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Building Effective Teams Essay, Research Paper
BUILDING EFFECTIVE TEAMS
In this age of rapidly changing technology, market-driven decision making, customer sophistication, and employee restlessness, leaders and managers are faced with new challenges. Organizations must build new structures and master new skills in order to compete and survive.
As work settings become more complex and involve increased numbers of interpersonal interactions, individual effort has less impact. In order to increase efficiency and effectiveness, a group effort is required. The creation of teams has become a key strategy in many organizations. Team building is an essential element in supporting and improving the effectiveness of small groups and task forces and must be a key part of a total program of organizational change.
Hellriegel, Slocum, & Woodman (1986) state that team building is used to improve the effectiveness of work groups by focusing on any of the following four purposes: setting goals and priorities, deciding on means an methods, examining the way in which the group works, and exploring the quality of working relationships. A cycle then develops; it begins with the awareness or perception of a problem and is followed sequentially by data collection, data sharing diagnosis, action planning, action implementation, and behavioral evaluation. This style is repeated as new problems are identified.
Not all work groups are teams. Reilly and Jones (1974) list four essential elements of teams: goals, interdependence, commitment, and accountability. The members must have mutual goals or a reason to work together; there must be an interdependent working relationship; individuals must be committed to the group effort; and the group must be accountable to a higher level within the organization. A good example is an athletic team, whose members share goals and an overall purpose. Individual players have specific assignments they are responsible for, but each depends on the other team members to complete their assignments. Lack of commitment to the team effort reduces overall effectiveness. Finally, the team usually operates within the framework of a higher organization such a league.
The overall objective of a work team is to exercise control over organizational change (functionally, this involves increased decision-making and problem-solving efforts), although a side effect may be to increase the productivity of individual members. A primary objective of team building is to increase awareness of group process. In essence, the group members will learn how to control change externally by experimenting internally. The team-building effort will concentrate on barriers to effective functioning and the selection of strategies to overcome these barriers.
Organizational failures often are not a result of poor leadership but of poor followership. Few training programs teach how to be an effective member of a democratic group. A team member is one of a group of mutual followers. Observation of individuals functioning within teams leads to the following list of characteristics of an effect team member. Such a person:
Understands and is committed to group goals;
Is friendly, concerned, and interested in others;
Acknowledges and confronts conflict openly;
Listens to others with understanding;
Includes others in the decision-making process;
Recognizes and respects individual differences;
Contributes ideas and solutions;
Values the ideas and contributions of others;
Recognizes and rewards team efforts; and
Encourages and appreciates comments about team performance.
These characteristics are in sequential pattern, alternating task and relationship behaviors. This pattern of behaviors is the starting point for the development of effective team building.
STAGES OF TEAM DEVELOPMENT
Team Building is a planned change intervention that focuses on the dynamics of a team s functioning. The purpose of team building is to improve the team s capacity to adapt, allow members to function at their most productive resourceful levels, and to achieve the teams goals. In developing teams there are four different stages that must be fully accomplished in order to reach its mission through achieving higher quality in the workplace. These stages in sequence are: Forming, Storming, Norming, and Performing. The first three stages of team development must be completed in order to achieve stage four. In each stage there are distinct behaviors, feelings and questions which team members can experience.
In stage one, Forming, personal relations are peculiar by strength. Team members depend on considerate and imitated behavior and look to the team leader for standpoint and guidance. The conjoint or mutual feelings that are used in forming are:
Excitement, expectancy, and uniformed optimism.
Happy to be selected as being part of the team.
Showing conditional attachment to the team.
Having doubts, concerns and uncertainty about the job or the task ahead.
The team members also have questions and remarks that they expect to be answered by team developers, they are:
Who are all these people?
Why Am I here?
Everyone is being so polite.
This might be kind of exciting.
An effective and efficient behavior is expected from the team leader. A leader should answer all the questions the team members have. A leader should also guide them through each step and verify the expected need of each member. A team will be formed efficiently. All of the teams ideas and goals will have a positive effect in the organization.
The second stage, Norming, is characterized by cohesion within the team. Team members recognize each other s positions and benefits and are willing to change their preconceived ideas to achieve common consent. The common feelings that are used in Norming are:
Team members have the ability to communicate without being afraid of retaliation.
Team members accept their membership to the team.
Feeling comfort that certain things will go the way they were planned.
Team members are friendlier and they share more revealing feelings with each other.
The questions and comments that are stated in Norming are:
How are we going to get along with each other?
What are the rules of membership?
Seems like we are all on the same track finally.
We seem to be operating more unified, and we try to avoid conflict, when possible.
In Norming, the team members finally put the fear of failure behind them. They are willing to work out any conflict that may occur. Positive and negative feedback becomes more accepting within the team. As feedback increase, members have a better understanding of where they stand and become more involved in decision making.
In stage three, Storming, rivalry, competition and conflict in personal relationships characterize team members. Roles and goals are questioned and challenged. The common feelings the team members have are:
Resistance to the task and way things is being planned.
Major differences in postures about individuals.
Responsibilities in the organization.
Differences in the project hazards for success and promotion.
There is a tremendous amount of competition and jealousy among team members.
The questions and comments that are stated in this stage are:
What is my relationship to these people?
What do they expect from me?
What do I want from them?
There seem to be actions developing over power and who is right and wrong.
The goals are too ambitious.
It is natural for team members to question their existence in the team. After all, it takes a while to get accustomed to the people you work with in an organization. It is natural for team members to be challenged and compete with each other. One important aspect in storming is to be open and honest with each team member. That way, members can learn from each other s different experiences and perspectives.
In stage four, Performing, people are able to work individually, in either smaller groups or as whole group. Roles and responsibilities change based on the commitments of the group. The collective or shared feelings that are used in Performing are:
Members have a high degree of trust in each other.
Better understanding of each other s strengths and weaknesses.
Overall pride and satisfaction over the teams progress.
Members have insights into personal and group processes.
The questions and comments that are stated in Performing are:
Am I a valued contributor to this team?
I ve learned quite a few things about myself and others while on this team.
We re a close team, and we all support each other.
The team members perform at a very high level of effectiveness and efficiency. They have already conquered all the obstacles that had to be dealt with in the previous stages. In order to be successful in stage four, Team members must complete and overcome the first three stages of team development.
In all the four stages, there are complimentary facilitator approaches that can be applied in order to make each stage more reliable. In forming, a directing approach is used. This approach provides clear directions by telling people what to do, when, where, and how to do it. A coaching approach is used in Storming. This is also a form of directing, but also includes providing support to reinforce team members willingness and enthusiasm. Goals and expectations are redefined based on the team s reactions and training is offered for tasks and processes. A supporting approach is used in Norming that entails a more non-directive approach. Leadership shifts more to group members for more self-management and acknowledgment of the group s efforts. A delegating approach is used in Performing. This employs a low profile providing little direction and support. Team members determine what, when and how to accomplish tasks and processes. Leaders monitor and track performance goals.
CONDUCTING EFFECTIVE TEAM MEETINGS
One of the very essential skills that all qualified managers should acquire is being able to conduct effective team meetings. Meetings occur so frequently in organizations, that many times managers do not take the time to plan them out. This lack of preparation comes across to the employees and often is the reason why they do not view meetings with enthusiasm. Meetings are also very important because through them you convey ideas, strategies, and desired goals to your employees. Unit efficiency and management effectiveness is dependent on this ability.
There are four steps that managers should keep in mind when preparing an effective meeting. The first of these steps is purpose. What is the reason for the meeting? On occasion, money and time is wasted on meetings, when this same information could have been circulated in a memo or letter. Sometimes the cost of having the meeting is higher then the possible outcomes. Other times, key people are not able to attend the meeting, which would make having one a waste of time. There are four guidelines that can be followed to determine whether it is necessary to conduct a meeting. They are:
When there is more than one person with pertinent information and group ideas and planning is needed,
When commitments are required by the team members,
When the group requires the same important information and feedback is necessary, and
When problem solving and decision making is necessary in a group format.
The second step to planning an effective team meeting is related to the participants. Who do you want at this meeting? The size of the group depends on what kind of meeting you plan to have. Certain meetings such as decision making and problem solving meetings should not have more than five participants. This will insure that tasks get accomplished effectively. Problem identification and brainstorming meetings can have up to ten participants. This meeting size should continue to maintain an effective structure, however, idea stimulation from other group members is also necessary. On the other hand, informational meetings may have upwards of thirty participants. More over, formal presentations could have an unlimited number of participants.
The third step in conducting effective team meetings concerns planning. Planning will allow the manager to successfully convey his/her message or goals to the team members. Often times when managers to not thoroughly plan a meeting, the participants are overwhelmed with information and may miss or tune out critical and crucial information. A manager should follow certain rules and guidelines in order to make each meeting effective. One of the rules a manager should follow is the rule of halves. This rule states that all agenda matters pertaining to an upcoming meeting should be given to the person responsible for drafting the agenda at least half of the time interval between the last and upcoming meeting. Another rule is the rule of three fourths. This states that packets of information should be given to the participants at the three-quarter point between two meetings. The agenda rule states that agendas should always be written with action words. This will give participants a clear picture of what to expect in the meeting as well as motivation to attend. The rule of sixths states that two thirds of the meeting should be focused on current topics. However, the other third should be divided into two sixths. One of these sixths should be to discuss past meetings and do follow-up. The second sixth should be used to discuss future agendas. This ensures that current topics are not forgotten or derailed. The rule of thirds states that meetings should be divided into thirds. The first third should be a warm-up period, the second should be a heavy work period and the last third should be a period of winding down. The report rule suggests that all reports given to meeting participants should contain an executive summary. This eliminates the need of having to look through the entire report to find information. The agenda integrity rule states that all agenda items must be discussed. This assures that all topics are covered. The temporal integrity rule states that all meetings should begin and end at the scheduled times. The last rule to remember is the minute s rule. This rule recommends that the minutes should have the following three characteristics:
Minutes are relevant to the agenda
Minutes are based on content in the agenda
Minutes reflect the decisions, conclusions and actions that were taken during the meeting.
The final step in conducting effective team meetings represents the process meetings should take. There are seven steps that can be followed to conduct an efficient meeting. The first step is to review the agenda and tasks that need to be completed as well as discussing any progress made on previous meetings. The second step is the introductions. All of the participants should be properly introduced to help everyone feel more comfortable with each other. The third step involves developing and implementing the ground rules. The appropriate and inappropriate participation of the group should be discussed. Participants should also discuss and agree on the manner in which decisions should be made. This should result from a vote: majority rule, straw vote, consensus, or ranking among others. The fourth step is listening to reports. These reports should come from those participants who had pre-assigned presentations. This helps to reduce the presenter s apprehension and allows them to focus on the rest of the topics discussed in the meeting. The fifth step deals with displays. Displays help to keep participants interested in the meeting and assists in simplifying complex information. The sixth step involves participation. Participation is extremely important in a meeting. It allows participants to give feedback on the matters being discussed. It allows participants to ask questions and share any personal information or experiences that relates to the topic. The seventh and final step is summarizing. When the meeting is coming to an end, it is important to highlight the issues discussed. It is also important to review the goals that were agreed upon and the course of action each participant is required to focus on to accomplish those goals.
Conducting effective team meetings requires skills, which are sometimes difficult to attain. However, once the skills are acquired, the benefits to a manager and the organizations are twofold. These four steps illustrated above can assist in developing better prepared managers. The steps can also aid managers becoming better planners. Efficient planning is not only helpful in conducting effective team meetings, but effective in other aspects of a managers job performance.
Work teams seem to be the latest fad in today s business environment. We have teams for quality improvement, teams for customer service, performance management teams, and the list goes on. Companies of every size are striving today to team up employees for increased productivity, better customer relations and simplified structure. They encourage them to focus on generating the desired results. In order to reach this goal, the key to effective teams is to know why and for what purpose the employees are called together. Once the team s goals are placed above individual goals, success can be achieved. The group is likely to take pride in its performance and become more goal-oriented and committed to the team. The acronym, PERFORM, summarize the behaviors that are necessary for a group to become a high performing team.
There are seven characteristics of an effective team according to a study conducted by Don Carew, Eunice Parisi-Carew and Ken Blanchard of Blanchard Training and Development. They are purpose and values, empowerment, relationships and communication, flexibility, optimal productivity, recognition and appreciation, and morale.
The first characteristics are purpose and values. Members of teams share a sense of common purpose. They are clear about what the teams work and why it is important. They can describe a picture of what the team intends to achieve, and the norms and values that will guide them. Purpose defines what the team is to accomplish and the values and norms define how. They have developed mutually agreed-upon and challenging goals that clearly relate to the team s vision. Strategies for achieving goals are clear. Each member understands his or her role in realizing the purpose and values.
The second characteristic is empowerment. Teams thrive on self-directed members who have been empowered to make decisions, troubleshoot problems, initiate change and experiment with creative ideas. The organization must dare to trust its employees enough to let them manage themselves in teams. Employees earn that trust by internalizing the goals and mission of their company. They put their career welfare in the hands of the team. Empowered teams share in power, but also in responsibility, for results. A sense of mutual respect enables members to share responsibilities, help each other out, and take initiative to meet challenges. Members have opportunities to grow and learn new skills. There is a sense of personal as well as collective power. Team leaders and members must dare to innovate, take risks and pursue continuous training in order to ensure breakthrough performance. Daring teams never settle for mediocrity, conformity or business as usual. They break out of their self-imposed comfort zone.
The third characteristics are relationships and communication. The aspects of relationships and communication in a team deal with the way people communicate with one another. Both words and nonverbal clues can reflect how they feel about working with one another and can build or reduce the team s effectiveness. Good communication gives clear messages, which are conducive to people working productively and harmoniously, without misunderstanding and misinterpretation. As people on the team learn to take other members at face value, they build trust and credibility. To build and maintain a team, its members must be willing and able to communicate with one another in ways that reflects openness, trust, and respect. Generally, sharing information, providing feedback, and encouraging participation among all team members are the three key communication practices used by successful teams.
Successful teams insist that team members willingly share timely information about developments occurring throughout the organization, except what is labeled confidential. It is considered bad form to withhold or ration information that could be useful to team members. Information is seen as empowering the group, not any one member.
Feedback is serious business. Team members must provide each other with feedback about whether their performance enhances the team s performance or impedes it. Feedback should be given immediately and should be confined to behavior. When people give feedback to others about their emotions or opinions, it should be prefaced with It s my perception that or You impress me as feeling Team members should never assume or label without checking to make sure their perceptions and analyses are correct. No one on a team is immune from receiving feedback. In fact, most people welcome feedback, even when it is critical, because they know it helps them develop more effective behavior. Feedback should not be delivered as a joke, which can contain hidden messages that make fun of someone. Team members should be encouraged to express their emotions when it is healthy and normal to do so, especially if it will illuminate their perception or perspective on an issue. Aggressiveness and non-assertiveness are not acceptable behaviors in teams. People who dissent or are unhappy with the way the group is working should be supported in what they say, even if other team members do not agree. No one gets punished for speaking out. When conflicts between members are prolonged or intense, other team members should step in to help resolve them.
The fourth characteristic is flexibility. Group members are flexible, and they perform different task. The responsibility for team development and leadership is shared. The strengths of each member are identified and used and individual efforts are coordinated when necessary. The team is fluid and open to both opinions and feelings. Members recognize the inevitability and desirability of change and adapt to changing conditions. Organization practices are responsive to changes, demands, and team needs.
The fifth characteristic is optimal productivity. Teams produce significant results. Critical success factors for the organization are clear. There is a commitment to high standards and quality results. They get the job done, meet deadlines, and achieve goals. The team has developed effective decision-making and problem solving methods that result in achieving optimum results and encourage participation and creativity. Members have developed strong skills in group process as well as task accomplishment.
Recognition and appreciation is the next attribute. When team members have accomplished what you have asked them to, reward them. An organization should recognize both the individual and team contributions simultaneously. For example, when a team s project is finished, the members can be publicly praised as a group for their work and additional individual praise can be given to top performance. Members feels highly regarded within the team and experience a sense of personal accomplishment in relation to their team and task contributions. How you reward team members depend in part on what you are rewarding any why. Your rewards should focus team members attention on the importance of both building and maintaining team success. There is a range of possibilities, rewards of days off, salary increases, coaching for career opportunities, or certificates.
The last, and most important characteristic is morale. Members are enthusiastic about the work of the team and each person feels pride in being a member of a team. Confident and committed, members are optimistic about the future. There is a sense of excitement about individual and team accomplishments as well as the way team members work together. Team spirit is high. To be a successful team, the group must have a strong ability to produce results and a high degree of satisfaction in working with one another.
All members should share the responsibility for initiating behaviors that give direction and support to the group. With practice and improvement, the group can assume the other characteristics needed to PERFORM and will be well on its way to becoming a high performing team. As organizations continue to flatten their hierarchies and empower front line workers with more responsibility and authority, the use of teams will continue to rise. Developing new ways to recognize teams will be essential for their continued success.
TEAM BUILDING EXERCISES
One way to improve or start your team in an effective manner is to use team building exercises, or team builders. These types of exercises will give your group a chance to deal with issues in a safe environment. Team builders are effective for many reasons. Two main reasons are, to improve how the group as a whole performs. As explained by William G. Dyer, The overall goal of any team-development program is to improve the effectiveness of a group that must work together to achieve results . The second reason is to improve employee development and growth. This improvement will not only assist the team s development, but assist the individual as well. Individuals will develop a check and balance system to aid in their own development. …team-building program . its purpose is to help the work unit engage in a continual process of self-examination to gain awareness of those conditions that keep the unit from functioning effectively (Dyer). The check and balance system gathers information and compares it to the group or individual to help them grow.
A team builder can be used in many circumstances. One circumstance is when a group is first created. In newly formed groups, there is a need to learn about each other. Another is when a group is having problems and requires intervention (normally in a safe environment) to resolve the problems. In the process of leading a team builder, four steps occur. These steps are: developing the purpose of the team builder; performing the team builder; analyzing the team builder; and concluding the team builder. The first step, developing the purpose. The main purpose of a team builder is to make sure that the group feels comfortable to talk and deal with issues, problems, or concerns that they might have. An effective recommendation for a team builder exercise is to conduct them outside of the work environment. Many companies will schedule two or three day trips away from the company to give them the proper environment. In developing the purpose, the team should create goals or outline issues that must be address. Also, determine what the team wants to accomplish during the allotted time period. During this time, it is advisable to write down these goals and post them in areas where everyone can see them. The facilitator of the team builder should read the list aloud to the group and request any additions or deletions to the goal list at that time. This will allow the group to offer personal goals, thereby creating individual attachment to the team builder.
Next is conducting the team builder with the group. The group will be given a task or problem to solve as a group. The team builder is purposely designed so that the group must work together to solve the task or problem. The team builder facilitator must keep careful watch over the group during the problem solving session. This will enable the facilitator to later analyze the outcome of the team builder session with the group. More data can be derived from the team builder when the group is handicapped from performing certain tasks. If the team builder was designed to address a particular group problem area, a handicap can be used in the team builder to assure this particular problem area is dealt with by the group. For example, one issue that a group might have is their dependency on their leader. The desired result would be to have the group, as a whole, resolving problems. During the team builder, you could prevent the leader from talking (handicap him/her) and see how the group deals with the problem. Not only will this teach the group to work without their leader, but also it will teach the leader to trust the group to solve problems without taking charge. The desired results will be made clear to the group when the group goes through the analyzing process of the team builder.
During the analyzing process the facilitator will ask certain questions that will draw out what the team learned from the exercise. Before starting, the facilitator should assure that the group feels comfortable or safe to open up and voice their opinions. The facilitator should question the group on how they felt about the experience. Also on what roles each person felt they played or others played in the exercise. Inquire as to whether any buttons were pushed during the experience and attempt to draw out what they were. Also, the facilitator should access the group s feelings of any strengths and weakness of themselves or others that they derived from the exercise. This question and answer session should help the group realize their problem areas and work through them. With all the personal issues resolved, the group can now be shown how the lessons from the exercise relate to the work environment. Simply questioning the group on how they would relate the exercise to their work environment could do this.
The last step of the process, the conclusion, wraps up what the group has learned as a whole. The facilitator should ask questions to determine if the group completed their individual goals, the group goals and/or resolve all issues that might have arises during the exercise. At this point, it is acceptable for the group to agree to disagree as long as the group can work together without worrying about personal issues. The facilitator should also assess other issues that may have arisen and how they relate to the work environment. When all the feedback is done and everyone in the group has resolved their issues, the facilitator should add closures to the exercise. This is done by going over what the group accomplished, what they learned and what they need to work on in the future. Most important is for the facilitator to reinforce what the group learned and strengthen the bond that was created during the team builder so that this may be taken back to the work environment.
Team building is directed toward improving group effectiveness and the ways in which members of teams work together. These teams may be permanent or temporary, but their members have either common organizational aims or work activities. The general process of team building attempts to equip a group to handle its own ongoing problem solving. Team building incorporates a conglomerate of skills and behaviors used to develop effective teams. Skills such as team development, communication, training and exercises, and feedback. Teams, in other words, are tools. As such, each team design has its own uses, its own characteristics, its own requirements, and its own limitations. Teamwork is neither good nor desirable ; it is a fact in today s environment. Wherever people work together or play together they do so as a team. Which team to use for what purpose is a crucial, difficult, and risky decision that is even harder to unmake. Managers must learn how to make this decision and afford each team participant the skills and resources necessary to be effective in the team.
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Dyer, William G. (1995). Team Building: Current Issues and New Alternatives, Brigham Young University, Addison-Wesley Publishing Co.
Kormanski, C.L., & Mozenter, A. (1987). A model of team building: A technology for today and tomorrow. In J.W. Pfieffer (Ed.), The 1987 annual: Developing human resources. San Diego, CA: University Associates.
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Reilly, A.J., & Jones, J.E. (1974). Team-building. In J.W. Pfeiffer (Eds.), The 1974 annual handbook for group facilitators. San Diego, CA: University Associates.
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