The gravity pull of black holes is so intense it sucks in everything around it – even light.  It would then seem impossible to capture a picture of any black hole.  But a team of scientist did exactly that.  Their efforts offer a Lesson Found in what it takes to create an extremely effective team. 

The Event Horizon Telescope (EHT) is not simply a telescope.   The brain child of Sheperd Doeleman, EHT is the result of a massive collaboration including a diverse team of 200 associated with 60 different institutions across 20 countries parsing data from eight separate telescopes.  Key characteristics of EHT team members: Motivated self-starters who do not fear failure.  But Dr. Doeleman points to trust as the most important characteristic for the EHT team. “At every point we encouraged dissent and debate, looked at different viewpoints and interrogated the algorithms.”  For this type of constrictive conflict to work, the EHT team fostered a culture of trust; “one in which” Dr. Doeleman notes, “we can disagree but remain open to be convinced.”  The result is a team which produced something that was previously thought impossible:  A picture of a black hole.

Anyone can put together a team. The Lesson Found here is how to build a culture within the team so it excels. At the heart is an overarching culture of trust.  This does start with the hiring process: accurately defining the mix of skills required and then screening for confidence and motivation. But that is just the start. You, the leader, must then reinforce trust within the team.  Tools to accomplish this include: Clear, realistic goals and objectives; Open communication with regular feedback; Encouraging team members to speak up if they disagree but to still be open to being convinced of that idea’s worthiness.  And, this has to be a two-way-street with you leading by example including “being open to be convinced” to others’ ideas even when you disagree with that idea.

After the press conference announcing their results, Dr. Doeleman points to EHT’s greatest achievement: “I’m proud of the team. I think of the team as the thing that was built here.”  And that was after accomplishing what was thought to be impossible!

How do you instill trust in your team?

Life brings us lessons every day.  Sometimes from expected sources.  And sometimes from sources and situations we never would have thought possible.  Either way, they are a gift found. I am fortunate to find these types of lessons regularly and wanted to share them with you with this weekly series of “Lessons Found”.
Did you recently receive the gift of a Lesson Found that has helped you with management, marketing or another aspect in business? I would love to hear about it. Comment below or send me an email to let me know.