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Unas spotlight: To team or not to team, that is the question…

To team or not to team, that is the question…

I have encountered a lot of ‘teams’ that upon further investigation actually were not teams, they were ‘work groups’. What would I use to distinguish one from the other? People working in a work group may add value to the line manager and the organisation but not to each other. Sometimes it’s perfectly OK for a work group to be a work group and attempting to make them a team is a futile effort and in fact could even be damaging to motivation and performance.

So how do you know whether a team or work group is more appropriate to provide maximum value? Some things to look for are:

A Work Group:

  • Usually is accountable for a very narrow set of tasks and activities that sit within a common set of strengths and talents, e.g. an IT help desk that deals with a particular software.
  • Are rewarded for individual results.

Now the work group mentioned above would be more effective if somebody was reporting back the issues and had one or more people working on fixing bugs in the software. I’m assuming that improving the software is done by a different team or indeed even a different company.

A Team:

  • Can add more value by working together and collaborating to complete different aspects of the team’s key accountabilities, e.g. a marketing team where one person puts together the strategy, another conducts research, another data analysis, someone works on joint ventures, a different person does the public relations, some else does the graphic design, etc.
  • Are rewarded more for team results than indivual results.

Sometimes people are called a team, treated as a team, rewarded as a team yet actually act as if they are a work group. If their accountabilities suit being a work group then apart from the waste of money in being subjected to teamworking days every now again that’s fine. However if their accountabilities and strengths suit being a team (in my experience is most of the time) then they usually won’t be very effective.

I have had several people coming up to me after I’ve given a talk on Talent Dynamics and saying that they wished their boss had heard about people working to their strengths and getting a team in flow. Usually the boss in question believes that for a team to be effective, everybody should always be pitching in and helping each other out so they all need to be able to do all the activities that the team is accountable for and do them on a daily basis. This is bound to have most members of the team out of flow most of the time!

I understand their concern about being left in the lurch in an emergency. You can still have team members prepared for what to do should an emergency happen and they need to temporarily step in for somebody if they’re on holiday or off sick. (Though the chances are that when the team is truly in flow that ‘emergencies‘ will happen less often!) It is entirely possible to have a massive increase in team performance when each person pays attention to adding effective value to each other.

The attitude of the leader of a team in flow is one of creation. Often in the situation described by the frustrated team members the person is coming from a very reactive standpoint, one of lack and limitations. Breaking through those limitations by focusing on building trust and flow is what allows Talent Dynamics clients to double and even tripple their results.

By the way, the persons in question who approached me were nearly always looking for another position. They couldn’t possibly get into flow in their current role so planned to go where they would be allowed to do their best work and really add some value.

Food for thought… Why might people be leaving your organisation? Is your team truly a work group or team and which structure would produce the best results?

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