Team work has many advantages – pooling the talents of a group means more ideas and better solutions can be achieved. Additionally efficiencies can be made when groups bounce ideas off each other and resolve problems through talking about the issues in a non-judgemental way.
A lot of team planning gets bogged down in unproductive and obstructionist thinking. There are many reasons for this – some of these include ego-driven desires (achieve it my way, it’s my idea and so it’s a great idea), career-driven motives (a step up the greasy pole if my idea gets legs and is recognised by those who matter), self-interest (I have no job satisfaction so why ought I make a productive contribution to this project). Other reasons include a lack of resources, people and financial, and risks to the group if the project does meet its outcomes.
Additionally teams can be hard on those who work. In my experience, there is always at least one team member who does minimal work and is carried by others. Good team members are then overburdened with additional work to make up for the team member not contributing, yet too reaping the rewards of the collective group when it makes the wins.
Getting the most out of teams – give positive feedback when a good idea is suggested – ask if the person is ok to do their part of the project and offer alternatives if there are any issues, keep talking and engaging with the team and steer the team away from unproductive discussions which bog down the project’s progress.
Reasonable people will always be good, cooperative and productive team-members. When faced with people, who may be a bit more work, some tips below:
focus on their good points
do they have good reason and logic
are they detail-oriented
give them tasks which use their strengths
manage obstructive behaviour.
How to do this
All teams need leaders to manage the project and staff. Leaders need to be selected for their skills to successfully manage staff and project outcomes. Team leaders will deal with a multitude of issues and complexities during the project's phase, including its people, so it is imperative, leaders have good people, organisational, time management and strategic skills. If you are the team leader you will know:
the projects outcomes
what needs to happen to deliver
so you can guide the team through unproductive discussions and manage issues impacting on the project's outcomes.
Sometimes, not everyone is engaged in the project, so encourage all members to make contributions and communicate with team-members if otherwise.
Recent research for my study on collaborative team work revealed the single outcome organisations want out of university graduates is to be able to work in teams.
This is the single objective of all organisations across all industries - is that universities teach graduates how to work and collaborate in teams. If this is the key concern of organisations then team leaders, managers and facilitators play critical roles in meeting the key objectives of workplaces, where team-work underscores every element of an organisations' purpose.
If organisations are putting the responsibility on universities to teach graduate how to collaborate, then they too must invest in staff who show leadership and managerial potential by giving training and opportunities.
Additionally team leaders need to feel supported in their roles by senior management.
This is a post on its own, so stay tuned for this musing, sometime soon.
In doing so, projects have better outcomes with trained and skilled staff managing groups of people with a range of behaviours and personalities.
There are many examples where people have pooled their talents, abilities and intellect to produce wonderful outcomes in teams in everyday life, through life-saving surgery, space travel (Apollo 13 - 1970) and everyday activities such as fire and rescue services.
If we look at the strengths in our team, manage its weaknesses then we can all achieve great outputs, while focusing on the positive qualities all people bring to a team.
I wish you all the best with your teams and I am interested to hear what has worked for you.