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Connection. Interdependence. Relationships. Do these words sound familiar? Connection, interdependence, and relationships are becoming increasingly common in today’s organizations. But the real question is: how do we put those words into action?

In many cases, the answer is: with teams.

The word team is used casually in most organizations to define groups of people who work together. Few distinctions, if any, are made between the team dynamics of, say, a work group versus a functional department; or a short-term committee versus a senior-management team.

There are, of course, different types of groups and teams. In its program, Leadership and High-Performance Teams, the Center for Creative Leadership discusses 3 basic ways that people work together:

The first scenario is called a teaming relationship. Teaming involves a group of people with common work, but individuals complete the bulk of their work independently. The relationships generally exist at a surface level, often with members not knowing each other well. The good thing about teaming is that little conflict exists, yet upon task completion, members feel like a team. If you lead this type of group, your expectations should be placed on individual performance.

The second basic way that people work together is what, in actuality, CCL calls a team. Team members get to know each other well, and they are collectively accountable for completing tasks and reaching the team’s goal. They together have the expertise to complete an assigned task, yet each team member has clear roles and responsibilities. Team leaders here focus their expectations on group dynamics, collective work, and shared responsibilities.

The third and final method of working together is known as collaboration. Collaboration extends to people and groups outside the original team unit. This is challenging because members must work with people or groups that have distinct, even competing, goals and processes. Members belong to a team but also operate as part of a larger whole; consequently, levels of conflict are heightened due to different goals and values. The leader here focuses on relationship building, negotiating, and communicating outside of the team.

It’s often the case that forming a team may be your best strategy. Here are 7 questions to consider:

  1. Is the task complex and multidimensional? A team might be best.
  2. Does the task demand innovation? Then several heads might be better than one.
  3. Are there significant barriers to successfully completing the task? In that case, you might need a team to locate solutions.
  4. Are the resources required to complete the task readily available? Then the task may be ready for a team to tackle.
  5. Does the task require the efforts of several people who have different skills? That’s a recipe for a team.
  6. Is diversity of thought and opinion important to the successful completion of the task? You’ll need several voices in on the project.
  7. Is building relationships with stakeholders, customers, departments and top management critical to the task? One person certainly can’t do this alone.

Remember that a team structure isn’t always the best way to accomplish your goals. If not, try leading a workgroup or assign an individual to the task. Teams can be great; but some kitchens will only accommodate a single cook.

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