Although the concept of Failure to Launch is typically applied to adolescents struggling to transition into adulthood, it can also be a way to understand how some teams fail to achieve mastery not only in terms of high performance but in terms of developing a level of collective emotional and psychological well-being that can support them to weather ongoing stress as a single unit.
Being intentional about team development is a leader’s responsibility. And yet, leaders and their leaders may take the path of least resistance by identifying team development as an aspirational goal that never becomes fully actualized. This lost opportunity has wide ranging implications that is akin to pushing adolescents into adulthood without providing them with adequate infrastructure and tools to navigate interpersonal complexity by becoming creative problem solvers, thus limiting their ability to fully activate their evolutionary potential.
The impact of the team leader in the developmental process of launching a team is undeniable – whether the leader is too supportive or too hands off. Even good leaders are skilled at understanding and meeting the different individual needs of their team members but may struggle with knowing how to best meet the needs of the team as a whole. Building a cohesive team identity is required because it impacts all facets of team functioning – communication, collaboration, goal-setting, and decision-making. Healthy teams thrive because they have built a robust foundation of reciprocity, empathy, self-awareness, perspective taking, and resilience that fuels a sense of collective empowerment, ownership, mutual accountability, and efficacy. When a team has successfully launched, team members have learned to face uncomfortable feelings together by creating a shared language that facilitates mutual understanding and trust. A compelling asset of such teams is their ability to driving a multiplier effect, where team outcomes are consistently greater than the sum of individual members.