I am slumping over my keyboard as I write this blog post. Why, do you ask? Because I let my my dear hubby drag me to the midnight showing of The Avengers; a movie that he has talked about ad nauseam for…ohhh…the last two months.
So anyone who has not seen the movie (which is probably most of you), then WARNING! WARNING! SPOILER ALERT! If you cringe at the thought of seeing references to the movie before you’ve seen it, then STOP! Do not pass go…do not collect $200. If this isn’t you, then read on my friends!
Question: how many of you have been on a team with team members that resemble one of the Avengers?
- Tony Stark (aka Iron Man), a man who knows everything, has ego for days along with a complimenting sarcastic attitude; or
- Dr. Bruce Banner (aka The Hulk) a guy who struggles hard to hide his demon under a veneer of cool, and is a recluse (and not much of a team player) because of it; or
- Natalia Romanova (aka The Black Widow), a woman who will always use your words against you and can even use that information to kill you(although I really hope that wouldn’t happen in the workplace); or
- Clint Barton (aka Hawkeye) who is an all-around utility guy who gets the job done; or
- Thor (aka…umm…Thor) who comes down with a big hammer and acts without complete information most of the time; or
- Captain America who is your guy who might be out of place, and might not be the strongest or the smartest, but is seems to be the one that can always rally the troops?
The Avengers were literally a team of superheros that, at first, couldn’t get the job done. They weren’t exactly what you would call a high performing team despite their individual powers. When was the last time that you were on a team of technical superstars, and you still somehow didn’t get the job done? Even having a team of superstars, the Avengers couldn’t defeat Loki the first time around. In fact, the team fell apart at the seams, which is all too common in the real world. And even if the team didn’t completely implode, at a minimum, they did not perform as well as expected (like the Miami Heat circa 2011…still bitter about that).
Anyway, is it so hard to believe that the Avengers could fail? Nick Fury brings a team of superheros together and does a horrible job of playing facilitator. He brings them in with no team building and doesn’t provide complete information, which led to dissension in the ranks. Every individual superhero had his or her own agenda when they came to the party. They had their own battles to fight and win, and had virtually nothing in common. Bruce Banner referred to their team as a chemical mixture designed to produce chaos; and chaos is exactly what they had. Instead of fighting together against a common enemy and towards a common goal like…oh…a little thing like saving the planet…they fought each other.
So how did The Avengers come together to save the day in the end? First, there was a clarifying moment that resulted in a shared loss, which led them to believe that the status quo and lack of team play was not acceptable. Second, that same clarifying moment also increased each Avenger’s personal stake, or shared ownership, in accomplishing the mission at hand. Third, they had a leader in Captain America who could not only develop a plan, but also understood the strengths of each Avenger, and used that knowledge to assign roles and responsibilities that leveraged each of their strengths for the collective good. Last, they had a team member, Iron Man, who was willing to make the ultimate sacrifice for mankind. In being selfless, having a leader with an action plan, clear roles and responsibilities based on each Avenger’s strength, and knowledge as to how those roles and responsibilities worked together in executing the plan, the Avengers were able to do what they do best, which is to save the day.
Do high performing teams always save the day in the real world? Not exactly! However, what we do know is that if those critical components listed above aren’t present, then there is a very high likelihood that the team will fail. Let’s all pull a page from the Avengers playbook. Our teams just might be the better for it.