The phrase ‘two heads are better than one’ helps to describe the purpose of teams. Teams provide an opportunity to share ideas and strengths and use a variety of viewpoints and experiences. Talent wins games, but teamwork and intelligence wins championships.1 Most of us have experienced working within a team, earlier at school, college, university, or work.
2. Definition of a Team
A team is a ‘limited number of people who have shared objectives at work and who co-operate, on a permanent or temporary basis, to achieve those objectives in a way that allows each individual to make a distinctive contribution’.2 From this definition we can see that key aspects of team-working are:3
- Shared objectives, which assumes that everyone has had a say in and a chance to create agreed goals.
- Cooperation, which is necessary for effective team-working.
- Making a distinctive contribution – utilising the diverse set of skills and experience of team members.
- A limited number of people – the ideal number of people to make up an effective team has been the focus of much research.
Team is a group of people with various complementary skills, working together towards a common vision. In a team, members operate with a high degree of trust, accountability and interdependence. Members share authority and responsibility for self-management and create synergy with strong sense of mutual commitment. They generate performance greater than the sum of the performance of its individual members. Teamwork is the ‘fuel that allows common people attain uncommon results.’ Members help one another, help others to realise their true potentials. They also create an environment that allows everyone to go beyond their limitations.
3. Team Building
Working together is success. Team building is a process that develops cooperation and teamwork within a work unit. To constitute an effective team, its members must share a common goal, have respect for each other, and be motivated to use the strengths of each member to achieve the objectives. Coming together is a beginning; keeping together is progress. If everyone is moving forward together, then success takes care of itself. Let’s do it! is more powerful than I do it or you do it. Simply stated, teamwork is less me and more we!
4. The Process of Team Building
A popular model to describe how a group of people assigned to work together and develop into a team was put forward by Tuckman (1965).4 Implicit within Tuckman’s work is the acknowledgement that shared objectives and a common purpose are critical to team success. Consideration is also given to the infighting and vying for position that occurs as teams come together. Given constant change within the workplace, teams are fluid and often change in terms of their composition and remit; in response to this Tuckman added the final stage of ‘adjourning or moving on’
In his ground breaking study Tuckman categorised the process of team building into five stages: forming, storming, norming, performing and adjourning.5
This is when group members first come together and almost test each other to establish experience, skills, personality, and so on. Setting of team goals and end results are done. Establish team rules and discuss team control and decision-making process. Members exchange information, develop bonds, and identify common values. In this stage the group members are often polite, formal, and careful about
what they say.
Storming follows the forming stage and is a period of conflict when ideas are criticized and hostilities are evident. This stage can involve a lot of infighting as people establish roles, vie for positions, and confront each other’s strengths and weaknesses; it can result in some members being side-lined. At this point, members realize that task is more difficult than they imagined and have poor cooperation.
During this stage members accept team rules and procedures as well as their roles in the team. This is the ‘doing’ stage. Work is started and the team is getting organized and establishing how it will work; the focus is on the task. Issues are confronted using the established communication channels.
It is in this phase that a group is most productive. There is a focus on achievement, performance, and productivity. This is the stage when team become problem solving machine. A better understanding of each other’s strengths and weaknesses. Gained ability to prevent or work through group conflicts and resolves differences. The group now becomes a team with a full ‘identity’ and provides each member with support and a sense of cohesion and closeness. It is a mature phase with everyone working effectively towards the goals.
This stage also known as ‘mourning’, ‘disbanding’ or ‘moving on’. This is when project or task is complete and the team is ready to disburse. This is exciting as well as sad time. There is a sense of fulfilment and a loss of team unity. Some will reflect on the experience and learn from it.
5. The Importance of Team Building6
Teamwork makes the dream work. You can achieve your biggest obstacles if you have a team that shares a common goal and works together to achieve it. A team that works together performs and excels. They know what their purposes are and how exactly they can go about achieving it- together.
As Andrew Carnegie rightly said, “…It is the fuel that allows common people to attain uncommon results.”7 There are several benefits of team building. When team building exercises are implemented, employees build trust and a spirit of unity. They get engaged with each other and with their work. Employees feel more comfortable expressing concerns and needs, which leads to more effective communication.
Team building can help the workforce get on the same page, work together, and increase their motivation to complete tasks in a timely manner. In other words, productivity can rise.
And, exercises in team building support a strong company culture. Regular efforts that engage employees with company goals, values, and standards of performance can not only establish a wholesome culture, but also maintain it.8
Digging deeper into the importance of team building and how it translates directly to high-performing teams.
5.1 Builds Trust
Trust plays an essential role in building effective teams. For teams to work together, they need to know they can trust each other. That they can fall back on each other if the need arises. Moreover, when you build trust among teams, they give each other space and autonomy to accomplish their tasks and make their own decisions.
Trust makes people feel safe. When they feel safe, they open up. They let their team members know about their strengths and weaknesses. They are more proactive with their ideas, take risks, listen to each other and then arrive at a consensus. As a result, there’s more collaboration, communication and team members aren’t afraid to expose their vulnerabilities to each other.
5.2 Increases Productivity
Teamwork enables to accomplish tasks faster and more efficiently than tackling projects individually. Cooperating together on various tasks reduces workloads for all employees by enabling them to share responsibilities or ideas. Teamwork also reduces the work pressure on every worker, which allows him to be thorough in the completion of the assigned roles. In sharing ideas or responsibilities, every employee should have a role that suits his specialization. It should also consider employees’ levels of interest in the project at hand, which positively influences the efficiency or speed of their output in accomplishing the task. This allows the project to be finished faster, thereby increasing productivity and improving the overall bottom line.
5.3 Improved Employee Relations
As Margaret Carty rightly said, “The nicest thing about teamwork is that you always have others on your side.”
One of the most important benefits of team building is that it improves interpersonal relationships between employees. Teamwork is important in an organization because it provides employees with an opportunity to bond with one another, which improves relations among them. Workers who constitute a team working on a project often feel valued upon the successful completion of such tasks. A situation in which all of them find a chance to contribute towards the tasks improves relations within the team and enhances their respect for each other. Improved employee relations also result from the fact that teamwork enhances cohesion among members, thanks to increased trust among them.9
5.4 Fosters Creativity and Learning
Successful team building motivates employees to learn from each other and build on each other’s talents. As compared to working solo on a project, teamwork allows room for fresh ideas and new perspectives. It brings together individual experiences combined with new, innovative ideas which makes the work more fun and efficient. As a result, everyone can bring something new to the table and learn from each other.
5.5 Healthy Competition
It’s proven that when you make a task a competition, people achieve more. In the workplace, conducting team building activities can be a great way to bring out the competitive side of the employees. Team building exercises are fun games where employees participate in completing their challenges while competing with other games. The main objective of conducting these games to inculcate team spirit among employees, letting them work with other teams and acquire skills like problem solving, communication and collaboration along the way.
5.6 Resolves Conflicts
When people work together, there are sure to be disagreements. It’s up to team members to resolve the conflicts amicably and not let them turn into full-blown disputes.
But conflicts aren’t always a bad thing. Conflicts can sometimes turn into constructive and valuable work. Disagreements, especially, might arise if people with diverse experiences are grouped rather than those with similar experiences. The key to resolving such conflicts is that people should be open to hear and accept diverse opinions and perspectives. If team members can group their diverse opinions, skills, and experiences, they can achieve more than a group formed on similar experiences.
5.7 Employees Can Acquire Skills
Team building is important. It enables employees to learn from others and develop new skills. Working in a team helps employees take on leadership roles and see their team members fulfil their responsibilities. To perform and achieve their goal, they need to arrive at a consensus before making any decisions. This requires employees to hold discussions, communicate and actively listen to each other. Teamwork enables problem-solving capabilities, strategizing, and decision-making skills. It also teaches team members to hold responsibility and accountability for their decisions and actions.
5.8 Improves Company Culture
When teams work together, it fosters creativity and innovation in the workplace. Employees communicate and collaborate more. This improves their performance and efficiency, resolves conflicts and misunderstandings and makes people more accepting towards each other. More people start getting recognised which motivates them and others to achieve more and better the next time. This improves the company’s overall bottom line and simultaneously fosters a positive and motivating workplace culture.
Notes and References:
- Michael Jordan (American basketball player).
- Butler, Michael, and Ed Rose, eds. Introduction to organisational behaviour. Kogan Page Publishers, 2011.
- McLachlan, Christopher J.., Yellowley, Wendy., Smith, Paul E. Organizational Behaviour: Managing People in Dynamic Organizations. United Kingdom: Taylor & Francis, 2020.
- Tuckman, B. W. 1965. Developmental sequence in small groups. Psychological Bulletin 60(6), 384-399.
- Chance, Patti. Introduction to Educational Leadership & Organizational Behavior. United Kingdom: Taylor & Francis, 2013.
- Carnegie, Andrew. “” Teamwork is the ability to work together toward a common vision. The ability to direct individual accomplishments toward organizational objectives. It is the fuel that allows common people to attain uncommon results.” (2012).
- French, Ray. Organizational behaviour. John Wiley & Sons, 2011.