|Kippure Estate staff taking part in a team building event |
(from left to right: Sinead, Clíona, Grainne)
Terms like “teamwork,” “teambuilding” and other related expressions are usually engrained in us
from the time we are young. “Best team player”
awards are given out in primary school and the importance of playing well with
others is emphasized on the mini football field, on the playground or in the
junior ballet studio. As adults, meetings round the physical or virtual boardroom
table and corporate social events strive to create a team culture to boostmorale, and of course productivity, in the workplace.
Many of us have heard the saying, “The whole is greater than the sum of its parts,” suggesting that individuals working together are more effective and successful than if they were working alone. But what happens when working together doesn’t work?
Here are some of the most common reasons why teams don’t work and how you can address these challenges:
1) The Purpose is Unknown
If a team has no idea what their purpose is, how can they ever have a chance of being successful? It is important to outline key objectives for the team and as well as a method to assess whether these goals are being met.
2) No Leadership
A team without clear leadership often lacks direction. This does not mean the leader(s) are supposed to make all of the decisions for the team. Instead, their role is to act as a facilitator for the team. This role may include delegation, helping keep meetings on track, scheduling, etc.
3) “Too Many Cooks in the Kitchen”
In some cases, having fewer members on a team is more effective than more. In fact, Harvard professor and leading researcher in team dynamics, J. Richard Hackman, recommends team numbers don’t go into the double digits. Of course if you are referring to an entire workplace as a “team,” we’re not saying start handing out the pink slips. But forming groups such as sub-committees should include those that are passionate about and have something to offer towards that team’s goals.
4) Inconsistent Membership
Additionally, it should be 100% clear who belongs to the team. Leaders should not randomly invite everyone and their grandmother to the odd meeting for fear of someone “feeling left out”. It does not mean that new members cannot join. But generally speaking, the longer members work together, the better they perform together.
5) Scared to “Rock the Boat”
Contrary to what many of us believe, those that have opposing opinions are valuable in team situations. Hackman calls these people “deviants”. In an interview with the Harvard Business Review (2009), Hackman said, “Every team needs a deviant, someone who can help the team by challenging the tendency to want too much homogeneity, which can stifle creativity and learning.”