Good teamwork is recognized as being necessary for any winning athletic team. It is also necessary for every successful business, non-profit agency, governmental body, military unit, family, or other social group. A team is a group of individuals who are committed to working together for the achievement of a common goal that they believe is worthy of a high level of their personal effort. It is different from a group that just gets together to discuss topics of common interest. They expect to have to work hard to achieve their objective, and to submit their personal incentives to the task of being trained in the personal disciplines of behavior that are required by the particular tasks that are required for the effective achievement of their common objective It may be winning athletic contests, manufacturing and selling a good useful product, providing a necessary personal service for others, making wise political rules for the conducing of personal civic operations, getting along with a spouse in the raising some dependent children, defeating an enemy in violent military conflicts, or just achieving a worthy objective with a group of associates.
It is usually assumed that a good team has a specific coach, or boss or supervisor, chief executive officer, or ranked military officer, or family head, or chairperson. But, the operation of a good team cannot be managed by one single person. It must be done by each of the team members sharing the functions that are required for the achievement of their common objective in an ongoing process of shared leadership that involves every member of the team, not just its stars or most talented individuals or most experienced workers, or even the owner of the business. Good teamwork cannot be purchased with a big budget, and it cannot be commanded by a line of officers or supervisors. It is a quality of cooperative work in which each member of the team automatically implements the appropriate function that will enable the team to achieve its objective and to maintain its organized effort. This is a process of shared leadership that is the mark of any successful team and a demonstration of good teamwork.
These task functions are specifically designed to enable the team to clarify and to solve any emerging problems that they encounter in their cooperative efforts to achieve their common objective. The first task is one of initiating, which is proposing subsequent tasks or goals, defining the problem, and suggesting a procedure or ideas for solving a problem. Then next task is one of information or opinion seeking, which is requesting facts, seeking relevant information about team concerns, and asking for suggestions or ideas. The next task is information or opinion giving which is offering facts, providing relevant information about team concerns, stating beliefs, and giving suggestions and ideas. Then the next task is one of clarifying or elaborating, which is interpreting or reflecting ideas or suggestions about the team’s concerns, clearing up confusions, indicating alternatives and issues before the team, and giving examples. Now someone can provide the task of summarizing, which is the function of pulling together related ideas, restating ideas or suggestions that have been discussed, and offering a decision or conclusion for the team to accept or reject. Then someone can provide the task of consensus testing, which is sending up “trial balloons” to see if the team is nearing a conclusion or how much agreement has been reached. Finally someone can implement the task of testing feasibility, which is applying suggestions to real situations to examine their practical ability to work in their situation. It should be evident that these functions have a natural sequence to them in the work of a team, and they are best implemented by the automatic cooperation of every member of the team rather than being implemented by any single “leader”.
Building and maintenance functions
These task functions are designed to enable a team to maintain the productive way in which its members work together and to enhance their loyalty to each other and the team. The first task is to be encouraging to each other by being friendly, warm, and responsive to them for their contributions and giving them more opportunities to be recognized for their helpful participation in the team’s work. The next task is one of expressing team feelings that express the ongoing moods of the team regarding the relationships that are being established between the members of the team. Then the next task may be one of harmonizing any emerging disagreements by reducing any tension between members and getting them to explore their differences. The task that can do this is one of compromising by getting members to admit any personal errors when their ideas were not apparently helpful in achieving their common objective and their status in the team became one of conflict rather than one of mutual cooperation. The task of gate-keeping, which is working to keep the channels of communication between all of the members open and facilitating the participation of each member rather than falling into the pattern of having one member take charge of the team’s work. The task of setting standards for the member’s work together as they seek to achieve their common objective will help them to build and to maintain the positive qualities of their teamwork. The final task in this set of functions is one of following, which is just agreeing to accept the decisions of the team by listening carefully to contributions of each member and the decisions of the team that are being made. These functions should enable the team to preserve its identity as a group of cooperating individuals rather than just the expression of one “star”.
This is self-centered behavior that is focused more on the achievement of individuals on the team than on achieving its common objective. The first of these behaviors is that of blocking, which is interfering with the progress of the team by going off on a tangent, such as one’s personal experience that is unrelated to the team’s objective or arguing too much on a personal point that the teams has resolved or even preventing the team to take a vote. Aggression is acts of behavior that are critical of other team members without relation to what has happened in the work of the team. Other acts of behavior that are non-functional are seeking recognition to one’s self by excessive talking, suggesting extreme ideas, or boasting about one’s accomplishments in an unhelpful way. An example of this is special pleading that one’s idea or suggestion should be considered by the team because it represents the opinion of a recognized larger popular group of individuals. Another non-functional type of behavior is personally withdrawing from the ongoing discussion or work of the team by just becoming passive to its work or whispering to other team members or giving your attention to more personal matters of concern.. Dominating the work of a team by attempting to manipulate its discussions by “pulling rank” or constantly interrupting other team members in their efforts to participate in the work of the team is very non-functional behavior in teamwork. Unless these expressions of non-functional behavior are eliminated from the ongoing work of the team, they will destroy its efforts to accomplish its common objective.
Good teamwork is basically the cooperative effort of various individuals who are personally committed to the achievement of a common goal to which they will give their thoughtful attention and selfless energy and personal insights and skills. It cannot be ordered by any authoritative leader or purchased by any wealthy “boss”, but all of its task functions and building and maintenance functions must be implemented by members of the team as they work together in the process of shared leadership to eliminate any non-functional behavior that will destroy their efforts to accomplish their common objective.
Let’s talk about this. What is your positive and negative experiences in working as a member of a team? Which of these functions do you recognize as being most essential in good teamwork?