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Understanding Commonalities within a Team

David DeSteno, a professor of psychology at Northeastern University and the author of The Truth About Trust: How It Determines Success in Life, Love, Learning, and More wrote a recent story for the HBR about how identifying commonalities on a team can lead to effectiveness. This is a concept that Cloverleaf was founded on. The belief is that the first step towards building anything great is truly understanding the labor force that is working to accomplish the task. According to DeSteno:

"For people to work together, they need to know that both labor and credit will be shared. In short, they need teammates who understand their feelings (i.e. empathy) and care about their wellbeing (i.e. compassion)."

At Cloverleaf, we have built a platform that helps managers discover not only the commonalities but also how the differences that each team member brings to the table contribute to the whole. Cloverleaf also provides a common cultural language that helps team members from different backgrounds celebrate the parts of their collective selves that value the same things and understand the unique markers of their team.

Coming back to Desteno, he says, “when it comes to empathy and compassion, the most powerful tool is a sense of similarity – a belief that people’s interests are joined and, thus, that they’re all on the same team and will benefit from supporting each other.”

He encourages those teams interested in becoming more effective to “take time to learn about team members, find commonalities or shared interests and begin to highlight them in a discussion. Develop a team identity and encourage people to categorize themselves as part of it.

Kevin Delaney, the co-founder of Quartz an online news site recently wrote about how something weird happened with their startup when they crossed the 150-employee mark in their growth. He mentions that this was an experience that many startups encounter. He writes that once the staff exceeds 150 people, employees are no longer the single, cohesive, culture-reinforcing unit they were during the company’s earliest days.

According to Delaney, one of the more prominent examples of an organization that worked hard to prevent this erosion in commonality and group identity is W.L. Gore & Associates, the maker of Gore-Tex fabric.

“[Gore] has an unconventional approach to managing the changing dynamics that come with growth. The privately held manufacturer, which has over 10,000 employees, generally doesn’t allow the staff at any of its factories to exceed 150 people before building another, self-contained factory next to it. That’s because founder Bill Gore felt that when a unit of workers got big enough, “we decided” became “they decided,” as management writer Gary Hamel, who has studied the company, explains it. Gore understood that workers in a 150-person unit could all know one another, and share a commitment to group goals and values—and that any growth beyond that would change those dynamics.”

At Cloverleaf, we are building solutions to help you manage teams of 5, 150, or 1,000. We understand that teams are constantly evolving as is the culture and the ability to execute a plan. That is why an organizational design tool like Cloverleaf’s is critical to getting the most out of your talent investment.

Darrin Murriner

Darrin Murriner

Darrin Murriner is the co-founder and CEO of Cloverleaf.me - a technology platform that brings automated team coaching to the entire enterprise through real-time, customized coaching in the tools employees use daily (calendar, email & Slack / Teams). The result is better collaboration, improved employee relationships, and a more engaged workforce. Before starting Cloverleaf, Darrin had a 15-year corporate career that spanned Munich Re, Arthur Andersen, and Fifth Third Bank. Darrin is also the author of Corporate Bravery, a book focused on helping leaders avoid fear-based decision-making.