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What makes teams tick?

July 1, 2013

By Charley Morrow

Many of us have been taught that teams go through predictable and consistent phases before achieving high-performance levels:

1.         Forming: In the beginning, the team members start to get to know each other. People are polite. On their best behavior.

2.         Storming: The honeymoon ends pretty quickly when people start to confront each other and even “act out.” Conflict occurs as members struggle for power, leaders emerge, and organizational structures are decided upon.

3.         Norming: Team roles and expectations of behavior, interactions, contribution, power, and authority are developed. The conflicts subside as team members start to abide by these norms.

4.         Performing: The power of the team unfolds as the norms help the team work together and know what to expect of each other. Teamwork becomes easy and results are attained.

When I was an Outward Bound instructor and facilitated groups in the wilderness, the phases occurred in order. They happen in college social science laboratories too. But when I work with executive teams and product development teams out in the business world, they don’t.

This is because business teams are always complicated and boundary-less. They’re constantly influenced by outside forces. Team members come and go. Team missions change. And conflicts and disagreements between departments arise. All of these forces have an influence on team effectiveness. Sometimes the conflicts are worked out, and sometimes they go on and on. Sometimes obstacles help a team come together to reach higher levels of performance. But more often the opposite happens—the conflicts cause teams to underperform.

The good news, however, is your team members will always know what’s happening within the team. They’ll know the team’s conflicts and its strengths too. The trick is to capture and then act on that knowledge. And that’s where assessments come in. Nothing is a better team-diagnostic tool than an assessment that’s specifically designed to rate team effectiveness. You can’t fix a problem (or encourage and replicate what works) until you really know what makes your team tick. That’s why a comprehensive team assessment is so valuable.

You’ll need to dig a little deeper beyond the surface issues, but a thorough assessment will show you why your team is not breaking through to higher levels of performance, and reveal what needs to be fixed so it can in the future.

So let’s hear it. Do you know the strengths and weaknesses of your team? And do you know how to fix what’s not working? You should.

Click here to learn more about our Team Effectiveness Assessment that will help you see what’s holding you and your team back as well as what you need to do to develop a high-performance team.

More about Charley

Morrow_Charley_2Charley Morrow is Vice President of Assessments at Linkage. He has over 20 years of experience designing, implementing, and evaluating training, individual assessment, and organizational-transformation interventions, and he’s an expert in developing assessments and methodologies for individual, team, and organizational motivation and performance. Follow him on Twitter @CharleyMorrow.

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