Understanding Team Dynamics
The use of teams in the workplace has impacted tremendously the way work gets done. It is believed that "through interdependency of the parts greater productivity is achieved through the whole". Tasks that at one time were handled individually are now being completed using work teams. Keys to developing high performance work teams include effective communication, commitment, and collective accountability. There are many advantages to using teams in the work place; this article will attempt to discuss what they are and how a work team transcends into a high-performance work team.
First and foremost, members of high performance work teams must be able to communicate effectively. Whether in person, via e-mail, or over the phone, team members must have the ability to maintain an open and honest dialogue. High performance teams cannot be fearful of open and honest communication. High performance team members consistently listen to the opinions and points of view of others in an effort to arrive at shared understandings. They speak their own opinions and are open to those of others in an effort to arrive at a decision they can all support. It is through the open expression of honest opinions that teams are able to build productive and trusting relationships within their members.
Michael Josephson, President of the Character Counts! Coalition and Josephson Institute of Ethics believes "a healthy relationship also needs to grow in the soil of kindness, empathy and compassion- qualities of caring that make another person feel valued", and that these interpersonal relationships will help teams accomplish "higher productivity".
Establishing positive interaction involves a commitment to each team member's personal growth and success. In Poet Rudyard Kipling's book "The Second Jungle Book" (1895) the poem "The Law of the Jungle" acknowledges this behavior with the verse, "For the strength of the Pack is the Wolf, and the strength of the Wolf is the Pack." Uniform behavior, common goals, common objectives, and commitment are the driving forces behind high-performance work teams.
"A dynamic process reflected in the tendency for a group to stick together and remain united in the pursuit of its goals and objectives" is cohesion. Cohesion is the bonds of trust between members of a high performance team. It has been referred to as the glue that holds the team together. In highly cohesive teams, role clarity, role acceptance, and role performance is higher. Cohesive teams demonstrate trust, respect, shared responsibility, positive energy, synergy, and unity; maintaining well-defined roles and group norms, good working relationships, and a willingness to cooperate. Cohesive teams also openly display pride in their membership and a positive team identity. Team relationships that have earned trust through a history of honesty, those that are nurturing and supportive, recognizing the importance of cohesion; they will ultimately be productive, effective, and lasting.
Having the right mix of skills is very important to the high performance team. If a team is to be successful it must be able to recognize the talents of its members and be able to utilize them in a way that benefits team productivity. Although teams whose members are alike in areas of age, gender, race, experience, ethnicity, and culture are quicker to bond, diverse teams offer a healthy mix of information, talent, and differing perspectives that increase the performance levels long-term. When a team's expectations are limited to certain ideas and beliefs, the creative process can be reduced and certain type of memberships restricted. An individual who displays visual and or cultural differences may find their membership not fully accepted by this type of team. In contrast, a high performance team is one that embraces demographic differences and cultural diversity in its membership, understanding that the team will benefit, grow, and increase both its creativity and long-term performance. When workplace diversity is properly managed, a workplace setting in which individuals of all backgrounds feel both valued and accepted is created.
Successes and failures are shared outcomes in high performance teams. The weak link does not take the blame for the team’s failure just as the strongest member does not take the glory. There is a collective accountability that distributes the outcomes amongst all its members. There is no "I" in a high performance work team. Strong core values, creativity, and the ability to turn purpose into specific performance objectives are all part of a high performance team.
Effective communication, commitment, and collective accountability all impact the team's performance. High performance teams possess strong core values, specific performance objectives, the right mix of skills, and embrace a diverse membership without bias, openly displaying creativity without fear. A diverse membership may require more time to bond, but the outcome increases performance levels long-term. The difference between a group and a high performance team appears to be the commitment level of its members. High performance teams are committed to excellence, have a common purpose, and are collectively accountable.
Teams seeking high performance results must be willing to work towards continuous improvement. High performance results are born out of high performance efforts that require patience and time. There is no substitute for experience and teams with the ability to remain focused, flexible, and not fearful, will be able to effectively communicate with other team members and establish productive relationships. High performance teams are not too unlike high performance machines. With the right mix, the end result is greater than the sum of the parts.