Eleven Factors That Affect the Team Environment
Systematic observation and thorough analysis of the team process as it relates to individual members is essential for understanding how teams must shape their dynamics in order to improve overall performance. The team observation and analysis process focuses managers on the various ways individual members interact with one another within the team environment.
Teams respond to issues differently. Responses can result in disruptive conduct such as personal dominance, obstinacy, controlling, outright fighting and a host of other negative behaviors.
Task and maintenance roles allow individual teams to deal with issues and influences in a more structured and productive manner. However, managers must observe how their individual teams interact before and after structures are put into place in order to determine the increase in their performance output and productivity.
The team observation and analyzing process includes the following factors and components:
Leaders need to understand that individuals who comprise the makeup of an individual team have differences in personalities and backgrounds and that these—along with gender and age differences—all affect the group dynamics within the team structure. Differences in functional backgrounds and commitment to collective goals also contribute to a level of cohesion or overall conflict within the team environment.
Successful teams need organizational direction, information and resources. Problems can occur when organizational missions are unclear, tasks poorly defined, and teams not given sufficient autonomy. Problems also result when rewards are given to individual members and not collectively to recognize overall team results.
Influencers, Communication and Participation
It is important for leaders to identify the influencers and established subgroups and coalitions within individual team environments. There is a natural tendency for individuals within the team to form alliances to the exclusion of other members, and most team environments will experience their influence and control. Influencers and alliances impact team communication patterns as certain individual input is sought and heard over and above other sources of dialogue, ideas, comments and suggestions.
As within any healthy team environment there is a balance of all opinions and feedback, leaders must be aware of who has the most impact on the team’s actions and decisions and take action to ensure those who have been ignored are heard.
Climate and Personal Behaviors
Leaders must observe individual team members for signs of anger, irritation, frustration, boredom, defensiveness and withdrawal. As within a healthy team environment, individual team members should be free to probe others with regard to their thoughts and feelings – such emotions are indicative of problems that must be addressed.
When reviewing the climate, it is essential for leaders to also determine whether conflict is suppressed or encouraged: solutions cannot be reached unless there is healthy debate and open conflict that allows individual teams to reach their optimal performance levels.
In most team environments there will be individual members who hold opinions and viewpoints that run counter to those of the majority. In a healthy team environment, these opinions are valued and sought out rather than suppressed and discouraged.
Leaders should monitor the power structure within their teams to determine whether leadership responsibilities are assumed by one person or shared by the entire membership. They should be watchful for power struggles and conflicts resulting from a lack of leadership within the team environment.
Task and Maintenance Functions
Healthy teams have task flow and maintenance roles that are fulfilled by all members. Leaders should determine whether specific roles and responsibilities are being fulfilled competently and accurately, and whether the individuals assigned to these roles and tasks take their responsibilities seriously.
Leaders should be well acquainted with the decision making processes used within their individual teams. Key decisions are generally made during the first meeting, which often then tend to shape and determine progress. These key initial decisions are often hard to reverse. Leaders should also guard against groupthink, where pressure is put on all team members to agree and conform to the actions of the entire team and little or no dissention is allowed.
Leaders should encourage useful, healthy and appropriate conflict over substantive issues, while taking time to improve personal relations among individual team members when negative emotional eruptions become apparent. Conflict is healthy only when personalities and personal issues are removed from the issue.
All individual team members come to the team setting with personal needs and issues that get played out within the environment, including:
- Personal identity within the team
- Goals and needs
- Power and control
Leaders should monitor the atmosphere created by their individual teams. Within some teams, members may prefer a business-only approach, while in others a more social atmosphere might be prevalent. The atmosphere is also shaped by whether a single individual controls the team or leadership is shared collectively.
Excerpt: Building Team Roles & Direction: Pinpoint Leadership Skill Development Training Series (Majorium Business Press, Stevens Point, WI, 2011) $ 17.95 USDRelated: The Use of Teams Requires Self-Discipline
Timothy F. Bednarz, Ph.D. | Author | Publisher | Majorium Business Press
Author of Great! What Makes Leaders Great: What They Did, How They Did It and What You Can Learn From It (Finalist – 2011 Foreword Reviews‘ Book of the Year)
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