Why and how team cohesiveness is essential at school or at work?
Are you a student in high school or college or a young professional? Do you have homework, case studies, presentations, workshops, or projects to manage together with your fellows? Do you have difficulties to make your point and contribute the way you wish when you are part of a team? Do you feel tensions, conflicts, people hiding what they think or feel? Do you find it hard to lead them properly and work efficiently? Do you find it tricky to foster inspiring team dynamics?
If yes, I invite you to read this article. It will help you to find answers and learn to better cooperate and work together, in a trustworthy and kind atmosphere. It will help you find keys to become a more performing and effective team.
What is a team exactly?
Let us define what a team is exactly. According to Katzenbach et Smith, “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 hold themselves mutually accountable.
On the contrary, “a working group is where members are coming together primarily to share information, to share best practices, or perspectives, and to make decisions to help each individual perform within his or her area of responsibility. So, there is not necessarily a shared accountability, there is no common purpose, at least there is not like a small group common purpose. Ultimately at the end, each individual is making their own decisions about how they want to move forward and there is no collaboration, essentially.”
See the difference between individual interests and collective goals?
Team’s maturity and development stages
When you join a team, wherever you are, at school, for a sport, or at work, it can help you to recognize that all teams go through some phases. And those steps are for some uncomfortable. A team goes through several stages before becoming a highly performing team. Obviously as human beings, we cannot get rid of our emotions, thoughts, behaviours, and beliefs. Bruce Tuckman talks about 5 stages of team development. Those stages are more or less taking time, depending on the team members’ knowledge about this concept, their background, the way they are managed, their personality…
Forming: Team members have just met. Their only commonality is the project or objective they are working towards.
Storming: As the team begins to work together, they move into the “storming” stage. This stage is not avoidable. Every team goes through this part. In this stage, the team members compete with each other for status and acceptance of their ideas. They have different opinions on what should be done and how it should be done, which causes conflict within the team.
Norming: When the team moves into the “norming” stage, they are beginning to work more effectively as a team. They are no longer focused on their individual goals, but rather are focused on developing a way of working together (processes and procedures). They respect each other’s opinions and value their differences. They begin to see the value in those differences on the team.
Performing: In the “performing” stage, teams are functioning at a very high level. The focus is on reaching the goal as a group. The team members have gotten to know each other, and they trust and rely on each other.
Adjourning: In the “adjourning” stage the project is coming to an end and the team members are moving off into different directions. There shall be time for the team to celebrate the end of the project and capture best practices for future use. This also provides the team the opportunity to say good-bye because there might also be sadness to cope with here.
Once you have recognized this process, you may feel a bit more comfortable about the way you feel and act within a team. It is ok and totally normal to feel lonely at the beginning of a project, and to go through frictions with your co-workers. It is all worth it because it proves you are going through the steps towards high performing teams!
Does this concept help you to step back and accept the current situation with your team?
Better know each other to better work together
Do you see a bit better what team cohesiveness stands for? Wherever you are, at school or at work, teams go through those stages. Taking the time to work on the team shortens the time the team spends on each stage, and makes it more likely to reach the expected results and goals, in a pleasant way.
I worked for about 20 years in project & team management. I am not far from the truth if I say that 95% of project’s failure comes from people and the way they interact with each other. Now, when I coach executives, managers, co-workers or students and I ask them how they are doing with their ongoing projects, they often answer: “The aim of the project is very interesting and inspiring. However, we have little time to succeed. When we meet with the team, it is difficult to avoid tensions and long debates that do come to an end and constructive decisions. It makes us slow down too much…”
Are those people stuck in the storming stage?
If yes, the solution is to spend time to get to know each other. It will make the team work better together and reach the level of high performing team!
Patrick Lencioni, in his book “the 5 dysfunctions of a team” explains that working on team cohesiveness is not a waste of time. Because a strong and functioning team is more performing and efficient.
Indeed, at the beginning of the process, new teams tend to be a bit irritated to spend time working on interacting better with the other members. But after a while, results come, and this time spent together pays off when members see how fast they come to common and efficient decisions. And last but not least, team cohesiveness is a great competitive advantage because as P. Lencioni quotes: “If you could get all the people in an organization rowing in the same direction, you could dominate any industry, in any market, against any competition, at any time.”
To conclude, do not hesitate to spend time together. If you feel the need, get help from a coach who will use processes and tools to make you interact in a protective and trustful manner. You will feel better entitled to express yourself freely and openly.
There are various psychometric tools, which support team building process. They help you better know yourself and thus, better know and accept other people’s personality and behaviours. Namely: MBTI®, DISC®, Processcom®, Comcolors® and so on.
Lencioni’s pyramid: a thorough tool for cohesiveness and performing teams.
Of course, there are several teambuilding concepts on the market. I choose to talk about Lencioni’s 5 dysfunction of a team, because I believe it is one of the most comprehensive concepts. Teams eventually benefits from a better cohesiveness, they feel purpose in what they do. It provides a working framework, that all members have accepted and shared. And it is a wonderful team regulation tool. Let us watch this video, which shows those benefits:
What did you think about it? I am sure some of the situations rang a bell to you, didn’t they?
- Lencioni talks about 5 dysfunctions to consider when willing to make a team work.
Let me explain the concept and its advantages:
A cohesive team brings a competitive advantage compared to competitors. It is not easy to factually measure it. However, it brings significant results after a while. A team saves time and money when it gets rid of political games, ambiguity, internal competition, and everlasting debates about same topics. The team also work in a more enjoyable environment, where people are closer, engaged, and loyal.
- TRUST: The first layer, the foundations of all great teams, is trust. Strong teams who succeed beyond expectations are vulnerable with each other and they do not fear consequences of being themselves in front of other members. They admit their mistakes, their weaknesses, and their concerns without fear of reprisal. They ask the other members for help when needed and use their energy to accomplish the work to be done rather than controlling their behaviours and entering in political and manipulative discussions.
- CONFLICT: If we do not trust one another, then we are not going to engage in open, constructive, ideological conflict. And we will just continue to preserve a sense of artificial harmony. Our ability to engage in passionate, unfiltered debate about what we need to do to succeed will determine our future as much as any products we develop or partnerships we sign. Here we talk about constructive debates, where people dare to share ideas, disagreements; question and challenge openly and kindly the other members. We do not talk about egos striving to be the one being right, attacking other people and pulling them down. We talk about caring about the team, and therefore discussing every topic that is required to take the right decisions for the company. When there are no passionate debates, haven’t you noticed as meetings get boring? Meetings should be as interesting as good movies!
- COMMITMENT: Now it is about buy-in and clarity. When a team discuss around a topic freely and have been through all questions and opinions, then the team can take the right decisions. Those decisions will be accepted by all members, although some might disagree. This is possible only if all members have been heard sincerely and authentically, and their opinions have been considered. That means every single aspect of the problem has been reviewed and decision can be taken without regret or ambiguity. Consensus is horrible because it takes too much time and energy in collecting data and everlasting meetings. It can make the team miss opportunities, be late versus rivals and it prevents organization to have clear and common guidelines and priorities, as members can interpret the decisions in different ways and cascade them to their teams. One decision is better than none because, if everything is crucial, nothing is eventually.
- ACCOUNTABILITY: Once we achieve clarity and buy-in, it is then that we have to hold each other accountable for what we sign up to do, for high standards of performance and behaviour. Most people hate to do it, especially when it comes to a peer’s behaviour, because they want to avoid interpersonal discomfort. There is nothing about chasing people here. It is about being all accountable for collective results. It is about taking responsibility for each other, improve, share and tackle issues together, with respect and without escalating to the leader insignificant matters.
- RESULTS: If a team trust each other, engage in constructive debates, buy-in clear decisions, hold each other accountable for results, then this team will naturally tend to prioritize collective objectives, rather than individual interests and careers. “In a soccer team or in an executive team, no matter how good an individual on the team might be feeling he or she is, if the team loses, everyone loses.”
Do you understand now why I like this model so much? All layers are co-dependent and obviously, it all starts with people.
Foundations rely on trust!
To conclude, I built a table where you can find a summary of concrete actions you can run to achieve all steps. Here again we talk about cohesiveness, purpose, framework, and team regulation, which lead to great results. All that in a kind, fun and performing atmosphere. I hope you and your team will enjoy it!
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