How to create an effective team work environment

Effective teamwork is an essential aspect of any organization's success.

And it is something that every organization strives for. Whether it's a band, a baseball team, or a Fortune 500 company, we have all heard success stories of teams who revolutionized the world.

The way a team plays as a whole determines its success. You may have the greatest bunch of individual stars in the world, but if they don't play together, the club won't be worth a dime.– Babe Ruth *1

It is an essential leadership competency for any size organization to have the ability to build and lead high performing teams. Unless you are running a one-person show, effective teamwork in the workplace accomplishes much more than any one individual can. Developing a capable team in your organization can seem like a simple and straightforward task; however, it can be challenging to execute and put into practice.

What does 'team' even mean?

So what is a team? Katzenbach and Smith (1993) came up with a definition: "A team is a small number of people with complementary skills who are committed to a common purpose, performance goals, and approach for which they are mutually accountable." *2

For the team to perform better, there are some key factors they need to thrive. A model that suggests that many factors influence a team's productivity and cohesiveness. *3 *4. It will help you understand how teams perform and how to maximize their performance. This I-M-O-I model works with an input, mediators/process and output see figure 1 below.

Figure 1: The Input-Mediator-Outcome-Input (IMOI) Team Effectiveness Framework.

Input

The model has an input *3 *4. The input exists of culture, team members, and their skills and knowledge, and attitude and about the task the team gets. What is crucial for a company when you want a great team is a culture. Culture is mainly influenced by the founder, managers, and other management employees of the organization because of their role in decision-making and strategic direction. Be clear about what you want. Also, be continuous about who sits on leadership positions and who decides what. This can make or break a team. Team members' skills, attitude, and knowledge is essential. Who are the team members, what knowledge, competences, qualities, and attitudes do individual team members have? What does the team consist of? There has to be a degree of common beliefs, expectations, and perceptions of knowledge and skills of members. Team members are viewed as unique people with invaluable experiences, points of view, knowledge, and opinions to contribute. After all, the purpose of forming a team is to take advantage of the differences.

Mediators

In the middle of the framework there is the process or mediators *3 *4. After the input the process starts. This exist of leadership, goals, communication, consensus, strategy, trust and conflict

Leadership

When leading, always work harder than you preach. Your employees look up to you, and you are their leader, so behave like one. Lead by example, listen to their problems, give them the solutions, show them you care, that you are a member of the team. Any project manager leading a project and a team to success should be a role model, thus showing an example to team members. At the same time, in an efficient team, a manager is not only a leader; he or she is also a member like everyone else who is not afraid to do minor tasks. Realizing that a manager performs the same scope of work, individual team members will work harder, which certainly will improve efficiency.

Goals

Set clear and specific goals. The team needs to know and understand what they are working towards. The leader must be clear on setting such goals. For ultimate performance, you need universal buy-in from each team member. A commitment to agreeing on the mission. This sense of purpose and clarity sets your team up in a space for success.

Communication

The communication is open, honest, and respectful. There is just enough communication, not too little, and not too much. If not enough is shared, parts of the mission will fall to pieces. If there is over communication (rare as it is), your team will feel overwhelmed and disengage with the set task. People should be able to express their thoughts, opinions, and potential solutions to problems freely. When team members feel that they are being heard and listened to by team members who are attempting to understand, opportunities to ask questions, formally or informally need to be encouraged. There needs to be space for team members to listen to each other, hear each other, and then form their responses. If this level of clear communication is instilled in the team, all challenges can be overcome.

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Consensus

Although it takes much longer to reach this, this method ultimately offers better decisions and higher productivity as it ensures the involvement of every employee at all stages of work. *5

Strategy

Planning and strategy the approach of the team on the goals tasks.

Trust is crucial

When trust is present, people step forward and do their best work together, efficiently. They align around a common purpose, take risks, think out of the box, have each other's backs, and communicate openly and honestly. If a team cannot trust each other, the flow of information is interrupted. The skills of your highly talented team get too lost to the team member's agenda or insecurities, rather than achieving the teams' collective goal. *6

Conflict is ok

Some amount of conflict is inevitable on the team with a variety of experts. Conflict is necessary and helpful to problem-solving, as long as it is given a space to be shared, and a resolution can be reached. Clashing personalities or opposing viewpoints can bring new thoughts and discussions on aspects of a project that had not been imagined before. The type of conflict that is not good for a team is the unspoken resentment that can erupt in an outburst, or even more deadly, quiet mutiny or deviation from agreed-upon roles, tasks, and goals. It is important that the team can openly discuss differing views without it, resulting in a shouting match or hurt feelings.

Output - Input

Then there is also an output in this framework. The outcome is more productive teams, better or more tasks - product outcome, more content, cohesion, and learning outcomes like skills and knowledge*3 *4. This circle of input, the mediators and output, as described, will repeat itself daily, weekly, and monthly; it is not bound to a specific time or project. It is an ongoing organic process that needs to be facilitated and guided. As this process unfolds, however, the team members will begin to trust and support one another and share their skill sets and effort to more effectively complete your organization's goals. Every day if you do it right, the team will be more effective in what they do and how to do it. They will get to know each other and build a sustainable and effective work environment. In the process, they will learn new skills, attitude, and gain more knowledge. Also, there will be more cohesion in the group. So the group feels more like one. Cohesion improves teamwork between members, but that performance quality influences cohesion more than cohesion affects performance. The working group may not be successful because of coherence, but instead, it can be cohesive because it performs well. *4

Footnotes:

1 Chompunuch, Sudapa, and Vincent Ribière. 2018. "Ingredients of Team Creativity." International Conference on Management, Leadership & Governance, 359.

2 Sullivan, Erin, Zara Ibrahim, Andrew Ellner, and Lindsay Giesen. 2016. "Management Lessons for High-Functioning Primary Care Teams." Journal of Healthcare Management 61 (6): 449.

3 Daniel R. Ilgen, John R. Hollenbeck, Michael Johnson, and Dustin Jundt. 2005. “TEAMS IN ORGANIZATIONS: From Input-Process-Output Models to IMOI Models”. Annual Review of Psychology 56(1):517-43.

4 Donelson R. Forsyth. (2014). “Group Dynamics”. 6th edition.

5 10 Tips for Successful Teamwork https://www.thebalancecareers.com/tips-for-better-teamwork-1919225

6 Why Trust Is Critical to Team Success. https://www.ccl.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/05/why-trust-is-critical-team-success-research-report.pdf5

Figure 1 https://www.researchgate.net/figure/The-Input-Mediator-Outcome-Input-IMOI-Team-Effectiveness-Framework_fig2_282914301

Odette Oosterkamp

odette@baseflow.com