How to Create Remarkable Teams – Part 1

Atma figured out how to build remarkable teamsRemarkable teams – the Hallmark of Management 3.0

You are making plans for the success of your business. But is building remarkable teams at the top of your agenda? They way you build teams represents an enormous opportunity to set yourself apart from competitors and increase the likelihood of your success.

Over the last twenty years, social scientists have unearthed a mountain of valuable data and insight about team building. This two-part article will introduce you to what I consider the most important and essential ideas. To begin taking advantage of this knowledge, you will need to know two things about remarkable teams: what they look like (this week’s article) and how you create them (next week’s article).

What remarkable teams look like – part one: culture

Remarkable teams are a product of culture and change management. Let’s talk about culture first. Culture represents the environment, ecology, and underlying intentions of an organization. This is why it is such an important topic to organizational psychologists. Simply put, culture is both the cause and effect of an organization’s greatness or its dysfunction.

When it comes to building remarkable teams, culture is the cause on four different levels:

1) Materially, culture is the fabric of the relations between members.

2) Formally, culture represents the mostly unspoken rules that drive the organization, which influence the nature of team building.

3) Culture is also the efficient cause of an organization’s psychology. One way this happens, is when the cofounders, either knowingly or (usually) unknowingly bring in the dynamics that create the company’s overall nature and mood (i.e. the degree of function and dysfunction present). This in turn determines the kind of teams that develop.

4) Culture represents the aims and purposes of the organization. Goals shape the organization by pulling it into existence. This is similar to the way the direction you choose, determines the type of journey you experience.  And so, the way you first think about and start a project or business is of seminal importance. Decisions made early have an exponential impact on later efforts, including team building. The way an organization’s purpose influences its culture is known as the final cause.

Now that I have stated the importance of culture (maybe even overstated 😉 ) what does a functional, team-supportive culture look like?

Inspirational and engaging

Scientists have developed studies[i] around two important characteristics that contribute to functional teams:

  1. Psychological Empowerment- the way the culture supports and inspires the individual team members. [Optimal state: “My company culture makes me feel like I can do this.”]
  2. Affective Commitment – the way individual team members feel about their involvement and the other team members. [Optimal state: “I like my team and feel like a valuable part of it.”]

You can assess your team culture in two ways: first, by the degree to which your staff feels inspired to take part and their confidence for accomplishing their tasks. Secondly, by looking at the way they feel about their role in the team and how their interaction with the group makes them feel.  This means that you need to become very sensitive to your staff’s emotional state. You do this by momentarily setting aside your own emotions and tuning into what those around you are feeling. The information about their emotional state is in their faces, their voices, their body language, and the way they treat each other. With practice you can become better and better at noticing and analyzing this rich stream of data.

What remarkable teams look like – part two: change management

Fixing a less than ideal culture is known as change management. The name stems from the challenge of establishing new protocols and changing an organization’s psychology. As you know, humans tend to resist change. Your job as the leader, is to make change easier.

How to start: assess your ability to meet the following three goals of change management:

  1. Empowering leadership – how well do you encourage autonomy, self-management, collaboration, creativity and group problem solving?
  2. Relationship conflict – how good are you at diffusing and redirecting group tension, conflicts, animosity, and non-productivity?
  3. Personality development – do you personally inspire individual team members to practice functional behaviors such as open-mindedness, humility, patience, etc…? And equally or more importantly  – does your company culture foster these traits?

Taking an honest look at how well you empower teams, manage conflict, and inspire others will give you a sense of where you stand in the pursuit of building great teams.

So far, I have discussed contributing factors to recognizing remarkable teams. So, now the question is, how do you create remarkable teams? The answer is, first you build them to be remarkable, and then you manage them to stay remarkable. And that is the topic of PART 2 of How to Create Remarkable Teams… where I will cover the five building blocks of collaboration and describe how to manage through self-organization.

Stay tuned, subscribe, and share!


[i] Gilad Chen, Payal Nangia Sharma,Suzanne K. Edinger, and Debra L. Shapiro -University of Maryland; Jiing-Lih Farh -Hong Kong University of Science and Technology; Motivating and Demotivating Forces in Teams: Cross-Level Influences of Empowering Leadership and Relationship Conflict, Journal of Applied Psychology 2011, Vol. 96, No. 3, 541–557

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