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Team Building Skills

Why Teams?

The concept of teams in the workplace came as a result of the Hawthorne Studies of the late 1920s and early 1930s. Researchers in the study found that when workers felt a part of a team, their productivity increased. From this research, employers learned that they needed to help create a sense of group identity for their employees. This group identity gave employees a feeling of support and unity. Because of the Hawthorne Studies, managers' roles changed, and they began to show more interest in their employees as individuals and consult with them about processes and changes.

Do you prefer to work on your own or with a team?  This is a typical interview question, and you must know how to answer it honestly. Selecting the right candidate during the interview process is extremely important because a company's most important resource is its employees. Matching employees with harmonious positions on functioning teams is in the best interest of everyone. In today's business environment, it is very common for employees to work with their coworkers in teams. Today very few decisions are made by a single person. Successful companies operate with teams of people who combine their ideas, judgments, and strategies. Teams can be created for many projects such as planning a conference or improving service. Teams need to share information, manage projects, conduct meetings, and complete tasks. An effective team can improve efficiency, increase profits, and boost morale in the workplace. However, working on a team does take more effort than working independently because each person must devote time to building and maintaining relationships with the other team members.

Types of Teams

Limited-life teams are created for specific purposes, and when those purposes have been fulfilled, the teams are disbanded. Examples of limited life teams would include a development team designing a new product or a task force created to resolve a specific problem. Ongoing teams have no identified ending point. An example of an ongoing team would be a department team that meets regularly to plan, review goals, and assess performance. There are three basic team types:

Many people believe that working in teams allows employees to be more creative by bringing in different views and opinions. This type of environment allows for diversity, and diversity results in finding the best way to achieve goals. Not only does diversity allow people with complementary skills to come together, diversity also allows for fresh ideas and new perspectives. Research (Sommers, Samuel R., On Racial Diversity and Group Division Making: Identifying Multiple Effects of Racial Composition on Jury Deliberations, Tufts University) has shown that racially diverse groups are better at decision making than homogenous groups, and this has benefits for everyone. Effective teams can increase motivation, and all members can share responsibility for and celebrate in their successes. Some advantages to working on a team are distributing the work, reinforcing individual skills, and strengthening connections.

Distributing the Work

Sometimes the task to be completed is so large that the work must be divided (or shared) in order for the task to be accomplished on time. Such a task may be able to be divided into parts so that it can be distributed to individual members. Then each member can work independently, and the parts can be combined to accomplish the end results. A good example of this would be CD production. The CDs can be created at the same time as the labeling and paper materials. Then the finished CD can be packaged and shipped. Other tasks cannot be divided, such as writing a narrative description. While there would be individual tasks of drafting, proofreading, and distributing, the actual final writing would best be accomplished by one individual.

Reinforcing Individual Skills

This can also be thought of as "the team is more than the sum of its parts." By combining people with different skills, not only are different views and perspectives given, but also skills can be combined and reinforced. For example, a technical manual for a new software program could use the skills of a programmer, to make sure the technical aspects are included accurately, and the skills of a good writer. Having only the programmer might cause the manual to be too technical for the end user to understand while having a writer only might not include enough of the technical information for operating the software program.

Working as a team also allows people to gain new skills or expand their skills by working closely with others who are very competent. For example, if a project required a database be developed to record information, a team member with no database skills could learn the basics of how to design a database, and a person with minimal database skills could learn more skills from the expert.

Strengthening Connections

There are times when one person could easily accomplish a task, but using a team would be better for the work environment as a whole. One example would be when a manager has to make a decision that will impact other employees such as redesigning the central office area to accommodate another workspace. Allowing the employees to have a voice in the decision will help them feel involved. This type of teamwork strengthens the connections between the group members. It also involves soliciting participation and enthusiasm (or "buy in") for the project.

Next section:  The Workplace

Team Building Skills
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Velda Arnaud, Ph.D.
Executive Director
Lead, Educate, Serve Society

Last updated 10/4/14 (va)
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