In today’s competitive business environment, teams are a serious business in organizations (Al-Rawi, 2008). As a consequence, fostering teamwork is a top priority for most leaders. In general, the team enables organizations to involve employees more, leverage human resources, and encouraging innovation.
The use of teams, however, comes with several challenges that must be addressed. To ensure that there are unity and commitment, it is essential for managers to encourage each team to come up with a vision, a mission, and values that are well aligned to those of the organization.
Drawing from a study by Loo and Thorpe (2002), teamwork can be very stressful for team leaders and members alike. Seemingly, this is as a result of interpersonal and task conflicts, pressures of deadlines and performance standards, and resource scarcity, among many other factors that typically threaten the effectiveness and success of teams.
The greatest challenge for executive team management is to proactively create an environment that encourages team members to be committed and eager to give their best while working on team assignments.
Effective Team Management
In general, being able to create and manage teams effectively can lead to greater performance throughout an organization. This notwithstanding, it is up to executive management to understand how best to make use of teams. Without effective team management, it is apparent that teams may fail to deliver the desired results.
Despite the fact that managers have a very critical role in ensuring that teams are successful, they require an elaborate plan to guide their activities. To a large extent, effective team management requires effective communication by managers and active participation by team members (Harvard Business School Press, 2013). On the other hand, ineffective communication leads to misunderstandings and makes it difficult for teams to realize goals.
Arguably, effective team management begins with building an effective team. A study by Mealiea and Baltazar (2005), established a seven-step process meant to guide managers in their efforts to build successful teams. The first step entails the identification of team characteristics that may lead to better results. To a large extent, successful teams tend to have a number of desirable characteristics that can easily be integrated into a given work environment.
The characteristics that define a team are, however, determined by what the team is supposed to do. It also depends on the level of the team within an organization and whether the team is temporary or permanent.
When forming a temporary team, for example, a manager is usually interested in technical and interpersonal skills of potential members that are of the essence to what the team has to accomplish. It is also typical for a manager, in this case, to be interested in the actual skills of each individual team member. Effective temporary teams must thus be well balanced in terms of the skills and attributes of its members.
The second step involves the measurement of the prevailing team climate characteristics in order to produce a team profile. Ostensibly, there is a tight link between positive team characteristics and the level of effectiveness. It is thus imperative for managers to determine the extent to which desirable characteristics may be found in an existing work environment. Based on research findings, the availability of such information is very critical when it comes to measuring the growth in a team as well as its ability to innovate.
In addition, such information forms a strong basis for recruiting new members to the team. According to Mealiea and Baltazar (2005), the required information may be collected using questionnaires, observation, or interviews. Regardless of the approach followed in gathering information, it is important for managers to ensure that team characteristic being measured are vital for success. It is thus essential to have a very high level of precision when collecting information.
The next step has to do with the identification of deficient team characteristics. There is a possibility that desirable team characteristics may be missing in a given work environment. In the process of building a team, managers must establish whether the characteristics needed to ensure team effectiveness are in place.
An approach similar to that used when measuring the prevailing team climate characteristics may be used, and information may be gathered through the use of questionnaires, interviews, or observation. In the event that desirable characteristics are found to be missing within the work environment, managers must seek alternative options. Managers may also be required to devise strategies for addressing the identified deficiencies.
The fourth step involves the use of criteria established earlier to choose the right approach to change deficient climate characteristics. It is important for managers to come up with a checklist that may be used by team leaders to cover up for deficient characteristics.
Furthermore, it is necessary for team leaders to understand the strengths, weaknesses, and the various aspirations of the team members. It is also the responsibility of managers to locate the required information using whatever means available to them. Managers should also have good knowledge about the history of the organization, its traditions, and cultures.
The next step entails the identification of strategies for building teams that are capable of overcoming deficiencies in the characteristics of a team. Typically, most organizations depend on external consultants to create teams for them. Oftentimes, external consultants take individuals meant to be part of a team to an isolated place and through a series of rigorous activities, create a team.
Allegedly, this should enable employees to come back to the organization with a focus to work and excel as members of one team. Unfortunately, the use of external consultants fails to create a cohesive and committed team. In general, using external consultants fails to transfer desirable characteristics or behaviors to the work environment.
The sixth step involves the use of already established guidelines to select the correct strategy for improving deficient climate characteristics. Ordinarily, this step enables managers to use various improvement strategies to deal with any deficiencies identified.
Despite the fact that strategies used for improvement may not be very effective in ensuring that a work environment appropriate for the success of teams exists, such strategies form a strong basis of enhancement. It is advisable for managers to make use of existing criteria to determine the best approach for improvement. The use of questionnaires, interviews, and observation is also encouraged in this step.
The final step is concerned with implementation and assessment. As noted by Mealiea and Baltazar (2005), implementation is central to any team-building process. To a large extent, factors underlying the implementation process are the same despite the fact that teams are generally established for different purposes.
It is also necessary for a manager to do a continuous assessment so as to ensure that teams are delivering as expected. In the event that a team fails to realize its objectives, it is necessary to review its operations and make appropriate changes.
Factors that Affect Effective Team Management
Despite the benefits that result from the use of teams in organizations, the concept presents a number of challenges for leaders. Although it may appear simple, the task of managing a team is generally complex and depends on a number of factors that must never be ignored when teams are being constituted.
For example, while managing a homogenous team may be less taxing, the management of a diverse team of individuals is often complicated and must be handled carefully. Expert knowledge is certainly critical for managing a heterogeneous or diverse team.
To a large extent, the problems associated with the effectiveness of teams have to do with people management. Ordinarily, most people prefer working alone. While this may be desirable in some situations, it creates an individualistic spirit among employees. As a result, individuals end up competing with one another and the thought of collaborating with colleagues to realize common goals may not appeal to some employees.
Lack of a collaborative culture in an organization is thus one of the reasons why teamwork may not succeed. Having an individualistic or competitive attitude may also make employees independent in the way they work. As a result, they may regard their ideas as the best and may refuse to listen to contributions from colleagues. Obviously, such attitudes complicate the whole process of building and managing effective teams. Another challenge that may be encountered by managers is a lack of trust.
Without trust, employees become skeptical and criticize everything done by managers. Consequently, building an effective team in an environment devoid of trust is not an easy task. To succeed, it is certainly necessary for managers to first win the trust of employees. Trust must prevail among employees as well as between employees and their superiors.
Effective team management may also be affected by a desire among employees to have an influence over others in the organization. While this may be useful in some specific situations, it generally leads to hatred and selfishness. Subsequently, the process of building and managing effective teams is greatly hindered. Without a doubt, both hatred and selfishness pose a serious challenge for managers when it comes to building effective teams.
The importance of teamwork to organizations can not be underestimated. As pointed out earlier, teams enable organizations to involve employees at different levels. The use of teams also permits organizations to leverage human resources and to promote innovativeness among employees. Effective team management is, however, very critical if success is to be realized. Despite the fact that managers play a very critical role in the creation of effective teams, they must be provided with clear guidelines for building and sustaining effective teams.
Managers should also be aware of factors that affect the formation of effective teams. Several factors interfere with the creation of effective teams, including the diverse nature of a work environment, individualistic attitudes among employees in an organization, and lack of trust. In order to succeed, it is imperative for managers to devise strategies that can be used to address such challenges.
Al-Rawi, K. (2008). Cohesiveness within Teamwork: The Relationship to Performance Effectiveness – Case Study. Education, Business and Society: Contemporary Middle Eastern Issues, 1(2), 92 – 106.
Harvard Business School Press. (2013). Managing Teams: Expert Solutions to Everyday Challenges. Watertown, MA: Harvard Business Press.
Loo, R. & Thorpe, K. (2002). Using Reflective Learning Journals to Improve Individual and Team Performance. Team Performance Management: An International Journal, 8(5/6), 134 – 139.
Mealiea, L. & Baltazar, R. (2005). A Strategic Guide for Building Effective Teams. Public Personal Management, 34(2), 141 – 160.