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How Teams Are Like Jigsaw Puzzles – And How They Aren’t

Jigsaw puzzles can be difficult. There are many pieces, each a little different then the next. It’s obvious where a few of the pieces fit, but for many their part of the bigger picture is hard to see. Occasionally, a guess is correct, but usually it takes some trial and error before their proper location becomes obvious. Finally, after some time and considerable effort, the whole picture emerges.

Forming a team can seem a lot like a jigsaw puzzle. Each team member is unique and has a particular place on the team where they best fit. Sometimes that place is not immediately obvious and forcing them into any other place will make the team less effective.

A jigsaw puzzle usually has a picture to help you see what the finished picture should look like. The individual pieces also provide some clues as to where they fit in the bigger picture.

The same can be true for your team. A clear mission and defined goals provide the team with a bigger picture. The team leader can see where the team is going and what it needs to do to get there. Just as importantly, each team member can see not only where the team is going, but also how they can contribute to reaching those goals.

But, a team is not a collection of inanimate puzzle pieces. They are a group of thinking people. Likewise, the picture is not one dimensional. Unlike flat puzzle pieces, team members, and their interactions, are multi-dimensional and dynamic. The team leader needs to know not only where everyone fits, but also how they interact. At The Daedalus Group, we’ve had great success using the Energize2Leadâ„¢ team profile from Academy Leadership to help teams better understand how they interact and find points where there is likely to be synergy as well as where conflict may emerge.

Have you given your team a clear mission and defined goals? Do you strive to understand each team member’s strengths to learn how they best fit and how the team interacts?


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