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3 Decisions Your Team Must Make to Succeed Cross-Functionally

Of the 35,000 decisions you make in a day, these ones are critical for cross-functional teamwork.

You know the feeling: Your team has been given a big, audacious goal. The eyes of your teammates tell you some believe the team will succeed, but others don’t. And for good reason: Achieving the target will require an extraordinary level of cross-functional collaboration. Results will have to be delivered working with people your team barely knows, many of whom work in different time zones.

That’s why you’re nervous. Your company isn’t exactly known for its one-team culture.

In this scenario, your instincts are serving you well. The facts show the odds are stacked against your success, including:

Yet, you should believe your team can succeed. Here’s why: There is also evidence that human beings can move past perceived boundaries and effectively work together. You simply need to equip your team to make the specific decisions that make cross-functional work a reality – and quickly.

History Proves Your Team Can Do This

Human beings consistently demonstrate that they can shorten the time it takes to work together effectively. For instance, families fraught with conflict set aside differences when there’s a birthday or holiday to celebrate. Neighbors walk past the fences between them and collaborate to keep schools and businesses open or care for those in need. Even nations look past their grievances and join forces when global disaster strikes.

The point is, when we have to, we can work together. Effective leaders enable us to do so when we want to. They do this by enabling those they lead to create swift trust by making better human decisions. Make no mistake about it: For companies and our world, this ability to work collaboratively and cross-functionally is the defining need of our time.

The 3 Most Important Decisions Your Team Can Make

Experts claim every person makes 35,000 decisions a day. Of those, if your team isn’t making three specific decisions, they’ll never fully succeed in cross-functional teamwork. These three decisions are based in the belief that your teammates already have the skills to connect quickly and effectively with others. To succeed, you simply need to activate what human beings already possess.

In your next meeting introduce these three decisions. Then discuss how everyone will bring this wisdom to those with whom they work beyond the immediate team.

1. The Contributor Decision: I choose to bring my best to every interaction.

Sadly, on many teams, individuals make the conditional contributor decision, as in, “I’ll bring my best if you bring your best first.” However, we get little work done when others determine the character we reveal. To succeed in cross-functional teamwork, your team will likely have to go first by modeling behaviors “those people” who work in other functions aren’t.

You will call your teammates to higher levels of self-leadership by asking them these types of questions: Is it important to make the Contributor Decision, and if so, why? What does it look like to make this decision even when others are not modeling our values?

2. The Activator Decision: I choose to bring out the best in others as I interact with them.

Changing behaviors is not an intellectual exercise. It’s the business of the heart. We all know that commands and throwing money at teammates to get them to act differently only delivers short-term benefits. That’s because it’s not facts that move us, it’s how we feel that changes us.

Many professionals simply expect their peers to show up each day bringing their best. But the daily grind numbs people. Activators know this. So, they don’t wait until the weekend or retirement to serve other people. They use every-day interactions to set others up for success. This spirit mobilizes hearts and bonds people in ways necessary to succeed in cross-functional work.

Ask your team: What’s the reward for making the Activator Decision? What are the ways we can make this decision successfully?

3. The Connector Decision: We choose to partner across the business to deliver our shared objectives.

Humans are wired to seek rich connections with others and belong to a community of like-minded people. Succeeding in cross-functional work requires re-defining and expanding where people traditionally see the boundary of the team they’re on. When you do this, you expand the psychological safety team members need to be at their best.

Equip your team to go first by pro-actively asking others outside their function these two questions: “Are we on the same team?” (It’s not a rhetorical question.) Then, “Do we want to team together casually or purposefully?”

After blank stares, most people will choose a purposeful approach. Then share the Connector Decision with them and ask: What is our shared objective? What does it look like to partner successfully? Why is this approach important to each of us? How will we hold ourselves accountable to our partnership?

These three decisions equip team members to be
who they want to be when it matters most – the best expression of themselves. To
succeed in cross-functional collaboration, we must be at our best as humans. History
proves we can do this. And you can lead the way.

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