Teams are groups of people who work together to achieve a common goal, and who are dependant on each other to deliver it. Many teams in companies however don’t fit this definition because they are nothing more than people brought together to deliver and this does not make a team. There is a lack of trust and rapport that enable them to truly work towards the business goals
Abraham Maslow identified our need for ‘social belonging’ in the 1940s and in organisations this need can be met by being part of a team, because it creates a space where people can belong and feel connected. Companies need to leverage this need and support and nurture their teams to be more effective.
Some leadership teams can end up becoming competitors as they are so focussed on their businesses unit goals the common business goals are forgone. They become uncovered if other business units fail and thus the whole organisation suffers.
Lencioni suggests that for teams to be truly effective they need psychological safety. In his book the 5 dysfunctions of a team he identified lack of trust as a key obstacle to effective team performance. However where they feel safe taking risks and being vulnerable in front of each other – Trust is can help speed things up, so it is key teammates feel they are safe and supported by each other.
Other factors helping teamwork include: dependability to deliver; a clear structure-well defined goals and roles; having meaning so it is personally significant to each team member; having a positive impact and being purposeful.
Focussing on the individual strengths of each member is key whilst creating an environment where the individuals feel their values are shared.
Organisational structures and ways of working also impact on teams. When people belong to several teams trust can take time to build. Individuals may have one core team they feel they belong to, but many more teams they need to interface with in different roles in each. People need a ‘home’ team where they can talk openly. However leaders and individuals need to agree where this ‘home’ team is and who is part of it to ensure inclusion of all.
Teams are becoming more fluid and therefore things are becoming more complex. Teams can consist of core and flexing team members with subject matter experts dipping in etc. The portfolio career/gig economy means individuals dip in and out of businesses This can lead to the teams being more diverse presenting both opportunities and challenges.
Companies need to manage this carefully – the need for team leaders is more important than ever. This person needs to move things forward, provide a link to the wider business and protect the boundaries of the team. This could be in the form of a project leader rather than a formal line manager but with the same levels of authority and skills.
The size of teams is key too. More than 150 and we will be unable to maintain stable relationships according to Robin Dunbar. Bigger than this and teams may fragment into smaller groupings and become too complex to operate.
Globalisation and technology are 2 other areas that have affected team working. WiFi, Skype and digital communication means many professionals can do there job from just about anywhere in the world. This can include collaborative spaces, the home office or the local café for instance. Virtual teams and businesses are becoming more common. This can offer even more challenges to get the teams right.
Lack of trust, communication barriers and a lack of a well defined team charter can lead to failure. Trust however is more important in virtual teams than those working in the same location if they are to succeed. Team development can be delivered through the same technology that enables virtual working.
So develop, encourage development and ensure great leadership. This is something most companies need to be considering.
Get involved with the conversation at PrimePersona.co.uk