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Team Building - 4 August 2015

Many leaders facing the challenge of uniting a dysfunctional team resort to team-building games, after-work drinks, and other social (and oftentimes juvenile) activities in an attempt to overcome the problem. What they don’t realise is that there’s very little research to suggest these kinds of events have any lasting impact on how well their teams function.

But now, in extensive new research just published in the Human Resource Management journal, some of the world’s leading scholars have reviewed every significant study on teamwork over the past few decades to find an answer to this question: What should leaders take into account when building a cohesive and high-performing team? The culmination of this analysis has produced six critical factors, each one beginning with C.

Cooperation: There are two ways through which you can foster cooperation. First, celebrate team-based wins. Second, build trust by encouraging (and even instructing) employees to share their experiences, successes and failures. This gives them an understanding of each other’s strengths and it also highlights areas of similarity that can potentially create bonds.

Conflict: There are two types of conflict. Task conflict arises due to the differences in how employees think a goal should be achieved. Relationship conflict arises due to personality clashes. The former can be healthy; the latter is almost always toxic. Relationship conflict can be mitigated by establishing team norms, by providing training on conflict resolution, and by dealing with conflict as soon as it occurs (as opposed to avoiding it).

Coordination: This can be explicit or implicit. Explicit coordination is when you directly plan how the team should operate. Implicit coordination is when your team members anticipate what needs to be done and then get on with it. To promote implicit coordination, debrief immediately after team successes but also, perhaps most valuably, immediately after team failures. That way you can review, together, what worked and what could be improved.

Communication: No type of communication is more vital to teamwork than information. This means providing it promptly but also implementing processes – such as face-to-face meetings– in which your employees are able to effortlessly share information with each other.

Coaching: While the coaching you provide is essential, consider the value that each of your employees can also bring when they coach one another.

Cognition: Another term for cognition is ‘shared team knowledge’. This includes making sure your employees understand each other’s roles, skills and personalities, as well as the organisation’s objectives and the contexts in which you operate.

So, by all means, continue running team-building games and after-work drinks. They can be excellent for morale and for breaking the ice. But if your objectives are teamwork, team performance and team cohesion, you’re better off sticking to the six Cs.


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