Teamwork at work
Too Much “Team” and Not Enough “Work”?
Too Much “Team” and Not Enough “Work”?
Teamwork at work can often fail, not because people don’t get on, but because they get on too well. As teams emerge from a team development phase, many managers fear that teams won’t work together, or that frictions and factions may appear. However, another danger is that too much emphasis on teamwork may result in teams forgetting that working well is a function of a team, not its purpose.
In this article we discuss this common but often overlooked pitfall in team leadership. In some ways this is the reverse of the issues we discuss in our article teamwork in the workplace. There we highlight what we consider to be crucial conditions that need to be in place to ensure teams do get on.
Continuing our series on stages of team development using our STAR team model, in this article we consider how to recognise and deal with the problem of teams being too cosy. How do we manage a team that has lost its focus on results, but still functions well as a group? An often overlooked problem is when a team loses its focus on results, but still functions well as a group.
Our STAR team model suggests that effective teamwork at work happens when four elements (Strengths, Teamwork, Alignment and Results) are in place:
A different emphasis and focus for each of the STAR model elements is needed at different stages of the team’s development. However over-emphasis on the team can cause significant problems.
One of the dilemmas with this problematic aspect of team development is that it can be difficult to spot. Most managers want their teams to get on well together. No obvious signs of tension can be interpreted as a sign that the team is performing well. In reality, it may be that the team has become stuck in the forming phase, and it not really performing well at all. There is too much teamwork at work, and not enough productivity!
It is quite possible that a team doesn’t really progress to the performance phase because everyone has become too comfortable. When everyone works well together, it can be all too tempting to take things easy, enjoy the team-bonding activity, and in reality, to settle for lower achievement than is needed.
Some typical features of this situation include:
Although there are real positives to be developed in a well-formed team, effective teamwork at work needs equal attention to both the team and to the work. In order to deal with this situation, you may need to adopt a more hands-on management approach. For example:
You may also need to make some tough decisions about the make-up of the team by asking:
It may be a real test of your own management and leadership skills in these situations. Ideally you’ll want to keep the strength of a bonded team intact, whilst re-focusing it onto performing rather than just forming.
If you do have the time to read more on this topic, why not go to our teamwork articles. To read more of about our teamwork concept – the STAR team model- see our articles teamwork theories, teamwork defined and teamwork in the workplace. For a more general introduction to team a good place to start might be to think through why is teamwork important , or you may want to think about how you define teamwork or reminding yourself of the benefits of teamwork.
What do you do when teamwork at work fails? Find the answers in our great value e-guides! It’s far easier to pre-empt problem areas than to recover from difficult situations after they have happened. One thing you don’t need is to become engulfed by problems, simply because you didn’t see the warning signs early enough.
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