest that when you sit in close proximity to a person who works faster than you do or produces higher quality work (in the sense of meeting set standards and expectations), your performance in these areas will measurably increase. However, the other person won’t be negatively affected; in this scenario, there are only winners.

This means that if a fast worker sits close to someone who produces excellent quality work, both of them will benefit – they will improve on their weaknesses while their strengths will remain intact.

The slower worker will speed up while continuing to produce high standard output, while the fast worker will increase their quality of work while maintaining good speed.

Members with different strengths can already influence one another from eight metres apart, but the benefits are greater when they work at neighbouring desks. (In one study, where employees with different strengths were paired together many of them improved their weaker side by close to 15%.)

This strategy might work best in jobs or projects that primarily require hard skills such as using specialist software, programming and troubleshooting. Other examples are project management, accounting, analysis and maths. To excel in these skills, you need to learn the best and most current information, ideally from someone who is more knowledgeable than you are.

Creativity.

When it comes to creativity – and other soft skills – the story is very different. Creativity is multifaceted and limitless, and thus, every person in a team, regardless of knowledge or experience, might be able to bring new dimensions to the creative pool.

In jobs where creative input is essential, it can be a good idea to bring together people with similar levels of creative flair. Without anyone grabbing the lead or dominating others, members can inspire and support each other and build on each other’s ideas.

However, you can still capitalise on diversity.

Your team members with different skill sets, knowledge bases and experiences can bring alternative perspectives and viewpoints into conversations and shed light on one another’s hidden knowledge, maximising each other’s potential.

People who approach problems differently – perhaps coming from different backgrounds or disciplines – may experience some friction while working together. But in a transparent environment where respectful debates are encouraged, and disagreements are accepted, together they could redefine what’s possible, which can be incredibly rewarding.

For this reason, if you think it’s time to ignite some ‘out there’ conversations amongst your members, I encourage you to mix up your team a little.

As we know, people in the workplace tend to talk more frequently to those who sit around them. So when it comes to who sits where make sure that members who might otherwise be inclined to plant themselves in opposite corners of your office actually work next to each other at least once in a while.

What’s next to maximise your team’s potential?

First, think about the skills you’d like your team members to master and the qualities their work should exhibit. Then decide whether the key to their growth is learning new information, or finding inspiration and expanding their thinking.

Of course, your business needs well-rounded people, but what’s the most important area for each of them?

It shouldn’t be too difficult to identify people who could be a positive influence on each other. Some of them might thrive around colleagues with skills and strengths different from their own. Others could reach their full potential around peers with similar expertise but different thinking patterns.

To maximise your team’s potential, make sure that these people work near each other in your workspace, and make adjustments as needed. The rest will take care of itself

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