You Don’t Have to Like Them to Work With Them 1

Team work sucks! Let me repeat that – Team work sucks! Team work sucks because most often everyone on the team doesn’t pull their own weight. I’ll try not to be too cynical here – but you can’t expect to throw people together – call them a team – and have them perform without teaching them what it means to be part of a team – And what it takes to be a good team player.

Worth Remembering …

“Coming together is a beginning – Keeping together is progress – Working together is success” – Henry Ford

Making teams work is a challenging and difficult process. Nonetheless, you can increase the likelihood that your team will succeed in accomplishing individual and team goals by carefully managing the setting of team goals and priorities, how team members are selected, trained and compensated.

Team goals may vary depending on the role that teams play in your organization. Problem solving teams, self-managed teams, cross functional teams, work teams and virtual teams. Teams can be brought together, based on each team members area of expertise, to work on a specific project and once that project is completed the team is disbanded. (Project Managers work in this type of environment)

Some organizations will call it a team – but what they really want is for people to get along with each other. They aren’t really a team in the truest sense of the word. Everyone on the team needs to work independently from one another but they must coordinate their efforts with other team members to accomplish the overall team objective. I refer to this kind of team as a work team. I suspect this is the type of team in most organizations – so to keep this article in context – I will discuss work teams and how to manage them effectively.

Creating High Performance Work Teams 

The most popular team building model – forming, storming, norming and performing that is taught in most business schools was first introduced by Bruce Tuckman in 1965. Tuckman PhD. was Director of the Academic Learning Lab at The Ohio State University. His model depicts the four stages of growth that all high performing teams must go through. As you read through the description of each stage – think about how you would apply it in your department or organization when forming a team or introducing a new team member.

Worth Remembering …

“Teams are now the primary force of organizations. They are worth cultivating at their core. There core is the mind of each team member.” – Nancy Kline

Forming: Forming is the initial stage of team development. This is the getting-acquainted stage in which team members meet each other, form initial impressions, and try to get a sense of what it would be like to be part of the work team. Managers can help this process along by planning meet-and-greets or social events outside of the traditional workplace. Be sure to personally introduce any new team member to each member of the team. I would tack up a picture of the new team member on our information board to help break the ice.

Storming: Conflicts and disagreements are inevitable as team members start to work together. Different personalities and work styles will clash. (They don’t have to like each other but they DO need to get along with each other) That’s why soft-skills – a person’s ability to communicate and interact effectively with people – is critical to team success. Hire people who like being around people. (Loaners and hermits need not apply)

Norming: This is the third stage in creating high performance teams. This is when the dust starts to settle down and the “real” work begins. Be sure to post your policies and procedures. Team members need to know what is expected of them. They need to know what “Normal” behaviour is. (There is no common sense. The only thing common about common sense is it’s not very common amongst most people.) Team members aren’t born knowing how to be a good team member. Like any skill – it’s a learned behaviour.  It’s your responsibility to teach them how to be a good team player. As the team leader, supervisor or manager you need to “call” people out who are not maintaining those standards. Never allow team standards to slip.

Performing: This is the final stage of team development. This is where you get to walk around and monitor their performance. People do what you inspect – not what you expect. You must manage by walking around. Get out of your office – roll up your sleeves now and again. Lead by example. Be prepared to work one-on-one with someone who is struggling. Your role is to give each team member the tools and training they’ll need to be able to perform their role – and then to get out of their way and let them do it. (Resist the urge to Micro-Manage)

Worth Remembering …

“You can’t play the game without all the players on the court … The team must be assembled quickly and play as a unit almost from the start. Failure to recruit strong, cohesive team players means a losing season.” – Ann Winblad

Work teams create a synergy that results in a level of performance greater than any one person’s performance. (Together Everyone Achieves More) Norms shape team behaviour by imposing group standards. Managers need to monitor individual performance so that “Social Loafers” can’t go un-detected. And most importantly – managers can improve work team performance through selecting individuals based on their soft-skills and not just their technical ability.