The 3 Simple Ingredients That Keep Teams Together

Mural - Joining Hands

One of my favorite shows I watch on TV is Master Chef Australia. In one of the episodes I had watched, teams were paired into twos and were tasked to cook the same dish that looks and tastes the same, with the twist that they were not able to taste or see each other’s dishes until the time they were judged.

This particular episode had contestants who were part of the top ten winners, and ten who were eliminated in earlier episodes – who now have a chance to win back their place in the final top eleven. The original ten would get a chance at getting immunity, which would put that person practically in the finale. Each team is made up of one original winner and one eliminated winner and they have to work together to win.

Contestants were given fifteen minutes to plan and pick out ingredients before they went back to their workstations and started cooking. All they can do is plan well and shout to each other for coordination so their dishes come out pretty identical.

The real ingredients that made the best teams were: cooperation, clarity in communication, and trust. The teams that used these three ingredients most effectively were able to produce dishes that tasted the same and almost looked identical. I started thinking on how often we actually use these in our real life work and how efficient we would be if we could do this right.

Cooperation with each other’s opinions allowed each team member to contribute to the dish on how it would taste and look. I thought of how many times we get hung up thinking, our way was the only way and not allow colleagues to contribute. It doesn’t matter contribution from a junior or a senior colleague – cooperating with each other brings out more from us than what we can do individually.

The best teams in the contest were crystal clear with their communication. They not only have clear goals – they also told each other exactly how they would accomplish it, and when they were cooking, they communicated exactly what they were doing. The winning team even specified everything exactly down to the teaspoon of ingredients they were putting in and the appliances they were using.

How often do you communicate to your team not just the goals you want to accomplish but how you want to do things? In this contest it was teaspoons that made the difference in taste. It was whether someone had a lid on something or not that made the broth look different. How many times do we talk about what exactly we do and give feedback to each other?

The winning teams also had complete trust in one another. This trust allowed them to listen better to be each other and know that the other person is backing them up. Trust in our daily work lives is the most important ingredient – especially when it comes to tight delivery timelines, and budgets. Trust is also a two way street, without it, you’ll end up wasting more time and resources second guessing each other.

Cooperation. Clarity in communication. Trust.

These are not just keywords or ingredients for reality cooking shows. We need to practice them as leaders and coach your direct reports on how to do it right. Practice to do it right yourself and you’ll have a team that sticks together and do things right.