Monday, December 27, 2010

Working in a Team - How to get it right?

The way we define work and work places has taken a significant amount of transformation over a period of years. Working as individuals in isolation has changed face to working in teams at tandem. Business organizations spend a lot of time, effort and money in getting the most talented workforce. But then, did organizations get it right, with their workforce getting tasks accomplished as team? It is a million dollar question, to which most of us do not have a strong affirmative answer yet. All of us, are still working towards creating a perfectly cohesive teams to build great work places.

Alright, so how do we get this right? To understand how to get it right, it is essential to understand how do we get it wrong in the first place. There are 'five dysfunctions of a team' which are more dangerous than the most dangerous pathogens attacks. They are interrelated to each other like and even if one goes wrong, cause destruction to the workplace harmony!

Absence of trust

It is universally acclaimed that the basis for any successful relationship is the element of trust. The same holds good for workplace relationships. Contrary to the classical definition of trust, absence of trust is actually the dysfunction of individuals not being genuinely open to one another about one's mistakes, misconceptions and weaknesses. It is the understanding and acceptance of one simple fact which could set everything straight. Everyone has vulnerabilities, which need to be accepted and acknowledged. Once this is in place, all inhibitions are shed and establish that there is no reason to be protective or careful about self. This leads to the building of more open, accepting and accommodating teams.

Fear of Conflict

Like in case of any relationship, to be genuine and build on the foundations of trust, both sides of the coin are essential - acceptance and conflict. Conflict in this context means healthy and effective engagement of multiple viewpoints. Conflicts are thought to be best avoided in workplaces as they are viewed as destructive to the smooth functioning of a team. But the reality is that, conflicting ideas and healthy debate bring in excellent outcomes to work. They must be encouraged and not avoided. A point to ponder here is that conflict here means, conflict of concepts and ideas , individuals and personalities. The moment an individual is comfortable in being expressive and taking different view points objectively, the team as a whole is one step closer to their target of being the perfectly cohesive team.

Lack of Commitment

Age old myths - that consensus in decisions is important to the team's functioning and the team has to be predictable. In the event of seeking consensus, teams delay decisions and hunts for every bit of data that will make every individual agree. The fact of the matter is that a complete buy-in from every individual is not possible. Also, to be predictable as a team, a certainty in decisions is needed. In the seek of certainty, decisions a made no matter they are right or wrong. In the process of achieving consensus and certainty, the fundamental objective of creating clarity and priority for the entire team is lost. Aligning the team to a common goal is sidelined. Commitment (as a team and not individual) is lost.

Avoidance of Accountability

The very reason that team members tend to avoid interpersonal discomfort leads to holding themselves from having difficult conversations. This stops them from wholehearted commit in the team effort. It is imperative that individuals goals do not align with team goals. Members tend to lower expectations on each other and eventually, there is hesitation to hold one another accountable.

Inattention to Results

This is the ultimate dysfunction of a team. Other than obvious results like that financial goals, sales targets or shareholder profits, there are less obvious but more important goals the team must pay attention too namely, team status and individual status. Being a part of a team is merely not sufficient. Self-preservation in a group is not constructive. Both of these cause ripples in the greater good of the team, the attention and progress towards collective results.

There are multiple tools and techniques by which organizations can overcome these functions but the first step is understanding the dysfunctions. This understanding and admittance itself takes us one step closer to our goal - harmonious working teams!

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