Overcoming the set of challenges that comes with teamwork

Whether it's with work colleagues or in your personal life, we either lead or are part of a team. Sometimes, however, these teams can be a tad dysfunctional, so here are some great guidelines to help create a harmonious group.

I have a favourite saying from Aristotle: “The sum of the total is greater than the sum of its parts” and this is never more apparent than when working with teams.

How often do groups of people work against the grindstone as there’s no clearly defined goal? It's the same with leaders who shout out orders with no real understanding of what they’ve requested. Those within a team who are clueless to exactly what’s expected of them or what about that person no one gets on with? I daresay you could give many other examples either from historical or even present situations!

Humans are pack animals and work best ‘together’ as opposed to alone. Working with others inspires different thought processes or directions, feedback for new ideas and a sharing of tasks to insure the ultimate goal is reached.

The pyramids couldn’t have been built by one or two people. There were designers, architects, directors and workforce. All playing different parts but all working together to create the wonder we can now see thousands of years on.

So how do we improve morale or productivity from our teams?

  • SWOT analysis – See where the Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats are. Carry out the same analysis for each individual within a team. Where there is weakness/threats in the business, see the individuals for their strengths/opportunities to fill those gaps. Train and support them.
  • Coaching – Getting outside help is most beneficial, however, when not immediately viable, take some clues from the way coaches operate. Adopt approach of ‘ask’ not ‘tell’ to achieve consensus. Value each team member and their contributions. Manage the ‘power dynamics’ especially in open forums.
  • Model team – Take some time out to consider how other successful teams operate and research what key elements they use. See how to manipulate those concepts so your team could benefit.
  • Know the players! – Belbin depicted nine roles (plant/co-ordinator/monitor evaluator/implementer/completer finisher/resource investigator/shaper/teamworker and specialist). A team ideally will have someone from each sector. If insufficient numbers, then members may be able to take on more roles.
  • Performance – Address how the individual’s or team’s potential can be influenced by what is interfering with their output. Too frequent meetings; minor irritants like unnecessary paperwork, reports etc. We so rarely work to our full potential as a result of ‘interference’ so look to see what is necessary and whether this can be delegated. The responsibility for high performance in teams lies with each player knowing what needs to be achieved, taking personal responsibility and working collectively

These are but five steps of many that you can take whether at work or in your personal/social life. Working within an environment that is not conducive to the harmonious values each member has simply results in under performance by each member.

Businesses who still look at the cost of employees as being the easiest thing to ‘cut’ rather than invest in and reap much higher rewards is beyond me, however, this is the world we live in so look to adopt a more positive team and who knows… 

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