Friday, June 18, 2010

Effective Teambuilding for Organizational Success

“Teamwork is the ability to work together toward a common vision. The ability to direct individual accomplishments toward organizational objectives. It is the fuel that allows common people to attain uncommon results." -Andrew Carnegie

Team building and team work is the key driver in organizational productivity. People acting alone as what we call “lone warriors” or “corporate heroes” who carry the team and company to success with their genius does not exist! Successful organizations know they have to build teams with people of complementary skills to work towards achieving the corporate objectives and goals. Teams are comprised of members with varying personality and behavior styles, different skill sets, generational differences in approach and priorities, and cultural differences. It’s safe to assume that anyone who works understands the challenges that can be caused by differences among people in the workplace.

Why teams?

Teams are formed when a combination of skills, knowledge and expertise are required to undertake a particular task. A single individual is unable to accomplish this.
Teams are formed for many purposes such as facing challenges like falling profits, improvements in quality standards, working on a new projects, tackling major change initiatives and cross functional co-ordination in large and complex organizations, or planning a major upcoming event, just to name a few. In every work environment consisting of more than one person, teams are formed and team work is a must. However, building an effective team is a process. It does not happen overnight and a priority and focus has to be placed on it.

Stages of team development

Tuckman and Jenson have described the sequence of the team evolution in their work which is the best model to understand and manage teams. A Team has to go through a certain process before it can settle down and work effectively. Understanding the stages of team development is key to successful team management.

Stage #1 Forming
This is the stage when the team members assemble and get together. People are very polite, get acquainted with each other and try to assess their own roles in the team. Uppermost in the minds of the new team members at the formation stage is where and how they fit in with the team. This stage is marked by easy acceptance of each other, avoiding controversies and direction and support from the team leader in settling down.

Stage #2 Storming
This stage introduces conflicts and competition as each individual begins to start work on the plan. Stress of the work with individual differences on issues crop up. Sometimes the issues are cultural, ethnic or simply an issue of asserting one’s own strength in the overall team equation. Interpersonal and communication issues dominate this stage leading to a flare up of conflict and confrontation. The leader needs utmost restraint and maturity at this stage of team development. He/she has to bring forth all his/her networking skills, emotional intelligence and people management abilities in creating the right atmosphere, create winning relationships between team members and bring their focus back on team vision and goals.

Stage #3 Norming
As conflicts begin to get resolved, the work flow picks up speed. People settle down to more harmonious working relationships. The focus now shifts to common team objectives and performance related issues. A cohesive team which knows its strengths and weaknesses now moves to peak performance leveraging the complementary skills of its members. This is also the stage where the team leader begins to delegate more effectively. Giving the team members a certain level of functional autonomy leads to unleashing the creativity of its members making for a high performing team.

Stage #4 Performing
This is the final stage where a perfect group identity is created. There is independence and interdependence, learning as well as sharing knowledge, speed and efficiency. All glitches have been smoothened out by the team leader. There are very high levels of autonomy giving rise to a successful team leader understanding the different stages of the group formation and development. He/she manages the team effectively by moderating his/her team managerial styles according to the stage of development in which the team is passing through.

During each stage of team development, one thing remains constant and that is change. Change and challenges in the workplace are imminent and how teams react is what determines the outcome. Teams that are developed effectively are built to last.

There is no better feeling as a team builder than to watch teams go through the different stages listed above. Teams start as a group of individuals but gel as a team as they progress through their programs and every day applications back in the work environment. It is so important that leaders focus on building teams so that sand each individual can go to work happy. Life is too short to work in a miserable, non productive work environment.

In closing, I think our CEO, Brian Jones says it best: “There are employees, and there are teams. Employees have a boss, teams have leaders. Teams make dreams a reality.”

Michelle Jones is the Executive Vice President of Adventure Training Concepts, a professional Teambuilding, Training, and Leadership Development Company headquartered in Naples, FL. To learn more about the ATC Discovery Challenge Course and other training programs visit