By Kalu Ndukwe
Working in teams is an important approach that helps to achieve more result, than that which is obtainable when employees are left to work individually. This is one of the reasons that drive organizations to form various teams for the performance of various tasks. The formation of work teams involves bringing together, individuals from different backgrounds who have diverse behavioral traits and capabilities. This is the singular advantage of team that makes it possible for it to lead to better performance. Different individuals working in a team, come with different perspective to a given task. These various perspectives, taken together, form the view of a team.
This sort of arrangement, however, does have the inherent potential of bringing up lots of interpersonal challenges. The reason problems do come up in teams is not because working in teams is problematic per see, but because working in teams demand more than using the ideology and approaches that is applicable, in the case of an individual working alone.
An individual may impose a matching order on self while working alone, to do things in a certain manner in which the individual feels will assist in better outcome. This can be done with a good measure of successful implementation, even without consultation with others or adequate assessment of how others might be affected by that exclusive self decision. But when it comes to working in teams, it’s quite a different thing. And one of the reasons dysfunctional issues will occur in teams is the attempt to adopt, while working in teams, the approaches that work well while working in isolation from a team.
Enhancing Positive Team Culture
The most important work of a team should focus on driving team’s effort towards the team’s objective. Positive team culture entails thinking and actions which foster synergy among team members, and drive joint effort toward the accomplishment of the goal of the team.
One reason a team that is made up of highly skilled individuals, could perform poorly is the pursuit, by an individual, to show how she or he is better than others in the team. To prevent this, demands that the thinking and actions of team members should be team-oriented. This also requires that management’s effort should support synergy among team members. To this end,
- Team members should understand that the reason they are in a team is to support the overall team effort to achieve the stated objectives.
- Individual team members should know that they are not in a team to showcase how better they are over other members of the team: a team is often formed by engaging persons across different levels of operation and administration. In this case, the team already knows the profiles of the team members. This should not be a problem. But it does causes problems when those who feel they are better or higher in position chose to lord it over other team members. Teamwork is famous for its potential of leading to high performance through mutual learning and mutual support by team members. When individual team member focuses on making other members see how he/she is better than them or how bad others are, compared to him/her, it discourages team learning. Making others see how bad they are only make the other persons feel insecure. They will go any length to oppose being made to look small. And if they lack what it takes to retaliate engagingly, they will simply use avoidance. If this is not addressed, team performance suffers the setback.
- When individuals in a team, are rewarded based on individual’s contribution, it encourages competition which will not be healthy for the team. One of the important purposes of teams is to encourage interpersonal support in capability enhancement. This will be neglected when team members compete with each other. Teams should be rewarded based on team’s performance to encourage members to support each other.
- One of the major causes of conflicts in a team is how under-performance by a team member is handled. Among the rationales for merging highly skilled persons with lesser skilled individuals, in a team, is for the lesser skilled individuals to become better by working with the others that are highly skilled. That a team member’s performance falls short of expectation is exactly why such a person needs support from the more skilled members to become better. Under-performance in teams should not be met with unhealthy criticism.
- Teams should routinely engage in self assessment that is aimed at identifying loopholes. This should be promptly addressed by constructive team deliberations aimed at identifying the causes of the anomaly and suggestions of the way(s) to improve performance. In this way, the team is learning collectively and individuals don’t feel too intimidated to approach others to share challenges for fear of being made to look small (i.e. unhealthy criticism).
- A team needs good communication to thrive and become productive. The points above show that positive team culture encourages better communication among team members. In the absence of this, team members, find it uneasy to communicate with each other in a productive manner.
In summary, the success or failure of a team depends, not so much on the caliber of persons in the team, as in the manner in which it goes about the task it seeks to achieve. A team is apt to succeed when all persons involve see reasons to convince themselves that it’s important to see each other as stakeholders saddled with the task of showing other members regard due to them; mutual support for the members of the team in addressing challenges; and in promoting the interest of the team over individual interest.