Guest Column: Timothy F. Bednarz
Teams are complicated and complex structures since they are comprised of individuals with different personalities, biases, strengths and weaknesses. Before people can form into an effective team, they must first learn to work together. Participants must work through personal differences, find strengths to build upon, and balance collective commitments against the demands of individual job requirements.
Leaders must deal with team needs arising from the pressures of personal differences, biases, strengths, weaknesses and the demands of the individual jobs apart from the team. Addressing these issues is as important as the team’s task of making organizational improvements. Often both leaders and team members underestimate the need to develop themselves into a cohesive group.
Teams that run smoothly can concentrate on their primary goals. Conversely, teams that fail to build internal relationships waste time on internal control conflicts and unfocused efforts.
It is important for leaders to understand that the more they know what to expect as their teams progress, the better equipped they are to handle difficulties and problems as they arise. The most obvious team efforts are associated with the task of improving a process or solving a problem. This includes holding meetings, gathering and analyzing data, planning improvements, making changes and writing reports. However, when individuals are formed into teams, the complexity of group dynamics seems to inhibit their ability to work well together.
The issues associated with group dynamics include hidden problems, concerns and agendas that create specific undercurrents and distract the team from the accomplishment of its assigned responsibilities. Some of these undercurrents can be seen in a host of conflicting emotions: the excitement and anxiety of being a part of the team, an individual’s loyalty to their department or division, a nervous anticipation regarding the team’s success. Left unaddressed, these conflicts can inhibit the team’s effectiveness.