Building and Leading High Performing Teams

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Teamwork is a critical part of any organizational structure and determines the effectiveness of its processes since these units are mainly tasked with specific and precision-based tasks. It should be noted that there is a wide range of theoretical frameworks in regards to teamwork and effectiveness. According to West and Markiewicz (2004), there are three layers, which determine team effectiveness, such as team processes, team structure, and organizational environment, and each structure is interlocked in the following one, respectively. Another expert, Hackman (2002), argues that a team can only be effective if it is a real team, has a strong and compelling direction, has a rigid structure, operates in a highly supportive organizational environment, and has access to coaching experts. In addition, he claims that it is not interpersonal or social relationships, which affect the effectiveness, but rather a team’s processes of task performance (Hackman, 2002). In other words, one should not focus on activities, which create strong relationships and bonds among team members since task performance is a prime dictator of effectiveness metric.

However, interpersonal relations are still useful for effective management teams. For instance, Senior and Swailes (2007) argue that having clear responsibilities and roles, commonly agreed objectives and goals, effective leadership, honest and transparent communication, and high motivation are critical for effective management teams. In addition, according to Buchanan and Huczyinski (2017), the dynamics of formal workgroups and in-group decisions determine the type of actions taken in response to performance evaluations, authority and resources, membership of groups, in-group leadership, responsibility lines, and goals. When the previously mentioned actions set up a formal workgroup, the key decisions for the group include conflict resolution, information sharing, task division, contribution, leadership, and more detailed objectives (Buchanan and Huczyinski, 2017). In other words, the management outlines the general goals and provides a core basis upon which a team procedurally acts on the objectives with a higher degree of precision on the basis of internal resources available. However, workgroups do not always mean team, since the former is usually comprised of “members hold some shared information and undertake some team activities, but where there is no joint responsibility or clear definition of team roles,” whereas the latter is comprised of individuals who “share common goals and share some accountability” (Reeves, Xyrichis, and Zwarenstein, 2017, p. 1). In other words, a team can have a different structure depending on the described characteristics.

Therefore, team effectiveness and performance can be affected by a wide range of factors. All these influences fall under the triplet model of organizational environment, team structure, and team processes. According to Wheelan (2016), team processes are highly reliant on key behavioral elements, which include cooperation, participation, and support. In other words, team processes are dictated by individual team member behavioral patterns, where minute input on each member cumulatively results in increased team performance and effectiveness. One might also argue that a non-participation or non-cooperation of a single team member not only makes his or her input equal to zero but can also have a negative influence on the overall team effectiveness due to the possible cascading effect of such a behavior-altering other members’ behaviors as well.

In the case of team leadership theories, one of the most compelling frameworks is centered around the concept of diversity. It is stated that team leadership, which harnesses the team’s cultural diversity, can result in better performance due to the moderating reciprocity of diversity and effectiveness (Raithel, Knippenberg, and Stam, 2021). The main reason is rooted in the fact that individuals with diverse backgrounds have more divergent sets of perspectives, which manifest themselves in differential problem solution approaches allowing a team to be equipped with a wider range of strategies. Therefore, such teams can be more creative, innovative and utilize their strengths better as a whole. The given theoretical perspective is supported by evidence from multinational companies, where the role of leader diversity is also impactful on team performance (Raithel, Knippenberg, and Stam, 2021). In other words, the theory does not solely focus on team members but also their leaders, making the factor of diversity a highly critical component to consider when focusing on increasing team effectiveness and performance.

Another way team leadership affects team performance can be found in the theoretical framework of resilience, which is highly important during periods of crisis. It is stated that “transformational leadership was associated with greater levels of positive affect and lower levels of negative affect, which in turn predicted higher resilience among team members” (Sommer, Howell, and Hadley, 2016, p. 172). In other words, a team leader’s leadership style is critical determining whether or not such a team will be resilient to pressure and stress. For example, when a team leader operates on the basis of principles of the management-by-exception, the team will not be able to persevere during periods of crises since a crisis, by definition, is a major deviation from the norm or expected path (Sommer, Howell, and Hadley, 2016). Therefore, applying proper leadership models in a team environment can be of paramount relevance in regards to increasing team effectiveness and preparedness for potential barriers during the process of completing the key tasks.

The effectiveness of the team can be assessed by economic and psychological indicators as well. Economic indicators are the results of joint activities, how successful and significant they are. Psychological indicators are the personal satisfaction of each team member with their professional life, such as work, communication, and psychological comfort (Armstrong and Lowndes, 2018). It is possible for one to create teams of various types, and it depends on the professional tasks set, methods of forming teams, their internal interaction, and the specifics of work. There are three types of work teams, such as horizontal, vertical, and specialized (Armstrong and Lowndes, 2018). Horizontal teams are formed of specialists of approximately the same level but different departments or specialties. Vertical teams include a manager and two or three hierarchical subordinate layers. A specialized team is created to solve one specific problem, and however, if in the course of work, the team has rallied and has shown high efficiency, it can be retained after solving the problem.

Personal Experience-based Team Analysis

In my personal experience, I have worked in several teams, some of which were highly successful at achieving their tasks, and some were fully dysfunctional. I will choose two extreme cases of full success and complete failure, and name them team X and team Y, respectively. Both of these teams were comprised of seven individuals, and both had leader figures. In the case of team X, the leader was selected by the team members themselves, and this person A did not have professional authority over others. However, team Y was similar to a formal workgroup rather than a team because the management set up the group and assigned a leader to it. The leader was person B, who was a supervising manager and had professional authority.

The success of team X was due to a number of factors, but on the basis of the knowledge acquired throughout the course, I can identify that it was primarily due to diversity, transformational leadership style, and supportive organizational environment. Since team X’s successful performance was highly dependent on meeting the deadlines, resilience was critical. Person A mainly utilized the transformational leadership style because he was not in a position of professional authority to dictate and assign tasks, which is why he was focused on open communication and relationships. According to Sommer, Howell, and Hadley (2016), it is stated that transformation leadership style is highly effective in ensuring that a team exhibits strong levels of resilience towards crises. Such an approach resulted in full participation, cooperation, and support among team members since all these behavioral patterns were part of person A’s attitude towards his team, which is critical for team effectiveness (Wheelan, 2016). Therefore, team X was highly resilient to pressure and had correct behavioral patterns.

In addition, team X’s team members were diverse since they came from divergent backgrounds. The factor of diversity was reflected in the factors of age, gender, race, and occupational background, which meant that team performance was increased due to team X’s wider range of perspectives on solutions (Raithel, Knippenberg, and Stam, 2021). In addition, the organization and management were highly supportive of team X, which is why the organizational environment played a key role in team X’s success (West and Markiewicz, 2004). Thus, team X’s diversity and environment were also responsible for its outstanding effectiveness.

In the case of team Y, the main problematic factor was leadership and lack of compelling objectives, which resulted in the absence of cohesiveness. It should be noted that team effectiveness is tightly tied to their goals and direction (Hackman, 2002). Although the team had its assigned goals, there was no commonly agreed solution to the problem, which meant that it was up to the leader to decide which solution to select. However, person B’s choice for a solution was solely based on minimum participation on his side, where he was not interested in allowing every team member to voice their perspectives, which facilitated unproductive behavior and poor performance (Wheelan, 2016).

A team needs to act on the basis of the thoughtful positioning of participants who have a common vision of the situation and the strategic goals of the team and who have worked out interaction procedures. Team members should have a common goal of the activity, for which they need each other to achieve. This implies the concept of team roles, the performance by each team member of a specific function necessary to achieve a result. In the formation of a team, the style of its leader plays an important role (Coryell, 2019). With a team leadership style, there is no format where the leader is more valuable than the person below him in the hierarchy.

At the same time, all the talents of subordinate people should be optimally used in order to achieve the goals of the team. The leader should not approach his or her duties according to the principle of one-way communication, and thus, he or she should always be in a state of constant receiving of new information from other team members (Coryell, 2019). In a team leadership style, the leader is responsible for receiving information, while lower levels are also accountable to the leader, giving him information about their direct experience. The rest of the team is the first to identify new ways to make processes more efficient because they are the ones who do them. In other words, the team failed to achieve its goals due to poor leadership and the lack of compelling direction.

Personal Abilities Assessment

One of my major strengths in regards to teamwork is open and honest communication. Senior and Swailes (2007) argue that having clear responsibilities and roles, commonly agreed objectives and goals, effective leadership, honest and transparent communication, and high motivation are critical for effective management teams. In other words, I exhibit a correct set of behaviors and facilitate transparency within a team by being first in communicating the problems, which others are hesitant to discuss. For example, when I observe interpersonal tensions affecting the team’s rational and effective decision-making, I am not reluctant to pinpoint this fact and voice my opinion of it. However, my main weakness is rooted in the fact that I am not a supportive team member. For instance, according to Wheelan (2016), team processes are highly reliant on key behavioral elements, which include cooperation, participation, and support. I mainly tend to work primarily on my own allocated tasks and expect others to do the same independently, which is problematic since team members should be ready to help each other.

The high level of supportiveness is reflected in value-oriented and object-oriented unity, group identification, adequacy of distribution, and acceptance of responsibility for each other’s successes and failures. I now know that cohesion is one of the main indicators of the socio-psychological climate of the team. It has a big impact on the satisfaction of every employee. If one looks from the point of view of psychology and pedagogy, satisfaction with work is a kind of emotionally colored idea of the subject about the result of his activity, the external conditions in which this activity is carried out, and about the work process itself. Job satisfaction is one of the main components of the socio-psychological climate in the team and is also the basis for the formation of a positive socio-psychological atmosphere and at the same time is the result of long-term, stable relationships between team members. Therefore, I should work on my non-supportive attitude to improve my team’s cohesiveness and cooperation factors.

Reference List

Armstrong, P., and Lowndes, R. (2018) Creative teamwork: developing rapid, site-switching ethnography. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Buchanan, D., and Huczynski, A. (2017) Organizational behaviour. New York: Pearson.

Coryell, E. (2019) Revolutionize teamwork: how to create and lead accountable teams. Naperville: Simple Truths.

Hackman, J. R. (2002) ‘Leading teams: setting the stage for great performances – the five keys to successful teams?’, Harvard Business School.

Raithel, K., van Knippenberg, D., and Stam, D. (2021) ‘Team leadership and team cultural diversity: the moderating effects of leader cultural background and leader team tenure’, Journal of Leadership & Organizational Studies, 28(3), pp. 261-272.

Reeves, S., Xyrichis, A., and Zwarenstein, M. (2017) ‘Teamwork, collaboration, coordination, and networking: why we need to distinguish between different types of interprofessional practice’, Journal of Interprofessional Care, 32(1), pp. 1-3.

Senior, B., and Swailes, S. (2007) ‘Inside management teams: developing a teamwork survey instrument’, British Journal of Management, 18(2), pp. 138-153.

Sommer, S. A., Howell, J. M., and Hadley, C. N. (2016) ‘Keeping positive and building strength: the role of affect and team leadership in developing resilience during an organizational crisis’, Group & Organization Management, 41(2), pp. 172-202.

West, M. A. (2004) Building team-based working. Hoboken: Wiley-Blackwell.

Wheelan, S. A. (2016) Creating effective teams: a guide for members and leaders. Thousand Oaks: Sage.

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