What you need to know about working in a team

Three African American business people having a meeting. [File, Standard]
Myth: The bigger the better; most people believe that bigger teams yield better results as compared to smaller ones.

Truth: Well, Prof J. Richard Hackman, a lecturer as Harvard University believes that immoderate sized teams are a great impediment to effective collaboration. An excessive team would translate to extra costs and more effort put into keeping things coordinated. Most team members will, at some point, feel redundant and less engaged. A team of about four individuals enables each of the members to establish a good working relationship with others as they get work done.

Myth: You must lose your individuality for the good of the team

Truth: Accountable and responsible team members do not need to subordinate their self-interests for the team to work better. They should instead capitalise on their different personal powers, and align them with the assignment at hand to achieve the best results. This way, all members will stay passionate and committed knowing they are giving the best of themselves to the assignment.

Myth: Team work is a group skill; individuals are not responsible for quality of results

Truth: You would often hear, “I was put on a bad team” when members are creating excuses for poor performance. All team members should acknowledge they each have a responsibility to the team. The ability to work in a team is an individual skill; you should know how to work individually and when coupled with other equally skilled individuals. Prof Christopher Avery, a well-known teamwork consultant, says teamwork is all about getting your work done when sharing responsibility. You should therefore act on all abilities and understand that your output will affect the entire team’s performance.

Myth: Team members must like one another

Truth: It is always a plus to maintain cohesion in a group. In the case where some individual differences may cause disagreements, adopting a common focus and committing to the assignment will be a better resolve and team members might actually be surprised by quality of work produced by individuals who ordinarily do not like each other. Different behaviors and viewpoints are likely to result into a more balanced outcome. Disagreements are actually good for the team when handled focused on the objectives of the team.

Myth: Teams can work remotely thanks to technology

Truth: Technology has definitely made communication much easier. However, technology should not replace the need for face to face meetings or communication. Teams should not throw away an opportunity to have a physical meeting at least at the beginning, midpoint and at the end of the assignment. Working remotely has a lot of advantages, however, misunderstanding are common when communicating only via phone or email.

 Myth: The leader makes the difference

Truth: Well, team leaders do make a difference in fostering effective collaboration and helping team members manage themselves. Some well-balanced teams employ rotational leadership to fully utilize the leadership potential of each member. Teamwork is much more effective when there is a sense of togetherness from within.

Myth: Introducing new people will bring fresh ideas

Truth: While mixing things up may bring fresh energy, it may be harder to predict previously observed behaviour once the new members come in. It is much easier to deal with a team that members are already comfortable with one another and where each member knows how to get the most of their working relationship.

Myth: To succeed, teams must avoid problems

Truth: Job assignments can be dynamic. Different events may occur during the course of the assignment and the team will be tested on problem solving skills. To stay together, the team should learn to pinpoint problems and address accordingly.

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