Team Building Process, Overview of Team

Team building refers to the activities undertaken by groups of people in order to increase their motivation and boost cooperation. Many people use the phrases “team building” and “teamwork” interchangeably. However, they are two distinct concepts. While team building places emphasis on the creation of groups, teamwork emphasizes the functions of these groups.

For teams to be effective, the people in the team must be able to work together to contribute collectively to team outcomes. But this does not happen automatically: it develops as the team works together. You have probably had an experience when you have been put on a team to work on a school assignment or project. When your team first gets together, you likely sit around and look at each other, not knowing how to begin. Initially you are not a team; you are just individuals assigned to work together. Over time you get to know each other, to know what to expect from each other, to know how to divide the labor and assign tasks, and to know how you will coordinate your work. Through this process, you begin to operate as a team instead of a collection of individuals.

Characteristic Description
Defining the Primary Goal

The main function of forming the group should be made clear right off the bat. The best way to define this purpose is by setting solid and measurable targets. This way, every team member knows exactly how his or her work contributes to accomplishing the organizational goal.

Frequent Communication Another aspect that makes up an effective team entails open and free channels of communication. There should be constant communication not just among the team members but also between the team and the whole organization. This way, team members will always have the information they need to undertake their roles.
Responsibility and Dedication When team members are aware of what expectations need to be met, they are more ready to be held accountable for their decisions and work. Similarly, these team members are willing to undertake proactive measures to finish the assigned tasks within a given timeframe.
Overall, members of a good team are not only aware of the objectives, but they also commit themselves wholeheartedly to achieve the set goals.
Laissez-faire Form of Leadership Another trait of an effective team is that it practices delegative leadership. What this means is that members are ready to take up leadership positions when situations call for it. This style of communal leadership fosters a shared responsibility, and it helps in boosting the members’ motivation and productivity.

Stages of Team Development

This process of learning to work together effectively is known as team development. Research has shown that teams go through definitive stages during development. Bruce Tuckman, an educational psychologist, identified a five-stage development process that most teams follow to become high performing. He called the stages: forming, storming, norming, performing, and adjourning. Team progress through the stages is shown in the following diagram.

Most high-performing teams go through five stages of team development.

Forming stage

The forming stage involves a period of orientation and getting acquainted. Uncertainty is high during this stage, and people are looking for leadership and authority. A member who asserts authority or is knowledgeable may be looked to take control. Team members are asking such questions as “What does the team offer me?” “What is expected of me?” “Will I fit in?” Most interactions are social as members get to know each other.

Storming stage

The storming stage is the most difficult and critical stage to pass through. It is a period marked by conflict and competition as individual personalities emerge. Team performance may actually decrease in this stage because energy is put into unproductive activities. Members may disagree on team goals, and subgroups and cliques may form around strong personalities or areas of agreement. To get through this stage, members must work to overcome obstacles, to accept individual differences, and to work through conflicting ideas on team tasks and goals. Teams can get bogged down in this stage. Failure to address conflicts may result in long-term problems.

Norming stage

If teams get through the storming stage, conflict is resolved and some degree of unity emerges. In the norming stage, consensus develops around who the leader or leaders are, and individual member’s roles. Interpersonal differences begin to be resolved, and a sense of cohesion and unity emerges. Team performance increases during this stage as members learn to cooperate and begin to focus on team goals. However, the harmony is precarious, and if disagreements re-emerge the team can slide back into storming.

Performing stage

In the performing stage, consensus and cooperation have been well-established and the team is mature, organized, and well-functioning. There is a clear and stable structure, and members are committed to the team’s mission. Problems and conflicts still emerge, but they are dealt with constructively.

Adjourning stage

In the adjourning stage, most of the team’s goals have been accomplished. The emphasis is on wrapping up final tasks and documenting the effort and results. As the work load is diminished, individual members may be reassigned to other teams, and the team disbands. There may be regret as the team ends, so a ceremonial acknowledgement of the work and success of the team can be helpful. If the team is a standing committee with ongoing responsibility, members may be replaced by new people and the team can go back to a forming or storming stage and repeat the development process.

Team Norms and Cohesiveness

When you have been on a team, how did you know how to act? How did you know what behaviors were acceptable or what level of performance was required? Teams usually develop norms that guide the activities of team members. Team norms set a standard for behavior, attitude, and performance that all team members are expected to follow. Norms are like rules but they are not written down. Instead, all the team members implicitly understand them. Norms are effective because team members want to support the team and preserve relationships in the team, and when norms are violated, there is peer pressure or sanctions to enforce compliance.

Norms result from the interaction of team members during the development process. Initially, during the forming and storming stages, norms focus on expectations for attendance and commitment. Later, during the norming and performing stages, norms focus on relationships and levels of performance. Performance norms are very important because they define the level of work effort and standards that determine the success of the team. As you might expect, leaders play an important part in establishing productive norms by acting as role models and by rewarding desired behaviors.

Norms are only effective in controlling behaviors when they are accepted by team members. The level of cohesiveness on the team primarily determines whether team members accept and conform to norms. Team cohesiveness is the extent that members are attracted to the team and are motivated to remain in the team. Members of highly cohesive teams value their membership, are committed to team activities, and gain satisfaction from team success. They try to conform to norms because they want to maintain their relationships in the team and they want to meet team expectations. Teams with strong performance norms and high cohesiveness are high performing.

Choose team members wisely

When it comes to selecting team members, there are three key aspects that one ought to consider: individualism, multidimensionality, and the level of the team’s skills.

  • It is a well-known fact that some individuals will always make better team members than others. It’s also widely known that, with determination, individuals can learn how to function as one unit. An individualist is one who likes putting his or her interests before those of his team members. Such people excel in independent roles where they’re required to work individually.
  • However, there are also collectivists. They are individuals who like collaboration and thrive better when they are part of a group. Although a collectivist makes a better team member, in some situations it is the independent tasks that help the whole group to succeed. However, a leader may have to apply more effort when dealing with individualists.
  • Another thing that leaders need to do is to strike a balance between the experience and skills of different team members. It means distributing work evenly based on the strengths of the members. On that note, new members should also learn how to work as a fully functioning part of the team. Leaders may have to partner the new members with those who have the experience to mentor them.
  • Team diversity is more than just a combination of skills. It also refers to how people from different cultures, genders, and races work together to achieve goals. Diversity may be essential, as it enables team members to view goals from different perspectives and come up with the best way of achieving them.

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