By John Mlinarcik, PhD & Kathy Foltner, Au.D.
(In the first part of this article, we discussed what factors influence the strength of team efforts. In this article, we will focus on team building, team dynamics and the factors which enhance team efficacy).
Process vs. task orientation
Research suggests that there are numerous combinations of communication and behavior styles represented in the world’s population. As a result, most of us believe that the same values that motivate us are effective with others. However, what may be rewarding for one person may have little relevance to their coworkers. For a successful team approach, it is essential that all team members understand each other’s psychological needs.
The success of any team (and ultimately the organization), depends greatly upon the open, effective communication of its members. Group members must understand and be committed towards fulfilling group goals. Therefore, teams require a shared vision in which individual members are challenged to imagine possibilities and engineer specifics.
Individual concerns can often disrupt group dynamics. Teams can be like machines which work poorly due to excessive friction, grinding gears and misaligned wheels. Wise team leaders are extremely conscious of how to meet individual needs and encourage collaboration. Mistrust and competition become divisive issues when allowed to supersede group goals.
But how does a leader encourage members to “buy into” team goals? Good leaders allow each team member to have input into establishing priorities. Ownership is crucial: most people want to be part of something significant to them, as well as receive individual recognition. (If you do not believe this, ask yourself when you last washed a rental car?)
Effective team members must understand their own needs as well as the needs of others. A person seeking consensus must listen well, accepting another’s opinion or suggestion without rebuttal. Some tend to critique every suggestion, therefore limiting team brainstorming sessions. When others recognize and respect their colleagues, team members are given greater opportunities to focus on possibilities rather than limitations.
As they explore possibilities, team members need to ask probing questions in a non-judgmental manner. A disapproving tone of voice or oppositional body language places other team members on the defensive. When brainstorming results in some unrealistic ideas, visualize the possibilities and seek alternative which might work. Avoid putting minority opinions “on trial”: such discussions often lead to the emergence of opposing factions. Attempt to provide win-win situations where no one is declared the loser. People lose commitment when they feel defeated – effective communicators focus on solutions, not on belittling others.
People are more committed when they have a stake in a venture’s success and if that venture affects them personally and/or professionally. Research demonstrates that individuals assume greater responsibility and accountability when they are viable participants in the group process. When group members are aware of others’ character strengths, motivators, management styles and psychological needs, you have established a climate which breeds trust and commitment. Although establishing effective teams can initially take a great deal of time, the payoffs in shared values, focused efforts and collective energies generate far greater quality as a result.
A wise business owner or manager empowers the staff through team mobilization and collaboration. Compatibility within a team does not mean that everyone must possess the same expertise, educational background or management level. Despite the diversity that most of us face in the professional realm, collaborative teams spark the greatest degree of job commitment, cooperation and satisfaction. Most of us are not used to working together, and often find it difficult to provide ourselves the opportunities to create the resonance of shared energy with a team structure.
Effective communication demonstrates effective leadership. Speaking the language of all team members demonstrates this essential leadership skill as the leader meets the basic needs of the various team members. A heightened sense of motivation and team cohesiveness, reflected in the ability of individual team members to be open to alternatives comes as a result of this skill. The benefit is increased productivity on both an individual and a team level.