We spend a lot of time exploring what makes teams work and how to improve their effectiveness, but how often do we stop and think about why and when to deploy teams in the first place?
We know that teams are increasing in importance. In 2016, an article by Deloitte University Press highlighted this.
One person cannot do everything proficiently. In teams, individuals are able to share their strengths in complementary roles to produce meaningful results. With the interpersonal dynamics teamworking creates, collaboration offers more than the sum of its parts. Your team needs a Team Role make-up that reflects its purpose and goals, otherwise it may be the case that ‘you don’t know what you don’t know’.
Hand in hand with diversity, working in teams benefits individuals who are exposed to their colleagues’ different approaches, experiences, perspectives and skills. In addition to our ‘natural’ or preferred Team Roles, we all have manageable Team Roles – behaviours we can adopt from time to time – and which can be cultivated to add another string to our bow. Watching others in action playing these roles is a great way to learn.
As complexity increases, tasks can fall beyond the scope of the individual. According to Ernst & Young in their 2013 study.
Individual members can come and go, offering their skills, expertise and Team Role contributions at the stage when they are most needed, and then moving on as the project progresses. Individual activities can be effectively co-ordinated to help people work more effectively, save time and avoid frustration.
When teams are working optimally and workload is shared to best advantage, progress is faster than individual endeavour.
A strong team can be a microcosm of the organisation, espousing its values and working towards a shared purpose and a common goal. When a team is working in harmony with broader aims, the sense of belonging and commitment to the team can extend to the organisation too, giving employees an increased sense of loyalty to their company.
Teams are the human side of working. To be an effective team member, you have to listen to others, and show sensitivity to their feelings and needs. Google’s Project Aristotle – their research into effective teams – found that empathy and taking turns in conversation led to psychological safety, the best predictor of success.
In 2016, Harvard Business Review published an article about “collaborative overload” – the over-reliance on teams and collaboration. According to their data, time spent by managers and employees in collaborative activities had increased by 50% or more over the past two decades, but frequently not to the benefit of individuals or their organisations.
HBR found that those who were in highest demand as collaborators in their companies had the lowest engagement and career satisfaction scores, despite clearly being identified by colleagues as knowledgeable and valuable contributors. This was because they were frustrated at spending time on ad hoc requests, and wanted to do more training, coaching and mentoring. Once they were collaborating in a more effective way, engagement levels picked up.
It’s the responsibility of the manager to ensure that work is distributed effectively, not heaped upon the few who show willing. Allowing helpful people to become a bottleneck is a disservice to all involved, from the individual to the team – even the customer?
Harvard Business Review has a number of recommendations.
But there’s more…
Belbin can help identify individual strengths and offer advice on how to allocate work most effectively within your team.
Are you ready to optimise your team? Start your Belbin journey today.
Before you can analyse your teams, you need to look at each individual's contribution. So, the first thing you will need to do is to generate a Belbin Individual report for each member of the team.Find out more
Whether you're forming a new team, introducing new people to an existing team, or trying to resolve issues within a team, a Belbin Team report can help you to manage it.Discover more