Thoughts on Team Building
A team is generally defined as small groups of people who are interdependent and who must work together to complete a particular task. Such a group is at least, by influence, hierarchical, since there is one leader who requires the efforts of the other group members to accomplish the job. The object of team building is to promote a greater sense of unity and cohesiveness and to enable the team to function together more smoothly and effectively.
Effective teamwork is the key factor in achieving both management and individual goals. Organizations with a sense of team spirit stand out sharply from those that are plagued with internal disputes. The team is clearly the fundamental building block of the organization. While there is a need for the outstanding individual contribution, long-term success depends on how well people work together to keep the organization moving forward.
Shared goals and mutual respect are necessary both within and between groups of individuals if there is to be teamwork that really counts in an organization. It is the job of the team leader to focus the energies and abilities of the team towards common goals and to replace competitive attitudes with the desire to collaborate.
Mutual trust and respect are clearly the foundation for effective communication, which is the most important ingredient for team success. When trust and respect exist, goals can be developed to which all team members are committed. Systems and procedures that are subsequently based on these shared goals are much more likely to be supported and communicated effectively.
Teams spread opportunity and power as tasks are performed. The notion of participation is essential and is equated with effective teamwork. To extend the idea even further, participative management involves the building and nurturing of a collaborative team that is more fully consulted and informed than the ordinary–one that shares responsibility for planning and reaching outcomes. It must be understood that each director or department head, or any administrator for the matter, has certain responsibilities and circumstances that do not allow him/her to consult with the team. This is a fact of organizational life. What is important here is to understand the situations and circumstances when the leader cannot share information or consult on a decision. The key point about teams is that they are composed of nominal peers. They minimize authority relations and organizational differences among members and they exercise joint control over their internal operation.
CONDITIONS FOR TEAM BUILDING
Specific conditions need to exist for any team building process to be effective. The following guidelines can help organizations determine whether a team building process can be helpful and worthwhile.
USE TEAM BUILDING IF
• Team members have varied perceptions of overall team goals.
• There’s some confusion about the roles, responsibilities, and authority of each team member.
• The team lacks effective procedures for planning, problem solving, and decision-making.
• Members frequently feel tense or bored; members lack commitment to the team; team morale fluctuates with a tendency toward being on the low side.
• Members have poor interpersonal relationships and conflict, at times, is unmanageable; members tend to compete instead of cooperate with each other.
• Communication is poor; criticism can be abusive.
• Members feel overly dependent on or rebellious toward the organization’s leader.
• Members believe team authority is distributed unfairly; not all members participate in team decision-making.
• Evaluation of team progress is missing; members do not know how their individual assignments are contributing to team goals.
• Evaluation of team procedures is missing; members are doing things the old known way without considering new, perhaps better methods.
• Top management turns a group into a self-directed work team without providing the structure, process, and training to maximize potential.
DO NOT USE TEAM BUILDING IF
• Teamwork is NOT necessary to achieve the work group’s goals.
• A preliminary needs analysis points toward other specific interventions like coaching, communication training, conflict management skills, problem-solving and decision making skills.
• Top management does not understand the purpose and requirements of a team building process or is NOT committed to the process. Team building success requires top management support and full understanding.
• Top management does NOT support team building. If management attitudes or actions are likely to proven the changes team-building results will call for, the activities will be a waste of time. Do NOT use team building if the team has not authority to influence its future.
• Membership or leadership on the team is about to change. Wait until the new people are in place, and then reevaluate the need for team building. Sometimes the new interpersonal dynamics and/or operations of the team will solve previous team problems.
• The organization as a whole or the particular team is working under unusually great amount of pressure. Wait until the crisis passes unless you are convinced [and top management is convinced] that the crisis stems from problems team building can solve.
CONFUSION ABOUT TEAMS IN THE WORKPLACE
Much of the confusion about teams in the workplace has to do with loose definitions of teams. Here are a few basic definitions:
A group of people working together
[Example: the mechanics in an auto dealership.]
A group of people working together toward a common goal
[Example: The Denver Broncos.]
A group of people working together in their own ways toward a common goal, which is defined outside the team
[Example: A team in a manufacturing plant. The team manufactures a product as defined by executive leadership. [The team does their own work scheduling, training, rewards and recognition, etc.]
A group of people working together in their own ways toward a common goal, which the team defines, – (but team also handles, compensation, and discipline, and defines its own future.)
[Example: An executive management team of a privately held corporation.]
BENEFITS OF A SELF-MANAGED/SELF-DIRECTED TEAM
• Learning from peers
• Comfort knowing help is there
• Shared responsibility
• Focus on the organization
• Responsibility for the team
• Simple, visible measurement
• Individual opinion about what’s important
• Reliance on individual abilities
• Panic when workload peaks
• Protecting information
• What’s in it for me?
• Stress on the “supervisor”
• Feeling unaccomplished
WHAT IS TEAM BUILDING?
We learn as individuals but we also can learn as teams. Just look at first-class professional sports teams and you will see highly advanced team ability. (The more advanced and polished, the more wins in any given season). The process of deliberately creating a team is called team building. This term is helpful because it suggests something substantial that has to be constructed and that will go through several stages and takes time to complete. What does team building do?
The core of team development is a crucial level of collective and individual learning. Individual and team issues are clarified and issues that create significant blockages to team productivity are identified. If a blockage is not cleared then the team productivity regresses and, ultimately, organizational performance and the bottom line suffers.
Team building can involve the deliberate working through of all blockages to progress until a working group becomes an effective team. The idea of clearing blockages is the most important tool in our approach to team building. Another important idea is expressed by the term “working through,” because time and focused effort is required to resolve blockages.
SOME BENEFITS TO TEAM BUILDING
The team has the potential to be an extremely competent tool. Some key benefits can be:
(1) Management of Complexity: The breadth of resources available to the team enables complex situations to be creatively managed. (2) Rapid Response: Well-developed teams are capable of responding quickly and energetically. (3) High Motivation: The team feeds the individual’s need to have personal significance and team processes encourage activity and achievement. (4) High Quality Decisions: Mature teams are capable of making better quality decisions than all but the most brilliant individuals. Hence, the use of a team approach improves the overall quality of decisions. Perhaps more importantly, the level of commitment to team decisions is much higher. (5) Collective Strength: Individuals often feel that it is hard to influence organizations and make any impact outside their immediate area. The team changes this as team members extend their viewpoint to see that they, together, can achieve much.
THE ROLE OF A MANAGEMENT/LEADERSHIP TRAINER AND COACH IN TEAM DEVELOPMENT
It is important to understand that a management/leadership trainer and coach cannot make a team effective; teams do that for themselves. There also is no way in which a trainer and coach can do the work of the team. However a trainer and coach can assist a group in many different ways. A trainer and coach do not deal with the specific content of the team’s work, but the PROCESS by which members work together. This distinction between content and process is vital.
A trainer and coach WILL
• Identify blockages to the effective working of the team.
• Diagnose what is going on inside the team and why the blockages exist.
• Recognize, confront and work through the problems themselves.
• Help the team to set up an on-going process and structure for dealing with the blockages.
• Work with individual team members in the development of specific skills, if the situation calls for One-on-one coaching.
A trainer and coach will NOT
• Usurp leadership, but will support the team leaders and each member.
• Make decisions for the team, but will help the team to make its own decisions.
• Get engrossed and involved in the content of the team’s work.
• Make the team dependent on their continued presence; but will work to make the team independent of external help.
Mark Zalkin’s major contributions as a team building training and coach are likely to be
• Conducting individual/or team assessments to determine specific performance skills that need to be developed.
• Coaching individuals or teams in the development of these skills through one-on-one coaching sessions and/or team training modules.
• Observing what is happening between team members as the team works during the session.
• Serving as a mirror to the team, so that the members have a clear view of their behavior.
Pre-Team Building Checklist
Before embarking on a team building process, consider the following questions to insure confirm that the circumstances are right for team building:
• Do members of the group in question need to work as a team?
• Does the organizational climate support teamwork?
• What specific problems does the team have at this time that can be addressed by team building process?
• Do the group’s leader and members believe team building is needed? Are the leader and team members willing to approach the process positively and energetically or consider them a waste of time and money?
• Will team members be willing to change work methods and mind-sets, based on what they learn through team building?
• Is now a good time to do team building? Is the group under any unusual work pressures?
• Is there money in the budget for a team building trainer/coach? What funds are available for an off-site facility, if one is desired, during the process?
Zalkin Training & Development Team Building Process
1. Initial Meeting: Determining client’s specific performance improvement needs, time requirements, client expectations, Zalkin Training and Development (ZTD) expectations, and outcomes. This meeting ends with the decision to go ahead with the development of a proposal or a recommendation of some individual coaching with the team leader/supervisor and specific team members.
2. Proposal: Based on the data from the initial meeting, ZTD will submit an initial proposal to the client for review. The proposal will cover the following areas:
• The needs assessment method(s) to be used to identify specific individual and/or team performance problems.
• Relationship between the trainer/coach & team members.
• Initial thoughts on the potential design of initial activities; what training workshops may be needed,
other interventions, etc.
• How progress will be reviewed.
• When work will start and estimated time frame for completion.
• Financial Investment required and payment schedule.
3. Finalization Meeting: A meeting with client and ZTD to finalize the issues in the proposal- in person.
4. Schedule: Schedule and complete the initial needs assessment diagnostic work.
5. Analyze: ZTD analyzes the results of the needs assessment, determines performance strengths and gaps, determines causes for performance gaps and recommends how to close the gaps through a possible combination of coaching and customized training for the team.
6. Start work – Group and Individual sessions — Review progress.
7. Final Meeting: Final meeting to evaluate the process and measure performance change and cost benefits.