Working in a team seems to be an easy task: whatever one does, it is not about him alone. One has people around him/her who are responsible for the same or similar job, and the team shares responsibility for work, which is a great opportunity not to be afraid of challenging tasks. Team players are a unity and one force. However, it is critical to understand that a team always consists of very different people. A team is a group of people, organized for a certain objective that works together to reach it.
In business, teamwork aims at cutting out bureaucracy. When people work on projects together as a team, the company expects to reach more success than it would do if every employee worked on his own task without any guidance and assistance.
As a team consists of individual people, an American psychologist, Dr. Meredith Belbin, named the nine "team roles" that are keys to success of the team. The roles are as follows:
- the Plant (a person who suggests ideas);
- the Resource Investigator (a person who is an extravert);
- the Shaper (a dynamic person);
- the Monitor-Evaluator (a person who facilitates ideas);
- the Team-worker (a person generally helping in everything);
- the Specialist (a person with particular skills, needed for reaching the aim of the teamwork);
- the Implementer (a person who actually turns ideas into real solutions);
- the Completer-Finisher (a person who completes the task);
- the Coordinator (a person who keeps the team united).
If a person can tell for sure which role he/she can take, it should worry him/her: team players should show flexibility if they want to succeed. Undoubtedly, they all can choose the roles that fit them best, but more often one needs to take up any role necessary and try one's best to fulfill it responsibly.
Professor Ben (C) Fletcher formulated 'Six Thinking Hats Approach' for the challenges of the teamwork. They are as follows:
- Information (gathering relevant material for all the options);
- Feelings (explore all the angles emotionally);
- Caution (look at all the reasons to be cautious);
- Benefits (all the benefits of different solutions);
- Creativity (do not just accept the normal solutions);
- Managing the Thinking (issues to consider) (Fletcher, 2002).
This approach helps to build a strong and powerful team, where people can share their ideas freely without being afraid to tell what they think because of certain personal or social reasons. The approach allows managing the rising issues of any difficulty effectively, and it develops creativity of a team, which is crucial for problem solving.
In any team, there is a leader, who has to possess certain qualities to help the team reach success, and the most important of the qualities of a leader are:
- Support for all team members;
- Constructive and useful criticism;
- Positive attitude;
- Communicative skills;
- Respect towards all team members;
- Ability to manage the behavior of team members.
The study of the team working is very popular and important, because when working in a team one receives more flexibility, less supervision expenses, faster task management time, better quality and speed of decision-making, stricter behavior control. When speaking about an effective team, the definition of the term itself should be given. Under an effective team, one should understand more than just a team that manages all tasks in a given period. An effective team should perform well any time, and the members of the team should be not stressed, they should be satisfied with their work, there should be low absence and low turnover, and the team should be stable (Parker S.K., Williams H.M., 2001).
Not all teams are the same, because there are various forms of teamwork. It is rather important to define the type of a certain team when studying it. The types are as follows:
- teams producing goods or services vs. teams processing information;
- teams with permanent structures vs. teams created on a temporary basis;
- teams involving members working as a team vs. quality circles (Parker S.K., Williams H.M., 2001).
Teams vary in many other crucial ways, such as the degree of the member's independence, the level of involvement, leadership and standardization in the team. From the above-mentioned characteristics, one can distinguish the following types of teams: traditional, lean production, self-managing, and flexible.
Working in a team definitely has some effects on every employee who is a team member. The positive impact includes motivation, the rise of devotion to the company, an increase of self-management skills, and job satisfaction. The negative outcome is stress.
Effective leadership is a key point of the effective teamwork. Self-management of the team and the team leader in particular tends to have a strong positive effect on the outcome of the work of the team. That is, the more independently the team operates, the better the results are. The reason for it is the chance for everyone in the team to be more active in managing the offered task. Little independence, on the contrary, would cause rather low motivation and worse outcomes. As for effective leadership, it helps the team in two ways: encourage activity of the members of the team when the autonomy of the team is low and increase the autonomy of the members of the team, encouraging them to take more responsibility than they did before (Parker S.K., Williams H.M., 2001).
Team working, especially in teams that manage themselves, has many benefits, such as:
- better productivity;
- better decision-making;
- decreased costs;
- more innovation;
- more motivation;
- better quality;
- lower workforce.
However, in order to enjoy the benefits of team working, the team should possess certain core features, that is: to be a group of its own identity and organizational function and share goals and objectives. Moreover, team members need to have different roles to get the task of the team done (Campion, M. A., Medsker, G. J., & Higgs, A. C., 1993). Team effectiveness can be measured according to the following criteria: productivity, job satisfaction, commitment to the job, low turnover, low absence, and the ability to continue to work together. The criteria are interconnected. For example, in companies where employees get more job satisfaction, they also tend to work better, showing more commitment to their job. It also leads to less stress, less absence and less turnover, especially from the long-time perspective (Cavanaugh, Boswell, Roehling & Bourdreau, 2000).
The importance of well-being of every worker within a team is rather important. It greatly depends on the level of freedom of a worker within a team. In self-managed teams, people work better even though they feel more responsibility. It is so because they feel more power over decision-making, and it boosts their creative thinking and helps them to unfold the ideas that they would not share if they were working under outer pressure. Self-managing teams develop their own strategies of problem solving that tend to be much more effective as compared to those suggested by anyone outside the team (Tesluk, P.E., Mathieu, J.E., 1999).
However, one has to remember that the team, no matter how effective it is, faces many challenges any time. First, teams can suffer from anxiety, especially when the participants used to work in an environment with low autonomy and low motivation. The change of the total work system may be painful for them, and it may take some time for them to adjust, as working in a team requires changing their thinking. Second, people within a team should be open to change and embrace it and understand that it is the key point of growth and nothing is possible without it. In this situation, a strong motivated leader who is ready to accept the challenges and change his thinking first is obligatory. He will encourage the team not to be afraid of the change of work and to accept it not as a stressful situation they got into, but as a challenge, which offers many chances and benefits.
The challenges of teamwork are rather significant. The first is that it is difficult to get started as a team. The team members not always know each other well enough to work together successfully. In the beginning of every work project, there should be time for every person within a team to introduce himself/herself. The next step would be brainstorm, during which the team can decide on the ways of solving the problem or managing the given task. Another difficulty arises: even if the team works together, the tasks should be divided between the members according to their knowledge, skills and potential. The tasks should be given in a way that would motivate every person to do his/her best.
Misunderstanding, or ineffective communication, is another challenge of group work. Sometimes it happens that the members of the group cannot communicate their ideas to one another efficiently. Possible solution of this challenge can be as follows: more brainstorming is included into the work of the group. If this does not lead to sufficient improvements, group members should be given individual tasks and they should meet for discussing the results of their work later. This way, each group member gets a chance to think over the subject and try to understand it better while thinking of the ways to work on it together with other people.
Members who do not contribute to teamwork is another problem. It is as big as the problem of dominating personalities. In any case, some people do not participate, do not share their ideas and do not contribute to the progress of the team thus slowing down the work.
Conflict between team members is another problem that can block the work of the group completely. Each conflict should be solved peacefully with respect to every team member. Everyone has the right to be heard and understood. If the tension is too high, it is better to set up a meeting later when everyone is calm and ready to cooperate.
Working in a team is not as easy as it seems at the first sight, many challenges arise along the way and some of them cannot be predicted. However, if people within a team are motivated and concentrated on their work, they can work successfully provided they have a strongly motivated leader, who is an example and a role model for everyone within a team.