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This question is not trivial. If you work with others on a daily basis – which is quite likely the case – and especially if you often refer to your group as a “team”, ask yourself: Are we really a team?
Characteristics of a team
I suggest the following criteria to check whether you really are (or should be) a team or – and here’s the crucial difference – you’re actually more of a work group or another kind of organizational entity that doesn’t have team characteristics.
The single most important characteristic that defines a team is whether its members have task interdependence. If tasks are not interdependent, a simple work group will suffice in place of a team. Sales region west, sales region east: the results are simply the sum of the two parts, not less – but also not more.
In contrast, imagine a product development team at a manufacturing company. Or a team of doctors jointly performing a complex heart surgery. (Top management teams are a different animal altogether and we’ll discuss them on another occasion).
Task interdependencies result from challenges that do not have standard answers but require diverse skills, joint problem solving, close alignment, and reflective practice in order to reach a common goal. A common goal, that is, in contrast to the sum of individual goals that can be added up. Task interdependence also means that there can’t be a single team leader calling the shots and giving guidance and the right answers, as well as determining the plan and having the control to pull things off. Instead it means decentralized leadership with each team member proactively contributing, listening, relating to, and aligning with the other team members to reach the common goal.
In an environment that demands both continuous change and collaboration to tackle complex issues, the capability to team is crucial. This teaming capability has several dimensions that can enable high-performing teams to thrive if they’re practiced in the right way.
Pillars of effective teaming
So, if your answer to the above question is yes, we are a team – or yes, we should and need to be a team – I suggest that you:
take a proactive approach to your purpose and goals
consider team size and skills
reflect on your own and your team members’ leadership skills and the areas of joint accountability
build trust and sound relationships among team members
take a deliberate approach towards tension and conflict
Check out the free preview of our Team Kit by clicking on the link below.