2 Reasons working as a team is a survival of the fittest
Working as a team comes in so many different forms; group assignments (THE WORST!), small workplace teams, large scale workplace teams, committees (I’ll tell you something funny about these later) etc.
Most of you will have experienced the joys *cough* of team work. But it is one of those unfortunate activities that everyone must delve into.
So here are the fundamentals to working in a team and how to make them successful in their own right.
Is your group structured for productivity?
We are hardwired to belong to a group of people – sorry introverts.
They can be subdivided into informal groups; friends, interest groups, social groups etc. or formal groups like I mentioned above.
There are fundamental roles that need to be fulfilled in order to be successful working as a team.
What roles do you have?
These are the expected behaviours on each member of the group. These can be laid out as formal expectations designated by titles – such as in a workplace with different areas of expertise. They can can also be informal, however no less powerful in the dynamic.
Roles are important in working as a team because the mismatch between the members skill set and what roles they play can seriously harm the team performance.
Role uncertainty, instability and conflict are also associated with major problems. Including some real kickers for workplaces; job performance, workplace bullying and the addition of emotional exhaustion and burnout.
There are risks with setting formal roles however, with members getting too caught up in their roles they can lose their own sense of morality and personal beliefs – this is an extreme consequence.
While I am on the extreme ban wagon, an example of members getting engrossed within their roles is the Standford Prison Study. Have you heard of it?
It was a study to look into these exact affects on members of a group and their behaviour. A bunch of volunteers were put into a fake prison and given roles of either prisoner or guard. You can probably guess what happened over time – the guards started to take their roles very seriously, becoming so engrossed in the senario.
What are the group norms?
These are the rules of conduct for members. They can also be formal or informal, made up of what the group considers the appropriate behaviour.
It can be the basis for extreme pressure on individuals who deviate from them. For example, if the group decides pink is the colour for Fridays and you wear yellow on Friday – look out. It can be the root cause of bullying and ostracisation.
Is your group cohesive?
One of the ones you have probably heard many times over. Known as the forces exerted on a group that push its members closer together – or in non sciencey terms; the ability for the group to work together well.
Having a cohesive groups will mean all the members feel a commitment to the task. Feeling committed is important, you can’t have real cohesiveness unless the members truely feel committed. It’s probably why lots of group assignments at seem to be a struggle – most people are of the thought ‘lets get this over and done with’.
Although the members will feel more positively towards others members, take pride and engage better, the success of the group is not dictated by simply doing some team building exercises.
If your team is struggling with cohesiveness, opt to skip the team building, it could cause more issues within the group by pointing out weak links, creating pressure on deviations from norms and changing peoples roles for the activity.
Studies also support this and show that cohesiveness groups are associated with performance when concentrating of other variables, such as size of the task, task cohesion, interpersonal cohesion and type of task the group is to perform.
But there are warnings for highly cohesive groups as well. They could be especially vulnerable to making terrible decisions because members fear going against a leader or group norm – causing group pressures.
Is your group performance at an optimal level?
Alright so now we know the basics of group structures, lets look at the performance and how to hack that.
As I mentioned earlier, there will be no further discussion on team building exercises, I don’t believe they add any value to group environments from both experiences and research as a backing.
Are you brainstorming as a team?
Brainstorming has been used in many situations and taught in schools across the globe. Did you know there is a particular way to do it to avoid the bias that may occur working as a team?
Have you ever has heaps of ideas in a group and not made suggestions because you are worried someone will object??..yeah, so has just about everyone.
This is why brainstorming in groups doesn’t work.
But brainstorming as an individual and then coming together as a group? A match made in heaven.
As an individual, you will tend to take more risks and implement new ideas [who wouldn’t with no critics!?], so encourage this way of thinking and start the process individually. Coming together as a team afterwards will gain better results.
Do you have a devils advocate?
This is an important one that may not have been implemented before – or even thought about for that matter.
Working as a team tends to create an excessive tendency to seek uniformity or agreement amongst members. It’s the constant asking if everyone wants to do this or that. Changing directions if one person is not on board and never coming to a decision. It can be highly frustrating for those that like to make quick decisions, slowing down the progress with the constant need for agreement taking priority.
Lucky for you I know how to avoid it.
Avoid group isolation, reduce the group pressures to conform, establish a strong group norm of critical review and have a devil advocate.
A devils advocate is the person given a role of questioning everything. Their role is to be the bad guy. Ask questions, such as why would we do that? How will that be achieved? Is that staying on task? Ok let’s make a decision now.
It gives members an understanding that one persons role is to question EVERYONE not just them. It will allow a more exploratory look into the task, and avoid a lot of the pressure created by dominant members.
Have a bad guy. It works.
If your group is not working well together, see if you can work out why with my tips. Even making simple adjustments will create a more productive team.
Do your Group values align well with core goals? Read more about this below