We’ve all been a part of a dysfunctional team over the course of our careers. Dysfunctional teams lack effective leadership and trust. There’s no accountability, no commitment, and high turnover. Dysfunctional teams can be emotionally draining for everyone involved.
We all would prefer to be a part of an effective team, because they are committed, respectful, engaged and successful. Team members hold each other accountable and trust each other enough to participate in productive conflict.
But what is a team? These are a few of the varieties you will find in the business environment:
Circumstantial group – This is a larger group of individuals brought together by circumstances but who don’t necessarily work together to achieve specific results (i.e., all employees of an organization, students at a university, etc.). These are rarely considered true teams since the individuals are fairly independent of one another and don’t really need to be held accountable to one another.
Project team – This is a group of individuals brought together for a period of time to complete a particular project.
Natural team – This is a small group of individuals that work together on a regular basis working toward accomplishing common goals and sharing the responsibilities and the rewards.
When teams, of any variety, work effectively together, they may enjoy any or all of the following benefits:
- Sense of belonging – team members want to come to work and engage with other team members
- Learning – actively listening to other team members creates an environment for learning
- Sense of ownership – holding oneself accountable for their own responsibilities among the team gives employees a sense of pride when they follow-through
- Creativity and risk-taking – brainstorming ideas with your team fosters creativity and encourages thoughtful risk-taking that might not otherwise occur on one’s own
- Utilization of other’s strengths – an ability to leverage a greater set of natural strengths, and limit the exposure to natural weaknesses
- More efficient productivity
- Increased employee engagement – leads to less turnover, a happier workforce and often a better bottom line
Yet, with all of these benefits in mind, building efficient teams can be a struggle for many organizations, for many of the following reasons:
- Time consuming & sensitive process – Building a thoughtful, effective team requires time, consideration and sensitivity, all of which are often in short supply at busy workplaces.
- Lack of effort – Managers are liable to underestimate how much effort has to be invested and the attention to detail that must be given to building a strong team.
- Differing work styles and personalities – Tailoring a set of different personalities, skill sets and work styles is tricky, and success in this realm can be hard to predict.
- Lack of incentives – Team members want to know what their own takeaway is, and incentives for success can go a long way in getting them invested.
Project teams typically come together for a specific purpose, and thus structure is often inherent. With natural work teams, it often needs to be a more intentional process. You may not have the ability to select the natural work team members or ensure that they have the required skills up front. However, to help put structure to the natural work group, these are a few things to keep in mind:
- Make sure the team has clearly identifiable goals that are measurable and assigned.
- Communicate and agree upon the expectations of the team ahead of time.
- Communicate any incentives the team would be rewarded if they reach their communicated goals.
- Consider dividing the natural work team into sub-groups to more efficiently accomplish the stated goals.
- Establish ground rules that all team members follow.
How do you know if you have an effective team? There are structured team assessments that could be taken (i.e., one based on The Five Dysfunctions of a Team™), surveys that can be taken, or pre-set metrics that can be measured. In addition, as a leader, it should be fairly simple to identify an effective team when you see your team players sharing leadership roles within the team, developing their own scope of work; are mutually accountable to each other for their work and engaging in productive conflict.
Developing an effective team is an ongoing process that requires vigilance and attention. Keep the wise words of Henry Ford in your head – “Coming together is a beginning. Keeping together is progress. Working together is success.”
Stacey Huff is the Advisory Services Director at MCM CPAs & Advisors, where she works closely with the firm’s HR consultants. Her practice expertise is currently in tax compliance as it relates to the Affordable Care Act, and her experience also includes retirement plan administration and not-for-profit tax compliance and consulting.
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