Team Dynamics: Theories and Experience
Working with teams requires one to have the capacity to understand the diversity in views and culture that may affect the cohesive environment. As Lencioni (2010) observes, successful companies have learned how to create unity in a highly diversified workplace environment. In my experience, I have encountered cases where teams fail to achieve their goals because of their inability to work as a unit. Using various theoretical concepts, it is possible to diagnose team dynamics and how they can be managed to enhance success in an organizational setting.
Single and Double-Loop Learning
The experience I had with my team shows the importance of working as a unit to address challenges and manage trends that may emerge in the industry. The concept of single and double-loop learning can help to diagnose this team’s dynamics. The team can opt to use simple single-loop learning. In this context, the focus is on actions/strategies and results/consequences. As shown in figure 1 below, the team only needs to define what to do, take the necessary actions, then observe results. Although it is a simple but quick way of undertaking tasks, sometimes a team may need to go a step further and use double-loop learning. In this case, the team will need to take three steps, but first defining why it is necessary to take a given action, defining the strategies for the action, and finally reviewing results. Double-loop learning can be applied when the single-loop fails to deliver the expected outcome.
Espoused Theory vs. Theory-in-Use
When working with this team, I noticed that sometimes the claims that team leaders make do not match the actual practice. Espoused theory versus theory-in-use can be used to explain this challenge in an organizational setting. As Argyris (1991) observes, the espoused theory includes concepts that an organization, a team, or a leader claims to use. On the other hand, theory-in-use is the one that informs the actual decisions and actions that an organization takes.
For instance, in my team, the leader claimed to embrace the concept of transformational leadership. However, the actions and approach to problem-solving did not match the principles of transformational leadership. He was dictatorial and did not allow junior officers to think independently. He expected everyone within the department to follow instructions given to them strictly without deviation. Any proposed change had to come from the senior managers instead of junior officers. The approach contradicts the concept of transformational leadership, where a manager is required to encourage and provide a perfect environment for creative thinking. In this particular case, the theory-in-use was dictatorial leadership, where the command given by those in power was not to be questioned. Conrad and Openo (2018) advise that it is always encouraged that the theory-in-use should be congruent to espoused theory. What leaders claim to embrace should be evident in their actions; unfortunately, that was not the case in my team.
The concept of defensive reasoning can also be applied to explain the challenges that my organization faced when trying to introduce new policies. According to Argyris (1991), defensive reasoning is a self-protecting approach to new concepts that often have the effect of blocking learning and knowledge creation. During the period I worked with the team, it was evident that most of the elderly members of the organization embraced defensive reasoning whenever it was necessary to introduce a new concept. They felt that they were knowledgeable and experienced enough, and as such, it was not necessary for them to be subjected to regular refresher training. Some of them feared that changing technologies and emerging trends may render their services unnecessary within the organization. As such, they used their positions within the firm to frustrate change. They felt that it was the only way of protecting their position at the company. Defensive reasoning eliminates the ability of one to take on new challenges through the acquisition of new knowledge.
The team that I worked with managed to achieve most of its goals, but it was apparent that greater success could have been realized if the management were to address some of the challenges encountered. One of the recommendations that the management ought to consider is the need to align espoused theory with theory-in-use. If the management decides to use the concept of transformational leadership, a deliberate effort should be made to ensure that its principles are in practice. The management should ensure that dictatorial practices are eliminated in the workplace to allow employees to be creative. Kurt Lewin’s change management theory is another major concept that this organization can embrace to enhance the learning and adoption of new concepts. Some of the elderly employees of this organization resisted change because of the fear of the unknown. The problem can be addressed by embracing this systematic model to change management. It involves explaining to the stakeholders the need for change to ensure that they are adequately prepared. The management then introduces the change, and the final stage is to conduct an assessment of the new system and address any weaknesses in it.
Challenging Work Relationship
In my previous workplace, I found it particularly challenging to work with one of my colleagues, who, in this analysis, I will call Mr. X. This colleague was highly judgmental, unenthusiastic towards change, and lacked the team spirit. When we first met, I believed that he was an ambitious, self-driven person who embraced diversity in the workplace. Unfortunately, I later realized that he shunned people who held opinions contrary to his. He wanted to dictate things at the company, although he was not in a managerial position. Mr. X would easily get irritated, and many colleagues at work avoided his presence. It made it difficult working with him in a team, especially when it was necessary for different people to give their ideas on how to undertake a given task. Unfortunately, I became one of the people who tried to avoid his presence as much as possible.
Examining Relationship Challenges Based on SDI Report
The challenge I faced with Mr. X may primarily be attributed to his personality and the approach he took when addressing issues with colleagues. However, I have to admit that there could be personal weaknesses that possibly worsened the situation. Using the Strength Deployment Inventory model, it is possible to examine whether these challenges were a result of overusing or not using some of my top strengths (Lencioni, 2010).
The SDI results show that two of my top strengths are tolerance and creativity. It was expected that I would be able to tolerate the aggressiveness of Mr. X and work with him on various projects. In most of the cases, the supervisor would assign the two of us different assignments because she knew that no one else would be willing to work with him. I did make an effort, but along the way, the tolerance was lost. I also feel that I failed to use my creativity to help me overcome the challenge. At first, I allowed him to have his way just to avoid arguments and ensure that tasks were completed in time. However, I noticed that he would blame me in cases of failure but claim ownership of successes. Finally, I felt that I was being misused and opted out of his groups. On the whole, I was not assertive enough to work with him on different projects.
Personal Strengths and Implications of Not Being Able to Leverage Them
The strength deployment inventory has identified various areas of strength that I can use to ensure that I can achieve success when working with teams. Creativity and tolerance are some of the strengths discussed above. The analysis also revealed that I work well in a highly diversified environment. In my workplace environment, the workforce is highly diversified in terms of gender, age, race, religious beliefs and practices, and many other areas. I find it easy working with people who have various views on many issues in life. It was also evident that I value the opinion of others, especially when it is necessary for members to share their views on issues relating to the success of the company. The inability to use these strengths adequately may have major implications. First, it may lead to disagreements among employees, as was in the case with Mr. X.
Another major implication is that it may result in reduced team performance within a firm. If members cannot work as a unit on specific projects, then their productivity will be affected significantly. It was evident that I always respect the views of my colleagues in the workplace. I made an effort to respect Mr. X’s views, but it was evident that I could not do it any longer. When team members fail to respect the opinion of their colleagues, then having a debate on important issues becomes impossible. Embracing change in such an environment is also challenging as team members may not easily agree on the right approach that they need to embrace.
Strengths That Should Be Used Frequently to Address the Problem
The strength deployment inventory has identified various strengths that I can use to achieve specific goals. As Jenkins (2017) observes, some strengths should be used more frequently than others to help address specific problems that an individual, a team, or an organization is facing at a specific time. The major strength that I believe I should use frequently is the ability to work in a highly diversified environment. The United States has one of the most diversified societies in the world, mainly because of the many years of immigration (Jenkins, 2017). I believe that is it critical for people to know how to relate with colleagues in addressing various challenges that they may face. Tolerance and the ability to respect the views of others is another critical strength that I believe should be used frequently to overcome challenges that one can face as an individual or a member of a given team. These specific strengths would have made my relationship with Mr. X better.
Self-Analysis and Analysis of My Team
Conducting a self-analysis is critical in understanding personal strengths and weaknesses. Lencioni (2010) explains that it is critical for a person to understand their unique capacities and challenges that they face, which may limit their ability to perform effectively in their workplaces and in terms. Fortunately, I have personally understood my strengths and weaknesses clearly. During the response to question 2 above, my strengths have been outlined as being tolerant, being able to work with people from diverse backgrounds, being sensitive to the views of my colleagues, and being creative. It is also necessary to outline weaknesses, which may affect my ability to perform effectively. One of my biggest weaknesses is the inability to persevere in an abusive relationship. I was able to tolerate Mr. X for some time, but it reached a moment when I could not do that any longer. I had to avoid him because it was apparent that I could not work effectively with him. Another weakness that emerged was my inability to be assertive, especially when dealing with people who did not value my opinion.
The team that I was working with also had its strengths and weaknesses. One of its major strengths was that it was highly diversified. The team had a fair representation of men, women, and people of different races, religions, and political affiliations. Linders (2019) explains that diversity in the workplace is always critical in enabling a company to understand how to address various challenges in demand. The team also benefited by having a responsible leader keen on ensuring that tasks were completed within the right time and as expected. However, there were weaknesses that compromised the success rate of the company. One such issue was the presence of a few members who did not respect the views and concerns of colleagues. It was also worrying that some of these employees did not value the concept of team spirit. As was explained earlier, the manager embraced the dictatorial leadership approach, although the organization claimed that it was using principles of transformational leadership.
How Differences Might Influence My Work during the Program
Differences often arise in the workplace environment and need to be taken into account. According to Bouchamma et al. (2019), in cases where people have to make a choice on how to undertake specific activities, the idea of one person may not be the same as that of another person. Such conflicting views may slow the work in a given program. It may take time for people to agree on how to solve a given issue. Such challenges require strong leadership to ensure that an agreement is reached. Sometimes, personal differences may arise among individual employees: for example, I personally had a conflict with Mr. X when I felt that he was taking my effort for granted. Such personal differences also affect the general performance of individual concerns and the team in general.
I have witnessed cases where team members spend time arguing over personal issues instead of concentrating on their work. It is essential to ensure that personal differences are addressed as soon as they arise before they affect the overall performance of the organization. Having a conflict management system is essential in such cases (Bouchamma et al., 2019). The management must also ensure that a culture is created where there is mutual respect for everyone. No one should be intimidated or discriminated against because of their race, religion, gender, age, or any other demographical classification.
How Davidson’s Model Might Apply
When differences emerge, it is essential to find a way of managing them effectively and in a way that will not disrupt the normal operations of the firm. Davidson (2002) developed a model he referred to as leveraging difference for organizational excellence as a tool for managing diversity differently. The scholar emphasizes the need for organizations to simply acknowledge, tolerate, and appreciate diversity. Moreover, they should use it as a tool that enables them to address the challenges that they face differently. This model outlines ways in which entities can use diversity as a tool instead of being a nuisance that has to be tolerated. In a diversified workplace, different people will have various views towards a given issue that an organization faces. A manager should consider that advantage because it is a perfect reflection of the expectations of the market.
The younger generation can help a firm to develop a product that reflects the needs and expectations of a segment of the market, and so do the elderly workers. When an American company is planning to expand to the Middle East, views of Muslims working for the firm may be more valuable than that of a Christian who has never been in any Islamic country. This model emphasizes the need for managers to view diversity as an opportunity for a firm to do things differently. This model would have been of great help in solving some of the challenges that may team had faced. However, I believe that the management should also be ready to consider eliminating employees who are toxic in the workplace.
Argyris, C. (1991). Teaching smart people how to learn. Harvard Business Review, 4(2), 4-15.
Bouchamma, Y., Giguère, M., & April, D. (2019). Self-assessment and training: Guidelines for pedagogical supervision. Rowman & Littlefield.
Conrad, D., & Openo, J. (2018). Assessment strategies for online learning: Engagement and authenticity. Athabasca University Press.
Davidson, M. (2002). Leveraging difference for organizational excellence: Managing diversity differently. Harvard University Press.
Jenkins, A. (2017). The authority guide to developing high performance teams: How to develop brilliant teams and reap the rich rewards of effective collaboration in the workplace. SRA Books.
Lencioni, P. M. (2010). The five dysfunctions of a team. John Wiley & Sons.
Linders, B. (2019). The agile self-assessment game: An agile coaching tool for improving the agility of your teams and organization. Ben Linders Publishing.