Last week I was working with a customer service group. Before we started the session, I asked the group what makes a team.
The reply was, “We know each other and work together; and that makes us a team.”
I then asked, what about a group of people who work for the same company, but don’t know each other and they’re in an elevator? Are they a team?
There were quizzical looks and varied opinions.
“What if the elevator is stuck between floors? ” was my next question. Immediately people laughed and said the group better figure out how to get out of the elevator.
I guess they’ve just become a team.
People often think they’re a team just because the work in the same building, for the same company or in the same department.
A team really isn’t a team unless they have a common purpose. This is why things “don’t” get done in organizations. There are departments but no teams. Even groups composed of people with high level skills have difficulty completing tasks because they are not vested in the task or the organization.
In order for a team to accomplish a task, they must all be invested in the task and have the skills to make it happen.
In order to demonstrate team building, I divided the participants into two groups and had them complete a task. The task was simple; take your box of toys and build the tallest tower.( It was obvious that one box had more toys than the other but it wasn’t mentioned by anyone until after the event.)
During the task I watched and took notes. I now realize it would have been great if I had videoed the event. There were leaders, there were followers and there were people who became annoyed because their suggestions weren’t taken and decided to opt out! What’s really interesting is that people behave in work groups the same way they do in life. Think about people you know; when they don’t get their way they decide not to play.
Some people were inventive, they asked their team members questions and some worked on a plan before starting the task. One of the winners decided to lay the tower down on the floor. This way they didn’t have to work so hard on making it stand up.
Having functioning teams is especially important for businesses. Accomplishing tasks or “getting things done” is what builds a successful business. As a manager or team leader you are measured on how much you can get done.
Social media encourages the formation of groups. Group members often take these groups and turn them into teams—teams that are focused on raising money or supporting a cause.
You probably remember the story about Karen Klein; the 68 year old bus monitor who was violently harassed on Bus 784 as it rolled through the streets of Greece, New York. The kids were taunting her, calling her names and being downright nasty.
Following the incident, a group of people formed an association to raise money for Klein so that she could go on vacation and forget her experience. Klein took part of the money, (they were able to collect over $600,000) and she formed her own foundation. The Karen Klein Anti-Bullying Foundation which is part of GiveBack.org, which allows individuals to set up foundations online. Here was a new team dedicated to doing well.
Teams just don’t happen, they have to have a common goal and work out their issues of working together.
Kurt Lewin, a German-American psychologist, known as one of the modern pioneers of social, organizational, and applied psychology studied the dynamic qualities of groups and established some important parameters of group dynamics. Kurt Lewin found that all groups were based on interdependence among their members. In other words, groups and teams are based on “we’re all in this together” mentality. Whether you’re planning a picnic or building a gang, there must be some connection between the members.
How do you build your teams? First you need to identify the strengths and weaknesses of your potential “team members. “.There are many standardized inventories that can be used to help with this process; I find the easier they are to interpret the better.
I have used BEST inventories during the past 10 years for team building and other types of skills building.
Whether you have two or 100 in your group; you want to know who you’re dealing with and then maximize the skill level.
In my next BLOG, I’ll talk about what you can learn from BEST Teambuilding.
Lisbeth Calandrino helps businesses build loyal relationships through training and her writings. Her book, “Red Hot Customer Service” can be ordered from her website, www.Lisbethcalandrino.com.