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Team The Teamwork Fallacy: Not All Teams Get Things Done

I often hear teachers say that they use teamwork in their classes because it is needed by business. This may be true, but does simply working in teams actually improve team performance? Although educators excel at placing students in groups, I suspect they less often actually teach teamwork skills. Let’s explore this issue and think about ways we can improve the quality of teamwork.

The Importance of Teamwork Teamwork is a critical need in the workplace. In the 2006 report, “Are They Really Ready to Work? Employers’ Perspectives on the Basic Knowledge and Applied Skills of New Entrants to the 21st Century U.S. Workforce,” teamwork is considered one of the most important skills for success at work. The report also says that employees frequently lack this skill. Patrick Lencioni, author of The Five Dysfunctions of a Team, has an explanation for this. He says that teams are never easy because “we tend to look out for our own best interests, and not necessarily those of the team.” He also says that managers often leave team problems alone, “hoping they will work themselves out without any heavy lifting.”

The Teamwork Fallacy: Not All Teams Get Things Done : Charles Johnson, pg 1

Works Based on this need for teams, will practice improve team performance? It may help, but if teamwork skills are gained by simply being on teams, then we should all be experts. Our families are a type of team, as well as a circle of friends, sports and club groups. However, low-functioning teams continue to be a problem. It is obvious that simply being on teams does not guarantee teamwork skill. I believe there are three main ingredients when teaching teamwork. Students should learn interpersonal skills, decisionmaking and team-management skills.

Interpersonal Skills Interpersonal skills are the skills needed to interact with others effectively. In order to do this, students should know about teams, functional conflict, interaction styles, and group think. Teams are different from groups. A group is a collection of people gathered together. However, teams are groups of people placed together to use the strengths and talents of each person to solve problems or reach a goal. So, a team is only successful if everyone participates. It may be surprising to know that conflict is a necessary part of healthy team discussions. However, this ^functional conflict, not dysfunctional conflict. Functional conflict involves


Qualities of a Good Team Last Updated: Feb 19, 2014 | By Debby Mayne, pg 3 What Makes a Great Team? Recruiting Specialist America’s Job Exchange, pg 4 sharing ideas respectfully, which is important for teams. Dysfunctional conflict occurs when team members compete and become angry with one another. Effectively using functional conflict is an important part of team success. Functional conflict requires an awareness of interaction styles that people use. The goal is true collaboration, where everyone works respectfully and openly together to develop the best solution. Most other styles result in a loss of ideas in the group. Let’s examine these styles: • Av orders, also known as sodai loafers, simply sit back and let others in the group take over. They contribute almost nothing. • Accommodaters will share ideas, but they want to “just get along,” so they will quickly give up their ideas. • On the other hand, competers openly share ideas but they are focused on having their ideas win. If they succeed in winning, almost all other ideas are lost, and hard feelings can result. • Compromisers openly share ideas, but they can be quick to blend their ideas with others, even if it is not the best idea. • The ideal style for everyone on a team is collaboration, where people share ideas and keep working until the best solution is reached. In daily life we may use all of the interaction styles

(avoider, accommodater, competitor, compromiser, and collaborator), depending on the situation. For example, if someone is having a bad day, you may accommodate them to avoid an argument. In sales, you compete to sell products. All the interaction styles can be useful in daily life. However, it is important to strive for collaboration in teamwork. Using the other styles often results in a loss of ideas. Team members should be aware of group think. Group think is a result of too little functional conflict on a team. Simply put, it means “going along to get along.” When one or two members dominate a team, and others keep quiet to avoid conflict, this can be the result.

Decision-making Skills Team decision-making is actually a type of problem- solving. Problemsolving can be taught in a variety of ways, but I like to use the Hey Wait, Think, See, So model because of its simplicity. The first step, Hey Wait, simply means to identify the problem before trying to solve it. The second step, Think, means think about solutions. This is the stage where a large number of ideas are generated without criticism, so this is the time to introduce the concept of brainstorming. The third step, See, involves choosing a solution and trying it out. In the So stage, you look at your finished solution to see if the problem is solved. If not, then small changes are made or, if needed, you start over. It’s a simple problem- solving model, but it works very well. Consensus is a useful technique for making decisions. Team consensus is agreement on a solution, but not necessarily perfect agreement. Reaching consensus means that all, or almost all, team members support the decision, although some may still prefer a different approach. No one has complete veto power, in which case one stubborn person can stop decision-making. Team consensus may not be the perfect solution for everyone, but the goal is to have everyone on the team accept and

Qualities of a Good Team Last Updated: Feb 19, 2014 | By Debby Mayne

generally support the solution.

Teaching Teamwork When using teamwork in classes, consider choosing teams yourself to ensure a mix of styles and abilities. Another consideration is size of teams. Five to seven is typically the maximum number to be sure everyone is involved in decision-making. Closely monitor teams, especially at the early stages of formation. Be careful about leave-alone, zap, where you ignore the teams, but then later take drastic action because the team is not functioning well. Teamwork, like other skills, requires guidance to be sure it is being done correctly. Consider evaluating individual performance on the team as well as overall team performance. For part of the individual performance, you can have each person confidentially evaluate everyone on the team. Examples of forms used for this purpose can be found by doing an Internet search for “peer evaluation form.” Teaching teamwork skills provides students with crucial knowledge about how to perform on a team. When we do this we can proudly say that we are thoughtfully teaching critical teamwork skills that have an impact on career success.

Author Affiliation Charles Johnson, Ed. D.

“Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much” - Helen Keller

Positive but Realistic Outlook Members of a good team should maintain a positive attitude yet be realistic about what is possible. When one tactic doesn’t work, the team needs to focus on how to change effectively. Failing at a single task isn’t going to take down a good team, but the failure of knowing when to switch to an alternate plan might.

Participation It’s important for all of the team members to participate in every stage of the process. Each member should have a defined job that affects the outcome of the goal. Team members need to feel important and understand their value to the group.

Periodic Evaluation A good team will do periodic evaluations to determine whether the plan is working. The team members should be updated on each new evaluation and given the opportunity for comments.

Communication “Talent wins games, but teamwork and intelligence wins championships.” - Michael Jordan

All team members should be able to communicate with the group and individuals within the group. If there’s anything they don’t understand, they should feel free to ask questions and seek clarification. All of the members should be able to contribute ideas and listen to others who have valuable contributions. There should be updates as often as needed in order to keep the team on task.

Calculated Risks and Movement Successful teams will take calculated risks, but they also know when to accept that something isn’t working. An effective team works with fluid movement and refuses to stagnate.

Trust and Commitment “Teamwork makes the dream work” - Bang Gae

Because all of the team members have specific jobs, they need to trust that others are doing their part. In order to obtain trust from others, each person should follow through with what he has agreed to do. Having a sense of commitment to the group and its goals helps build trust.

Social Connection Most successful team members know something about the other members. This provides an opportunity to connect outside the task, understand motivation and strengths of others and develop mutual respect.

Defined Jobs “Nobody can achieve success alone.” - Ifeanyi Enoch Onuoha

The dean for the School of Technology at Dalton State College, Dalton, Georgia. Source: Johnson, Charles D. “The Teamwork Fallacy: Not all Teams Get Things done.” Techniques 86.7 (2011): 8-9. ProQuest. Web. 26 April 2014.


to reach the goal and enhance the good of the group.

Throughout life, people participate on teams. These might be sports, business or school-related. It’s critical for any type of team to be successful, and each team’s success depends on individual members interacting well as a group. There are certain qualities found across the board that make up good teams.

Each member of an effective team should have defined jobs that are clear to that person and understood by others. If there is any overlapping of responsibility, the team members need to accept that the ultimate goal cannot be achieved alone. Each team member’s skills should be used

Source: Mayne, Debby . “Qualities of a Good Team” 19 Feb 2014. Web. 26 April 2014.

 Photo Credit team spirit image by mark smith from

“Of what need is teamwork without a common goal?” - Ogwo David Emenike

“Teamwork is the secret that make common people achieve uncommon result.” - Ifeanyi Enoch Onuoha


What Makes a Great Team?Recruiting Specialist America’s Job Exchange To have a great team, there is no surefire recipe for success. A combination of solid leadership, communication, and access to good resources contribute to productive collaboration, but it all comes down to having people who understand each other and work well together. Not every team needs that one superstar player to excel. Having the right mix of trust, ambition, and encouragement among your team members is crucial. Here are ten characteristics you should seek when recruiting to create a great team:

1. Mutual respect. Knowing each other’s accomplishments and work experience plays a key role in relationship development, the catalyst for a strong team. Before a new team begins work on a project, have them meet for an extended period of time to establish familiarity and to bond. Inevitably, those six degrees of separation that connect us all will take shape and your team will discover common ground and mutual connections. As the teamwork progresses and conflict arises - an unavoidable part of collaboration – the team that has respect for each other will be able to move past conflict towards resolution and, ultimately, completion of the goal.

2. Specialization. Just like a team of athletes working together in different roles to win the game, good teamwork comes from members combining their specialized talents to achieve an end goal or resolution. While one may excel at writing, another may boast superior organizational skills, while another is great at presenting to decision-makers or the art of rhetoric. Figuring out who works best where will come naturally as the team spends time together, but it’s important not to suppress individual talents. Allowing each person to make their own unique contributions will lead to less conflict and a superior outcome.

3. Establishing objective. If the goal of the project, whether small

or long-term, isn’t clear from the beginning, many hours will be wasted in frustrating meetings that go nowhere. The very first step should be to describe a clear outline of work and the projected end result. Change is always necessary along the way, and this is where our next tip comes into play.

4. Adaptation. Being flexible is a key trait of any team player. Confronting and resolving crises, rushing to meet deadlines, or picking up the slack for an absent or dismissed colleague are all problems that require adaptation. If someone on a team is unable to change gears and refocus, odds are more issues will arise to further complicate the work flow process.

5. No finger pointing. When a big mistake is made, it’s easy for members of a team to find a scape goat or individual to lay the blame on. This will only lead to distrust and low morale. It’s possible that if one person keeps making critical mistakes, they should no longer be a part of the team, but that is not always the case. The entire team should accept the responsibility for the mistake and move forward to correct it and make sure it doesn’t occur again.

6. Admission of failure when necessary. This tip can go hand in hand with number five. If the desired outcome of a project has setbacks or is predicted to be a complete disaster, it’s better to admit failure and start over rather than giving up or presenting a flawed product. A good team will roll with the punches, recognize that each step is essentially an experiment, and stay positive even when facing serious setbacks.

7. Patience. Working with others requires the most the most difficult trait of all: patience and tolerance. We all strive for it, but few people are truly unflappable.


Patience will keep a team motivated and allay conflict.

8. Delegation of duties.

A capable leader will know one of his most important jobs is to delegate responsibility. One or two team leaders should never be saddled with all the grunt work. Instead the work flow should be spread out evenly and each person given a reasonable amount of projects and adequate access to resources.

9. A natural-born leader. As noted earlier, a team doesn’t need a superstar to excel. But they do need a self-assured, trustworthy, ambitious leader that keeps morale high and knows when to rally the troops. A good leader will listen constructively, act as a mentor, monitor the quantitative and qualitative results, provide consistent feedback, and maintain a good rapport with all team players.

10. Competitiveness. A healthy dose of competition is fuel for inspiration. When you’re working on a team, all your cards are on the table, so it’s easy for people to become jealous or possessive of each other’s attributes or contributions. And this motivates others to work harder and develop even better ideas, because it makes people ask themselves, if he came up with this, can I create something even better? “Few teams sometimes fails miserably because team members wish to work in the team but they want to be recognized individualy.”

- Amit Kalantri “ It’s only when we can work with something that brings out our strengths that we’re of any real use.” - Henning Mankell, The Fifth Woman Source: “ What makes a good team.” America’s Job Web. 26 April 2014.

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