Power of Team Building: There is Little Team in Team-Building Without Leadership and Lots of Motivation…

“Too often, teams are formed merely by gathering some people together and then hoping that those people somehow find a way to work together. Teams are most effective when carefully designed, develop and supported.” ~Carter McNamara

Team building is a critical factor in any environment–workplace, sports, associations, organizations…–its focus is to bring out the best in a group and to ensure effective collaboration, self-development, positive communication, and the ability to work closely together for greater efficiency, productivity, and problem solving. The work environment tend to focus on individuals and personal goals, with reward & recognition singling out the achievements of individual employees, rather than the ‘team’. However, the team is the critical factor and creating an effective team is a challenge in any organization. The compelling reasons for team building are:

  • Improving communication.
  • Motivating a team.
  • Getting everyone “onto the same page”.
  • Identifying and utilizing the strengths of team members.
  • Improving team productivity.
  • Practicing effective collaboration with team members.

Team building generally sits within the theory and practice of ‘organizational development’. The related field of team management refers to techniques, processes and tools for organizing and coordinating a team towards a common goal – as well as the inhibitors to teamwork and ways to remove, mitigate or overcome them. Several well-known approaches to team management have come out of academic work (Wikipedia)…

  • Tuckman’sforming-storming-norming-performing model posits four stages of new team development to reach high performance. Some team activities are designed to speed up (or improve) this process in the safe team development environment.
  • ‘Belbin Team Types’ can be assessed to gain insight into an individual’s natural behavioral tendencies in a team context, and can be used to create and develop better functioning teams.
  • ‘Team Sociomapping’ is a visual approach to team process and structure modelling. This model is based on social networks approach and improves the team performance by improvement of specific cooperation ties between the people.

George Elton Mayo, known as the founder of the Human Relations Movement (included ‘group dynamics’), conducted research under the Hawthorne Studies and showed the importance of groups in affecting the behavior of individuals at work. What he found was that work satisfaction depended to a large extent on the informal social pattern of the work group. Where norms of cooperation and higher output were established because of a feeling of importance, whereas physical conditions or financial incentives had little motivational value.

People will form work groups, and this can be used by management to benefit the organization. He concluded that people’s work performance is dependent on both social issues and job content. He suggested that tension between workers’ ‘logic of sentiment’ and managers’ ‘logic of cost and efficiency’ could lead to conflict within organizations. Summary of Mayo’s beliefs:

  • Individual workers cannot be treated in isolation, but must be seen as members of a group.
  • Monetary incentives and good working conditions are less important to the individual than the need to belong to a group.
  • Informal or unofficial groups formed at work have a strong influence on the behavior of those workers in a group.
  • Managers must be aware of these ‘social needs’ and cater for them to ensure that employees collaborate with the official organization rather than work against it.

In the article “Tips for Team Building: How to Build Successful Work Teams and  Make Teams Effective” by Susan M. Heathfield writes:  People in every workplace talk about building the ‘team’, working as a ‘team’, and my ‘team’, but few understand how to create the experience of ‘team work’ or how to develop an effective ‘team’. Belonging to a team, in the broadest sense, is a result of feeling part of something larger than yourself. It has a lot to do with your understanding of the mission or objectives of your organization.

In a team-oriented environment, you contribute to the overall success of the organization. You work with fellow members of the organization to produce results. Even though you have a specific job function and you belong to a specific department, you are unified with other organization members to accomplish the overall objectives. The bigger picture drives your actions; your function exists to serve the bigger picture. You need to differentiate this overall sense of teamwork from the task of developing an effective intact team that is formed to accomplish a specific goal.

People confuse the two team building objectives. This is why so many team building seminars, meetings, retreats and activities are deemed failures by their participants. Leaders failed to define the team they wanted to build. Developing an overall sense of team work is different from building an effective, focused work team when you consider team building approaches.

Executives, managers and organization staff members universally explore ways to improve business results and profitability. Many view team-based, horizontal, organization structures as the best design for involving all employees in creating business success. No matter what you call your team-based improvement effort: continuous improvement, total quality, lean manufacturing or self-directed work teams, you are striving to improve results for customers…

In the articleTeam Leadership Model” by donclark writes: A lack of leadership is often seen as a roadblock to a team’s performance. As ‘Stewart and Manz’ write, “work team management or supervision is often identified as a primary reason why self-management teams fail to properly develop and yield improvements in productivity, quality, and quality of life for American workers.” Rather than focusing on ineffective teams, ‘Larson and LaFasto’ looked in the opposite direction by interviewing excellent teams to gain insights as to what enables them to function to a high degree. They came away with the following conclusions:

  • A clear elevating goal — they have a vision.
  • Results driven structure — visions have a business goal.
  • Competent team members with right number and mix.
  • Unified commitment — they are a ‘team’, not a group.
  • A collaborative climate — aligned towards a common purpose.
  • High standards of excellence — they have group norms.
  • Principled leadership — the central driver of excellence.
  • External support — they have adequate resources.

In the articleTeam Buildingby F. John Reh writes: If you want team building to work, you have to show the members of the team that it benefits them personally. There is very little ‘team’ in teamwork without a lot of motivation. We live in a society that seems fascinated with individual accomplishment and almost oblivious to teams. Even in team settings like sports, we single out the All-Stars and the MVP (Most Valuable Player) of each game.

That is the environment you have to overcome in order to build your group at work into a team.  Do you think of your group as a team? They won’t think of themselves as a team if you don’t. Do you reward team performance, or only individual achievements? You won’t have much success in team building if you don’t reward team performance.

Let your group know that they are a team, that you expect them to perform as a team, and that you will reward their successes as a team. That’s the first step toward team building.  Remember that team building must be an everyday activity. It is not something you can just do quarterly at some off-site function.

If you want team building to work, it’s not enough to tell them that they are a team and must perform as one. You also have to show the members of the team that it benefits them personally.  The strongest motivator available to a manager is self-esteem. The more the individual sees a benefit to his or her self-esteem from supporting the team, the more successful your team building efforts will be.  The moment you start doing anything at all with another person, you’ve established a team. Begin a conversation; pick up the phone, brainstorm an idea and you’re in teamwork.

According to David Blum, one of the most popular axioms in both eastern and western culture is the Golden Rule: “Treat others as ‘you’ would like to be treated.” Although useful in general the Golden Rule is flawed when team building. People are not the same; they have different needs, different ways they want to be treated, and this is particularly true in times of stress.

The team leader’s task in team building is not only to know how the individuals prefer to be treated, but also to understand how they react under pressure, and what each person might need in order to move beyond the crisis…

A skillful leader must understand and overcome the stress responses in each of his team members if he hopes to pull his team through a crisis. In truth, there is no magic remedy for healing people’s tendencies. But as a team leader, understanding your teammates’ tendencies under pressure can allow you to know what to expect in times of crisis… The new Golden Rule, then, is: “Treat others as ‘they’ would like to be treated.”

“The biggest mistake many companies make is just changing the name of a work group to ‘team’. It won’t make them successful. Don’t just call your employees a team, help them be one.” ~deniseoberry