Teams work — they really do.
Teams are a proven way to make any organization more flexible and successful. Teams bring people together to overcome the constraints of hierarchy. Diverse teams generate practical ideas beyond the usual.
But how do you create teams that work?
Teamwork is the key, and in a broad sense, it is the process by which team members collaborate to achieve specific goals. Teams can mobilize forces to produce important results. In this column we scratch only the surface of all the variables to consider in creating teams that work. Here are a few.
Personality factors are important in creating teams that work. For example, people who are more conscientious are dependable and hardworking; people who are sociable seek more social interaction and are more interpersonally skilled; and lastly, people who are open to experimentation are generally more flexible and adaptable. The presence of these personality factors makes team success more likely.
Successful teams have several distinguishing characteristics, according to research by the MIT Media Lab. First, members of a successful team talk and listen to each other in equal measure. Communication is short and to the point; they don’t waste time. Members prefer face-to-face communication, rather than email or text messages. Team members chat with each other and not just with the leader. Team members explore areas beyond their own and bring back new information for the team.
Creative teams explore environments outside their respective responsibilities and integrate what they find within their teams to assure novel results occur. One company, according to MIT, extended the lunch tables so strangers were more likely to interact, and it had a huge impact on team communication and creativity.
Diagrams called sociograms can be used to chart team interactions. Sociograms — webs which link members of the team based on the nature and frequency of interactions — reveal patterns of communication and which team members are turned to most often by their peers.
Team performance can be enhanced with training. The training can and should be unique to the needs of the team and include discussions of members’ perceptions of the team’s performance.
The role of the team leader is significant in a fast-paced, volatile world. Leaders need good conceptual skills to cut through the data debris to the substance. They need to have the foresight to see realistic paths. They need to be persistent and to follow only those options that help achieve goals. And on a personal level, a good sense of humor is key; so are honesty, setting a good example and consistency, which each help build and sustain trust within the team.
In the world of tomorrow, teams will be formed and dismissed as corporate needs arise. Skill transfer from team to team will create a fluid organization that responds to its changing demands. Leaders will share responsibilities with teams. Sustaining a company relies on its teams and the leaders who know how to influence and guide their teams toward a meaningful end.
Stronger teams mean a stronger, sustainable company. Jim Collins, author of the best seller “Good to Great,” said this very well, “The greatest team leaders build organizations that in the end, don’t need them.”