WHAT IS A TEAM?
Definitions of Teamwork
'work done by several associates with each doing a part but all subordinating personal
prominence to the efficiency of the whole' (circa 1828)
source: Merriam-Webster Dictionary
'the work or co-ordinated effort of a team or group of people to produce a desired result'
source: Wordsmyth Children's Dictionary
source: The Oxford Dictionary
Teams are groups of people that share a common purpose, to which they are all committed, and
who are empowered to set goals, solve problems and make decisions.
Without these common traits they are not a 'team' - they are a group of people who happen to
work together in the same environment - a work group.
BENEFITS OF TEAMWORK
Effective teamwork has a number of benefits - to the organisation, to the team and, not least, to
the individuals within the team.
The way that people work in teams is just as important as their individual performance.
This includes their capacity not only to work within their own team but also to have good inter-
team relationships. Working in such an environment helps build high staff morale and improved
In many organisations today we see a move towards flatter, leaner structures. Stripping out
layers of management means that individuals have to be more willing to take on additional
responsibility and accountability - achieved through team working.
Teamwork can contribute towards:
Innovation and Creativity
Capitalisation of technological advances
Improved employee motivation and commitment
Effective teams are flexible, creative and responsive to the demands of the task. They
demonstrate high levels of involvement, accept responsibility for team success and both
recognise and value individual contributions made by team members. People value being part of
such a team. The team capitalises on the skills and personalities of its members to achieve a high
degree of synergy. (Synergy is that process in which the whole is greater than the sum of its
parts) - in other words there is a greater achievement from the team than would have been
achieved by all of the individuals working separately.
WHAT DOES BELONGING TO A TEAM MEAN?
Having a shared communication network
Cross training - to provide team backup
Anticipating individual/organisational needs
All singing from the same hymn sheet
All team members accepting responsibility for keeping the team focused
All team members being aware of and avoiding 'groupthink'
Supporting each other
Learning - developing oneself
Having a common team goal
Understanding team goals
Synergy - team results are greater than would have been achieved by the sum of the
Individual team members helping develop other team members
Involvement - the entire team takes part in the decision making process
Patience - recognising that teams go through different stages of maturity
Accepting that individual commitment to the team is more important than personal goals
Understanding own and other team members' roles and responsibilities
CHARACTERISTICS OF EFFECTIVE TEAMS
Kenneth Blanchard describes the characteristics of effective teams using the mnemonic
Members can describe and are committed to a common purpose
Goals are clear, challenging and relevant to purpose
Strategies for achieving goals are clear
Individual roles are clear
Members feel a personal and collective sense of
Members have access to necessary skills and
Policies and practices support team objectives
Mutual respect and willingness to help each other
RELATIONSHIPS AND COMMUNICATION
Members express themselves openly and honestly
Warmth, understanding and acceptance is expressed
Members listen actively to each other
Differences of opinion and perspective are valued
Members perform different roles and functions as needed
Members have responsibility for team leadership and team development
Members are adaptable to changing demands
Various ideas and approaches are explored
Output is high
Quality is excellent
Decision-making is effective
Clear problem solving process is apparent
RECOGNITION AND APPRECIATION
Individual contributions are recognised and appreciated by leader and other members
Team accomplishments are recognised by members
Group members feel respected
Team contributions are valued and recognised by the organisation
Individuals feel good about their membership on the team
Individuals are confident and motivated
Members have a sense of pride and satisfaction about their work
There is a strong sense of cohesion and team spirit
Kenneth Blanchard (1990)
TEAM DEVELOPMENT PHASES
Successful teams do not just come about ‘fully formed’ – Tuckman and Jensen identify five
development stages. Not all teams go through every stage - and some never get to the stage of
maturity described as 'performing', instead they may oscillate between any of the earlier, less
Tuckman and Jensen's five stages are described as:
The first stage, when the team meets and starts to work together for the first time - the immature
group is characterised by:
testing ground rules
feeling out others
getting to know each other
At this stage the group is dependent on a leader to provide the 'ground rules' and an action
agenda. They tend to be polite and are focused getting to know each other and on understanding
the task and their part in it. They need clear direction from their leader who should:
give a specific outline of the task the team has to undertake
clarify each person's role in the team task
explain how the team has been put together and the reasons for each team member's selection
openly discuss the way you work as a manager
discuss your expectations of the team and the individuals within the team
get them to do the same
get the team involved in agreeing codes of conduct/team rules
discuss how conflict will be managed and how the team will give feedback on each others'
behaviour and performance
discuss how the team will make its decisions
By doing this the manager will have provided his/her team with an opportunity to share their
concerns, express their opinions and ask questions.
Team members will feel that they have been listened to, encouraged to contribute, know their
colleagues better and both understand and are committed to agreed team standards of
performance and behaviour.
The second stage is characterised by a feeling of 'fragmentation' often arising because goals,
roles and rules have become confused or unclear. This can result in:
disagreements on priorities
This phase, when team members are jockeying to establish their
position within the team, can be quite difficult - and this may lead
Team members differing agendas can be a cause of conflict and antagonism as they become
known. Some team members may resent the perceived control of others and this is another
source of potential hostility. Relationships started in the ‘Forming’ stage may now come under
The team needs a great deal of direction at this stage, particularly to help with the management
of conflict and to get them to focus on how to organise themselves to achieve the team objective.
The manager should revisit the agreements made in the Forming stage and make sure that
everyone is clear on what is required.
During the third stage things are becoming more focused and positive, people understand the
goals and their roles in achieving them. The team has identified its strengths and weaknesses
and where in the past disagreements may have led to conflict, now they are consciously making
sure that grievances, complaints and suggestions are listened to - conflict is beginning to be
managed. Rules and standards of behaviour have been agreed so that team members relate
openly with each other and are able to agree on what is expected and how failure to meet
expectations will be managed.
This phase is characterised by:
Members now feel more part of a team and better able to deal with conflict. There is a feeling of
'team spirit' - cohesion. Communication is more effective as they become more open about their
At this stage the team responds well to a more participative, coaching/supporting leadership
The fourth stage is the mature, effective, performing team.
Not every team will reach this stage but may get stuck in the norming stage where although there
is a feeling of agreement, there is not yet the drive towards effective problem solving that
characterises an effective team. Some teams also experience oscillation into the earlier stages -
for example when a new member joins the team. It's crucial to make new members aware of the
team goals, roles and rules before they join, together with the way that the team gives and
receives feedback. Failure to do so can cause the team to destabilise and fall back into the
Performing is characterised by:
flexible team members, clear task roles
The team has an effective structure and is getting on with the job and achieving its objectives. It
is a mature team where members display interdependency. Members are capable of working
individually, in smaller sub-groups or within the larger team.
The team is highly committed to clearly defined tasks and is engaged in effective problem
At this stage leadership style should be more supportive/delegating, as the team may well be
capable of working with minimal supervision.
The final stage is that of 'disbanding' and comes about either because the task is complete or
because members have left the team. When this happens there may be reflection on their time
together. It is often a time of reflection, 'mourning' what has passed but should also be a time for
CHOICE OF MANAGEMENT STYLE
Understanding that teams go through different stages of development, and that they may oscillate
between stages, is important because it relates to management style. Using a very directive style
with a mature, highly committed team could lead to frustration and disaffection. The opposite is
also true - using a delegating style with a newly formed team would lead to confusion and
CONFLICT AND THE TEAM
People often feel that conflict is inherently dysfunctional - however constructively handled it can
actually have a positive effect. It usually surfaces during the 'storming stage' when the team is
trying to sort out its leadership, the roles members undertake and what rules/codes of conduct it
will observe. Sometimes it will be about the direction in which it is moving (or where it has
stalled) – some degree of conflict is likely.
Left to fester conflict can negatively influence the effectiveness of the team – the team must be
willing to address conflicts quickly, openly and in an atmosphere of trust and respect. Teams in
this stage may demonstrate some of the following: failure to prepare for meetings, frequent
lateness, early departure or even missing them altogether. Personalised disagreements, fading
commitment, frustration, defensiveness, apathy, conflicting personal agendas.
BUT MANAGED CONFLICT CAN BE GOOD..
It may help us look for a better solution to a problem by:
Getting the team to examine potential defects in a particular solution
Revisiting goals, procedures, solutions to ensure that the best choice has been made
Without conflict the decision might be the result of ‘groupthink’.
WHAT IS ‘GROUPTHINK’?
'Groupthink' arises when the group’s need for agreement is greater than their motivation to
consider alternatives - so avoiding the expression of contradictory views.
Symptoms of groupthink:
false feelings of (team) invulnerability
silence from team members being interpreted as consent
too narrow a focus on alternative choices
not looking at majority favoured options in the context of possible unsurfaced risks or
not making use of available expert opinion and/or when used, only paying selective attention
to facts that support the group’s view
exerting pressure on those with different views
HOW TO AVOID GROUPTHINK
The group process must enable team members to disagree with a growing consensus from the
rest of the group. They must make their concerns known. This may create tension but should
lead to the team reconsidering the issue to prevent poor decisions being made.
Conflict and Improving Productivity
Finding the most effective solutions is often achieved as a result of conflict. In fact avoiding
conflict may actually lead to some members becoming disaffected and losing interest – resulting
in a negative effect on group productivity.
Conflict and Organisational Change
Problems relating to procedures, responsibilities and work distribution in teams may appear as
conflict within the group. By openly surfacing conflict there is potential for the group to
improve its ways of working.
Conflict and Personal Awareness
Understanding their own style for resolving conflict can help team members to recognise their
strengths and weaknesses and how it will affect others.
An understanding of how one's personal style affects other people can help team members to
become more adept at anticipating conflict and concerns others may have in the future.
In turn this helps one adapt one’s approach to achieve better resolutions to group conflict.
Conflict and Morale
Dealing openly with conflict within the group allows people to express their emotions and
reduces stress – people ‘get to know’ each other better and this can have a very positive effect on
morale and group cohesion.
TIPS FOR DEALING CONSTRUCTIVELY WITH CONFLICT
Get the underlying reasons for the conflict out in the open – use active listening skills and
Don’t make your mind made up before you start - suspend judgement and listen
Concentrate on areas where there is agreement rather than on areas where you can’t agree
Realise that pressures outside of work may affect a team member’s attitude or performance
Think carefully about the way work is distributed - use sub-groups or joint assignments to
help reduce conflict
Accept that some conflicts, particularly between very dominant types may need to be dealt
with outside the group
Look at the strengths brought into the team by each team member
Go for a quick win when conflict levels are high – start with the problems that are easiest to
Don’t let the group turn its attention to 'a scapegoat'
Recognise that you may be a cause of conflict yourself
Use an external mediator if necessary
Don’t personalise things when you are feeling upset – it is your feelings that are the problem,
learn to manage them
Take time out to calm down. Only then approach the individual(s) concerned
Define the problem – so both parties are able to agree exactly what is at issue
Negotiate the differences - be prepared to compromise. Always use active listening to
understand the issue from their perspective
Remember the 80/20 rule (80% listening/20% talking) because conflict tends to escalate
when you spend more time talking at the other party than listening..
Focus on the issue and not on the person
Ask "What did you do in this situation?" to get factual responses rather than one-sided
Don't hold grudges - when you’ve’ buried the hatchet’ it should stay buried..
Think ‘we’ rather than 'I versus you' and work together to solve conflict
Don’t ‘pass the buck’
Build the long-term relationship
Sometimes taking an adjournment is a good idea
Celebrate team achievements
AGREE A TEAM CHARTER
The team itself should define rules/codes of conduct - by gaining agreement on standards of
behaviour the team become accountable to one another.
The purpose of the Charter is to:
support team performance
clarify team members’ assumptions and expectations
provide a framework to support the team
establish codes of conduct and clarify standards of performance
It should address such matters as attendance, participation and rules for decision-making.
It will also consider issues such as lateness and acceptable behaviour - having a clear
understanding of how conflict will be managed and what sanctions the team is prepared to
impose are key elements of a team charter and should not be avoided.
TYPES OF TEAM
The idea behind this type of team is that the people who live closest to the problems are often
best suited to think of solutions..
Popular in the United States in the 1980’s their focus was on making suggestions for
improvements in products, services and procedures. They did not usually have authority to
implement their suggestions, instead recommendations were passed to senior management for
Teams were usually between 6-10 people and were sometimes given formal training in the use of
problem solving tools and techniques.
In the UK Cammell Laird used this system however implementation decisions were through
Works Councils consisting of both workplace representatives and management. Their teams
were known as Problem Solving Groups (PSG’s).
The idea was so successful in this organisation that PSG’s were responsible for finding solutions
to such multi-million pound quandaries as ‘how to replace an ageing tug..’ – answer after all
options considered, build it ourselves..
Improvement (Project) Teams
These teams have commonly replaced QC’s and are not only able to make recommendations but
are empowered to make decisions in collaboration with managers.
This sort of team is rarely permanent, being formed to find solutions to particular problems or
ways of improving existing processes, products or services after which they are disbanded.
Sometimes however their success leads to them on to become involved in other continuous
This type of team is organised around a function or group of functions – for example, the
‘Finance Team’. Encouraging people to recognise that they are part of a team is an important
aspect of getting them to accept more responsibility for problem solving and decision making.
Organisations today want flexibility from their workers, so that teams that had in the past only
undertaken one task, will now be expected to carry out multiple functions and will therefore need
to develop other skills through cross-skilling, up-skilling and multi-skilling.
Team members must support each other and work effectively together, the manager has an
increased coaching role – guiding, assisting with decision making, problem solving, goal setting
and defining action.
Work Teams are usually permanent as their functions are ongoing.
Self-Directed Work Teams
These teams have reached an advanced stage of maturity and are capable of self-management.
They exhibit a high level of trust with each other and with their manager. Leadership is often
shared within the team. The team can be relied upon to 'follow through' and achieve its
Achieving such maturity can take between two and five years – SDWT's select their own leader,
set their own goals, define their own targets and conduct peer reviews..
An approach such as this can only be successful where managers are not threatened by the team's
independence and where team members are willing to take personal responsibility for outcomes.
UNDERSTANDING MANAGEMENT STYLE
A manager’s style can be influenced by a number of factors – these include personality,
organisational culture, the maturity of work groups..
Theory X and Theory Y
Douglas McGregor (1960) argued that one can identify two distinct sets of assumptions that
managers make about the people that work for them.
Theory X assumes that people are basically lazy, need close supervision, are not to be trusted and
often have goals that conflict with those of the organisation.
Conversely Theory Y assumes people to be mature, self-motivated, self-controlled and able to
work without rigid interpersonal and organisational control.
In fact many managers employ a mixture of both styles, depending on the nature of the
The Theory X style will work in the short term and may even get better results more quickly,
however use of this style is unlikely to be most effective in the longer run.
Healthy organisations promote job satisfaction amongst their employees, to motivate them and
make the most of their skills (Theory Y).
Action Centred Leadership
John Adair, the world’s first Professor in Leadership Studies, developed his model during the
1960’s and 1970’s while lecturing at Sandhurst and later with the Industrial Society.
Adair believes that leadership can be developed, rather than being a trait or inborn quality.
The ‘action-centred leader’ gets the job done through the work team and relationships with
fellow managers and staff – effectiveness depends on his/her ability to influence and be
influenced by, the group and its members in the performance of a common task.
The three components are
TASK - directing the job to be done
TEAM – co-ordinate and support the team as a whole
INDIVIDUAL – introduce, support and review the individuals doing it
The responsibilities overlap – according to the specifics of the situation different demands will
be made on the manager. There is a balance but also a tension between them.
The manager must respond to the situation and adopt leadership behaviours which enable the
demands to be met.
The functions are interdependent – if there is insufficient attention to task there will be a
disruptive affect on the group and dissatisfaction among individuals. Conversely there will be
deterioration if attention to task is given at the expense of the group/individual.
To be included
To make a contribution
To be respected
To feel safe
To receive feedback
Evidence of progress
Avoidance of digression
Meeting of deadlines
Sense of purpose
Individual Maintenance Functions
Motivates – develops ideas, assesses skills, provides targets
Develops – flexible delegation and use of individual skills
Mentors – Counsels, advises, trains & appraises
Task Maintenance Functions
Policy making – sets objectives
Plans – considers options and sets standards
Co-ordinates – makes best use of resources
Controls – maintains standards and reviews progress against plan
Expert – provides required technical knowledge
Group Maintenance Functions
Communicates – gives clear briefs to clarify objectives and plans. Disseminates and collects
Mediates– sorts out internal conflict and builds team
Discipline – maintains standards
Represents the team with other groups
Situational Leadership (Hersey & Blanchard)
This style of leadership focuses on the importance of the situation – remember the person who
acts as the leader in a group may not always be the manager..
From the manager’s perspective it’s about managing people in the way they need to be managed
– ‘different strokes for different folks’ - changing one’s style of management depending on the
person and/or the situation.
The manager displays either directive or supportive behaviour.
Directive behaviour involves clearly telling people what to do, how to do it, where and when to
do it, then closely supervising their performance.
Supportive behaviour involves listening to people, providing support and encouragement for
their efforts, and then facilitating their involvement in problem solving and decision making.
The four basic styles are:
Setting goals and defining roles
Developing action plans to solve problems
Providing specific directions largely through one-way communication
Setting off problem solving and decision-making
Supervising and evaluating the work of team members
Still directing and supervising closely but
explaining decisions, asking for suggestions and supporting progress.
Developing action plans but then consulting team
Explaining decisions and asking for ideas, with increased two-way communication
Supporting and praising team's initiative
Making final decision after hearing team's ideas
Continuing to direct and monitor team's work
Evaluating team's work
Facilitating and supporting team to get the task done – sharing responsibility for decision making
Involving the team in identifying the task and setting goals
Asking the team to set out how task should be done
Providing assurance, support, resources and ideas if requested
Sharing responsibility for task and decision making with the team
Listening and facilitating the team's problem solving and decision making activities
Working with the team to evaluate their work
The manager gives responsibility for decision making and problem solving to subordinates.
Defining the task with the team
Setting goals together
Allowing the team to develop an action plan, control decision making and determine how
problems will be solved
Periodically monitoring the team's performance
Allowing the team to evaluate own work
Allowing the team to take responsibility and receive credit
The manager combines STRUCTURE, CONTROL and SUPERVISION when people need to be
And PRAISE, LISTENING and FACILITATION when people are ready to solve their work
High Moderate Low
R4 R3 R2 R1
Able and Able but Unable but Unable and
willing or unwilling or willing or unwilling or
confident insecure confident insecure
Follower Directed Leader Directed
FACTORS INFLUENCING LEADERSHIP STYLES
Things affecting the situation such as:
the nature of problem
the effectiveness of the team, at this time, working for this leader
'the way we do things round here' - organisational values and traditions
the way communication takes place
Things affecting one's leadership style such as:
one's ability to accept uncertainty
one's own habits/preferences
one's readiness to rely on subordinates
one's own organisational philosophy
Things affecting groups and individuals such as:
their expectations of their leader
their knowledge and experience (individually and as team)
their level of involvement and commitment to the problem
their tolerance for ambiguity/uncertainty
their readiness to assume responsibility
their need for independence or to be able to influence
Teams are dependent on the skills and strengths of the team members.
Members have functional roles for which they are employed and team roles (which are more
personality based and which they adopt most naturally when working within a team).
Dr R Meredith Belbin has identified a number of team roles which together can produce a highly
effective team. Assessing and then developing these roles within a team is therefore an
important aspect of the manager/supervisor role.
Individuals usually demonstrate a preference for one particular role but can usually adopt another
when necessary. Team members should be prepared to develop their ability to undertake
secondary roles - especially in small teams. Managers should be aware of possible development
areas and provide support - for example through coaching and delegation.
Belbin described nine different roles that contribute to a successful team:
The Co-ordinator (CO)
Characteristics: These people tend to be mature and confident and are suited
to the role of chairperson. They support the team through clarification of goals
and by encouraging decision-making. They are often skilled delegators who
recognise strengths and weaknesses within the team and strive to make best
use of each member’s potential.
Possible Weaknesses: sometimes seen as manipulative or having a tendency to
offload their own work.
Best at: co-ordinating team effort, ensuring everyone has a constructive role and that the team is
working towards common/agreed goals.
The Plant (PL)
Characteristics: These people tend to be creative, imaginative and
unconventional, thinking 'outside the box' is their forte. They excel at
redefining problems and finding alternative solutions. They are good at
coming up with new idea and strategies.
Possible Weaknesses: They may be poor at communicating with people as they
are often too preoccupied and tend to ignore minor issues.
Best at: problem solving - creating new ideas/strategies and putting forward alternative solutions.
Characteristics: dynamic, thrives on challenge and pressure. Has the drive
and spirit to overcome hurdles. Shapes the direction of team effort focusing
attention on priorities and objectives.
Possible Weaknesses: Easily irritated, sometimes causes offence to other
Best at: overcoming obstacles and opposition, creating momentum and turning talk into actions.
Monitor Evaluator (ME)
Characteristics: Serious, tactical, discriminating, sees all options, forms accurate opinions
through careful analysis of problems, evaluates ideas and suggestions so
that team is able to make balanced decisions.
Possible Weaknessess: May lack drive and the ability to inspire others.
Best at: ensuring all constructive options are considered. Give them a key planning role.
Because of their skills they may sometimes act as arbitrators in the case of controversy within the
Resource Investigator (RE)
Characteristics: This role type tends to have an extrovert, enthusiastic and
communicative nature. They enjoy exploring opportunities, developing
contacts, conducting negotiations and reporting back on ideas,
developments and resources outside the group. Their external contact
networks may be useful to the team.
Possible Weaknesses: they may be too optimistic and tend to lose
enthusiasm once the initial interest has passed.
Best at: developing outside contacts and exploring new opportunities. Able to conduct
negotiations but must report back to group.
Characteristics: Turns concepts and ideas into practical working
procedures. Methodical and efficient.
Possible Weaknesses: Hesitant in difficult situations.
Best at: taking a flexible role, using versatile qualities to help with
aspects of work that others cannot manage. Their natural
diplomacy helps to overcome conflict.
Implementer (IMP) (CW)
Characteristics: Good at turning concepts and ideas into action. They need
structure, are systematic, efficient, disciplined and reliable, and tend to be
conservative in outlook.
Possible Weaknesses: Can be a bit slow to respond to new possibilities and
may be inflexible.
Best at: Organising procedures and practical actions to be taken once the
team reaches a significant decision.
Completer Finisher (CF)
Characteristics: Conscientious and meticulous they try to ensure team is
protected from mistakes of omission/commission.They enjoy work that
requires high degree of attention to detail and are important because they
maintain the sense of urgency within a team.
Possible weaknesses: They may be slow to respond to new possibilities and
tend to be over anxious. Because of their need for things to be right they are
sometimes reluctant to delegate.
Best at: Making sure the team’s work meets deadlines and conforms to standard.
Characteristics: Provides expert/technical information to group using layman's
terms. Provides a professional viewpoint.
Possible weaknesses: May dwell on technicalities and contribute only on a
Best at: Providing focus on technical issues.
LIMITATIONS OF TEAMWORK
In spite of the emphasis on teamwork in today's organisations teams are not always as effective
as we hope. This may be because of the way the team is organised - as Belbin points out there
needs to be a mixture of roles and personalities as well as functional strengths. Team members
may fail to work together because of:
over emphasis on 'getting on'
leads to 'safe' decision making
too much friction
sometimes caused by misinformation - make sure that everyone is kept up to date and is
working from the same information
Escalating disagreements can lead to 'politicking' and point-scoring
emphasis on the individual
when the organisation rewards individual effort rather than team success - people will
tend to ignore the team and focus on what will bring them most benefit
lack of influence
if the team has no power to influence decisions they will lose interest
lack of agreement at senior management level -
teams can't sort out problems between people at senior levels
too many meetings - may stifle diversity and encourage groupthink
thinking teamwork is a solution for all problems - some designated teams do not have a
common goal, are geographically distant, lack common communication systems etc -
they are not teams at all..
sometimes decisions are best made by a single person
You should I think I
have said you're should..
I don't know I don't think we
anything should waste
about it but I any more time
have to on this..