Facilitating Team Dynamics

Effective team performance can be derived from various fundamental characteristics (Kruk 1997). First, team leaders and members have to successfully integrate and account for their individual actions. Each member has a unique and specific role where each member’s performance can contribute to collective success of the team and the organization at large. This implies that the main cause of team failure may reside not only in members’ abilities but also in their collective failures to coordinate and synchronize their personal contribution with the entire team process. This integration process is a critical determinant of the team performance, and it often mediates influential capacities of most other exogenous variables. This essay will discuss how a dynamic team may be subjected to numerous conflicts and how leadership can be used to solve conflict in the team.

Team Leadership

Contemporary teams have increased their requirements to performance in the prevailing dynamic but complex environment (Forsyth 2006). These characteristics have been particularly applied to
organization teams, especially on the top management levels. The operating environment for modern organizational teams features a number of different stakeholders who have a high load of information, increased tempo of change, dynamic situational contingencies and at times present conflicting agendas. The advancement of communication technology has made great use of virtual teams in a more prominent and practical way in the industry. Virtual teams are those whose members are not physically collocated within the organization (Masters & Albright 2002). These different performance requirements heighten the needs to have an effective process of member’s coordination. In addition, due to the increased rate of change in modern operational environment, team members are required to operate more adaptively when coordinating their modes of action. However, the success of a leader in defining the direction of the team or organizing team members in order to maximize the progress in a given direction contributes to a higher extent towards the effectiveness of the team. Indeed, Northouse (2008) argues that the effective leadership process represents perhaps one of the most critical success factors in organizational teams.

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In spite of the ubiquity of leadership influence on the performance of organizational teams, the increasing number of leadership literature and team dynamics, little is known about how leaders create and manage the effectiveness of their teams (Forsyth 2006). Earlier leadership theories had a tendency to focus on how leaders influence the collection of their subordinates, without addressing how leaders can foster the integration of their subordinate actions. For example, the path-goal theory represents an excellent illustration of how leadership can exercise influence on the subordinates’ outcomes but not on how to maintain an effective process of team integration and interaction. Most leadership theories that describe team processes treat them only as moderators for indicating the behavior of leadership in the most effective and particular circumstances (Vecchio 2007). Alternatively, there are some team performance models that specify leadership processes as a key driver of the team process.

Functional Leadership

A dynamic team is a group of people who have different functional expertise who are working towards a common goal, and due to the dynamic nature of the team, leadership can be equally challenging in various disciplines. The functional leadership approach bears one perspective that specifically addresses leadership in broad terms and its relationship to each team. The main assertion of the functional approach to leadership is that the main job is to enhance leader’s ability to handle the needs of the group. If leaders manage to ensure that all functional activities that are critical in terms of accomplishment and team maintenance are taken care of, they are considered to have performed the job well. This perspective of leadership describes the process as a social problem solving mechanism.

It ensures that leaders are responsible for the following responsibilities:

  • (a) diagnosing a problem within a team that can potentially impede the team and the organization’s ability to attain a certain goal
  • (b) generating and providing the right plan for the most appropriate solution
  • (c) implementation of solutions within a typically complex social domain

This definition provides some critical distinctions lying at the heart of perceptions of team leadership.

First, leadership is emphasized as a link between teams and a wider operational environment (Kruk 1997). This is due to the fact that most problems that affect a team originate from the external environment, and their diagnostics requires leaders to be tuned towards the development of events outside the team. Further, leaders are also responsible for interpreting and defining environmental events for their teams.

The second distinction describes how leadership typically involves discretion to make a choice and produce solutions that would be appropriate in solving a particular problem. Team actions that are fully specified or elicited by the situation do not need the intervention of the team leader. Leadership is necessitated by the team whenever there is a conflict in which multiple solution paths deems viable or a requisite solution requires to be implemented in a complex social domain through the process of vigilant planning (Lansford 2008). Leaders are then responsible to make choices that define the subsequent team actions and responses.

The third distinction holds that functional leadership is not defined by a particular set of behavior characteristics, but by generic responses that are produced by diverse problem situations. This means that leadership emphasis switches from what leaders should do to what is required to be done in order to have effective performance. This type of distinction separates functional leadership perspective from other generic models of team-leaders interactions that either specify a particular type of leadership behaviors that should be considered as the most optimal in most team situations or vary in application according to team characteristics and a situation at hand (Masters & Albright 2002). Thus, leadership is defined as the ability to execute problem solving activities that are directed towards producing solutions that help to advance the achievement of a particular goal. Therefore, any behavioral pattern that reflects effective goal-directed actions by a leader would constitute the definition of leadership.

Team Dynamics

Team dynamics is a system of psychological and behavioral processes that occur within a social group or in relation to other groups. According to change management expert and social psychologist Kurt Lewin, team dynamics describes the effects of the roles and characters of each team member and of the team as a whole (Vecchio 2007). Lewin noted that people have different behaviors and take different roles as they carry out their duties in a team.

A team with positive dynamics is good to spot because team members hold the actions of each other with trust, work towards a collective decision, and each member is accountable for things that happen. According to Vecchio (2007), when a team has positive dynamics, the creativity of its members is doubled compared to that of an average team. Poor team dynamics can be contributed to leaders or team members.

Some of the most common problems that occur to a team with negative dynamics include the following:

  • (a) Weak leadership – when a team suffers from the lack of a motivational leader, the dominant member of the team takes charge. This can result in lack of direction, internal wrangles, and focus on wrong priorities (Clark 2003).
  • (b) Excessive difference between the authorities and the team – this situation usually happens when people tend to agree with the leader’s point of view and forget to express their own opinion. This kind of leadership results in dictatorship type of leadership, and the team tends to focus on the things that are of interest to the dominant leader.
  • (c) Blocking – this is a common phenomenon that happens when members of the team behave in a manner that is likely to disrupt the flow of information within the squad. Members can adopt blocking roles by becoming aggressors, negators, withdrawers, attention seekers or jokers. These characters create problems with team leaders and may deviate from team objectives and even lead to the collapse of the team.
  • (d) Free riding – this is a situation where some members of the team take the group so easy that they leave all the work to be done by their colleagues. Free riders may work hard on their personal duties but excessively limit their contribution in a team situation. This behavior is known as social loafing.
  • (e) Group thinking – this situation happens when the members of the team places higher emphasis on the ability to reach a consensus instead of making right decisions for the team. This prevents the members of the team from exploring their alternatives in the team.
  • (f) Evaluation apprehension – the perceptions of team members can create an adverse team dynamics. Evaluation apprehension occurs when some members feel that the others are judging them excessively or harshly, and as a result, they object every proposal or hold back their opinion (Vecchio 2007).

Strategies of Solving Team Dynamics

There are various approaches that can be adopted by a member or a leader to solve the problems that exist in a team due to team dynamics. The approach depends on who is the member who feels alienated by others or the person who feels like there is a need to make a change in the team.

  • (a) Tackle the Problem Fast
    If one of the members or a leader notices that the team has adopted a particular behavior that affects the team’s healthy interaction, it is important to act immediately to challenge the behavior. The responsible team member should provide a feedback to the teammates on the impact of his reaction and encourage them to reflect on how the behavior can be changed.
  • (b) Define Duties and Responsibilities
    A team that has no focus or direction can easily develop poor team dynamics as members struggle to understand their roles within the team. A team chart should be created to define the team’s mission and objectives and the responsibilities of everyone outlined in details.
  • (c) Break Down the Barriers
    Team building exercises should be used to help each member get to understand one another, especially when there are new members joining the team. These exercises ease the tension to the new colleagues in the process of getting assimilated into the team gently. In addition, team development helps in fighting the ‘black sheep effect’ that happens when the familiar team members turn against people who are considered to be different.
  • (d) Emphasis on Communication
    Maintaining open communication within the team is the key to enhancing good team dynamics. Thus, leaders should ensure that everyone is communicating clearly and effectively through the forms recognized by the team. For instance, group members can validate emails, meetings, sharing of documents as the main modes of communication to avoid ambiguity in the flow of information. Opinionated members can overwhelm less talkative members, and when this happened, the leader has to take control to ensure that the opinions of others are heard.

Thus, team dynamics describe how people in a team can interact with each other to reach the goals of the organization at large. Positive dynamics enhance close working relationships with one another while negative dynamics reduce the effectiveness of the team. The internal dynamics of the team do not happen by accident; they are derived from the awareness of the manner in which the team performs its activities and functions. The activities that are relevant for effective team operations can be divided into tasks so that team members perform their functions to the best of their ability. In order to effectively achieve their goals, the maintenance functions of the team need to build and maintain team cohesiveness and a sense of community. The ability to perform these functions is learnt through interacting with the best team members and also through experience. The most important skills and capabilities that are required to be learnt is the ability to identify and find solutions to perform unfilled functions within a team. However, interpersonal tension may hamper person’s abilities because a team member may face many problems should be dealt with by the team and not be taken as a personal responsibility.

Team Cohesion

This is the degree to which an individual member feels free and wants to contribute to the team’s ability to continue as a functional work unit. Cohesiveness develops over time through attraction at the team and interpersonal level and collaboration, and hence a sense of belonging is developed. The aim of team cohesion is to enhance the relationship between an individual and organizational performance. In scientific research, cohesion is considered as the most important determinant of team success in small teams, and many authors made attempts to define and operationalize the concept of cohesion.

Traditionally, cohesion was defined as the unitary construct inherited to a bigger extent from the contribution of Northouse (2008), who regarded it as a total field of forces that acts on members to remain in the team. Thus, cohesion has been operationalized over the years as the attraction to the group, and it is thus evaluated by requesting the members how much they feel alike or the extent to which they think they should remain in the team. In the contemporary definition, a multidimensional approach to cohesion is defended. This point of view suggests that tasks commitment should be added to the interpersonal connection in a three-factor model. The three-factor model comprises of social cohesion, task cohesion and personal attractiveness to the team.

Research demonstrates that the most cohesive teams normally outperform non-cohesive ones, where members enjoy greater satisfaction and in general, there is a positive effect on personal contribution towards the team. Modern studies attempt to fill the gap between analyzing the extent to which the culture determines the extent of team cohesion and its contribution to the performance of the team. Based on these positive outcomes, it is necessary to understand the factors that contribute towards the promotion of team cohesion.

Organization vs. Team Culture

Although an organization is observed to be goal-oriented, the organizational culture is defined as a system of shred meanings that each member holds inherently, which distinguishes the team from others. According to Kruk (1997), organizational culture is the pattern of basic assumptions that are invented, discovered and developed by a team in order to learn how to cope with its own problems of integrating internally and adapting externally. It is the pattern of values that help an individual in understanding the organizational functions and then provide them with norms that guide behavior in the team. Thus, organizational culture is very important in dealing with the underlying shared values and beliefs that people hold dearly during certain activities in the team.

When team cohesion is discussed, we refer to attraction as the basic value in shared assumptions. Team dynamics are defined and influenced by personal perceptions and internal conflicts that are grounded within the cultural values and individual’s background. As illustrated by Northouse (2008), these individual values find their way in the expression of behavioral norms, which can be said to have adhesion to higher levels of cohesion within the team. The more differences in perception and background within the team, the more likely that the team may have internal conflicts.

Increasing Motivation within a Team

There are various ways that a member can enhance motivation to other members of a team. The ability of a leader to lead and motivate people is very important to the success of the team. An organization and a team count on the leader to provide effective leadership and focus on the most productive ways to perform the tasks assigned. Leadership is not defined as domineering or being tough on people; it is about having high expectations and helping people to meet their goals as well as those of the team. The leader creates opportunities for a change by building enthusiasm for change efforts and becoming the main change agent.

Like leadership, motivation is an important responsibility of the management. Motivation translates directly into the team productivity and effectiveness. People who work together with synergy and enthusiasm influence productivity more positively than a team that lacks the same spark due to job dissatisfaction or boredom of its members (Clark 2003).

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How a Member Can Improve the Performance of the Team

As a member or a team leader, one should always ensure that he/she plays a bigger role in team building and creation of motivation. Some of the key steps that need to be followed in enhancing motivation are outlined further.

  • First, team leader should understand what motivates people you lead and direct team activities towards that direction in order to increase motivation. The best way to find out the factors that motivate team members is to engage them in a discussion and allow them to raise their views. A one-on-one meeting with the members helps in understanding their current status of work, personal problems and intentions. A leader should help the members in solving their problems and drive them to provide their best to the team as well as to the organization at large. The members should discuss issues like the most challenging part of their work, the most enjoyable activities, aspects of work that are more satisfactory, and whether they feel appreciated by the team or the organization. The answer to these questions can provide an insight into what needs to be done to increase the level of motivation of the team. In most cases, the members provide a roadmap to the problems that need to be addressed and always expect the leader to deal with them.
  • Second, one should encourage team members who perform better. Individuals who have skills and abilities required to perform certain tasks more effectively should be maintained within the team. People whose skills are not perfect for the job requirement create a high degree of inequity within the team. This inequity leads to resentment of those who perform and give their best to the team, and a person who has trouble may become frustrated. Thus, a team leader should exercise caution in hiring because failure to acquire the best personnel fitting for the job may lead to resentment among the other individuals. Moreover, hiring and training is costly and time-consuming, and poor performance may be traumatic for everyone in the team.
  • Third, one should assist team leaders in planning team activities whenever necessary. Planning ahead is important to avoid a situation where managers resort to panic, delegating their duties when they are overwhelmed. Delegation of duties in panic is usually a bad idea, especially when done in the middle of a project or when training and explanations have been overlooked. If delegation has to be done, a manager/leader should ensure that the appropriate training and planning has been done.
  • Fourth, leaders should encourage team members to work on what is important and avoid wasting time and resources on less important and irrelevant activities. Through planning, a leader should focus the efforts of the team on activities that result in the biggest contribution to the team or the organization. The objectives and goals of the team should be used to align the organization priorities and provide adequate explanations to people who are assigned to perform the task. A leader should make sure that the task is aligned with the team’s and organization’s goals. When people receive vivid explanation, they work harder because they understand how their work is related to the organization’s strategy.
  • Finally, leaders should consider rewarding and praising the best team players. They should recognize and praise people who perform to expectations or better than expected. Praise and recognition is a powerful motivator. There are very many ways that praise and recognition can be achieved regardless of the budget allocated to it. It is not always material things that have to be offered; a simple ‘thank you’ message can mean a lot to an individual (Northouse 2008).

Thus, this motivational evidence supports claims that motivational programs can be increased in quality and quantity. With motivation, a leader can overcome three major types of performance problems, which are resistance to change, allowing distractions, and treating a novel task as familiar, and which result in making mistakes and not investing in mental efforts to take responsibilities due to excessive confidence. Everyone is motivated to value what they believe will make the team effective or successful. A challenge only consists in identifying the way of supporting the great variety of different people with diverse cultural beliefs about success and what can make them more effective at work.

Conflict in a Team

Conflict in a team is a typically protracted argument or serious disagreement that engulfs people with a common interest. Workplace conflicts are particularly unique as they occur in workplaces and can result from personality clash, task conflict or differing opinions. The unique aspects of the working environment, hierarchical structure, or financial issues are the major factors that shape the conflict. Broadly, there are two kinds of workplace conflicts. First, conflicts arise from a situation when people’s decisions, actions or ideas that relate directly to the job are opposed or from a personality clash when two members of a team fail to get on with one another.

A conflict of ideas in the workplace can result in a productive business situation, especially when the parties involved are willing to brainstorm and seek solutions together. In some cases, a compromise turns to be better for business than either of the original ideas proposed formally. Such kinds of conflicts generate better work practices and initiate positive changes that might never have occurred. On the other hand, a personality clash does not provide economic production within the team or the organization. A clash may arise from a dispute in the prevailing business practices and escalate to mutual loathing or else, two teammates may have a mutual dislike from the beginning.

Dealing with Unstuck Team

There are various reasons that make a team become unstuck. Thus, making the right diagnosis requires one to review the group’s purpose, strategies, processes, people, metrics and cultural practices of the team. A team can become completely exhausted when all of its elements become completely out of sync with the reality. This is a condition in which the team changes negatively and the energy required to produce new ideas is incredibly drained. The most effective remedy for a directionless team is execution. In this approach, the team leader or the most energetic member of the team tends to focus only on the things that matter and are executable in the short run, whereas the senior management seeks solutions for the long run.

Resolving Team Conflicts

Different types of conflicts are necessary as part of a team process. The presence of conflict reveals the areas of weakness in the team as well as within its members. Different types of leaders handle conflicts in different ways depending on the importance of their intentions to maintain good social relationships and develop a sense of responsibility in providing quality solutions. A team can use various approaches to manage conflicts based on the cause and extent of misunderstanding (Lansford 2008). Developing a healthy conflict resolution mechanism requires open communication, respect and mutual satisfying alternatives.

Conflict is a normal part of a team’s life and a healthy sign of potential success. If a team has no conflict, it can be a sign of a hidden problem because the team might be suffering from unhealthy agreements or it is led by a domineering leader who always suppresses debates and conflicts. In addition, the team might be so dormant that it may perform its functions in a routine manner and the members dare not try new ways of improving their work.

Approaches to Conflict Resolution

The approaches available to conflict resolution vary depending on the members’ desire to be cooperative and assertive. Since team members have long term relationships with each other, they should try their best to use collaborative approaches to solve conflicts whenever possible (Doak 2003).

Avoidance

This approach seeks to ignore the issues at hand and deny the existence of a problem. By not dealing with the conflict directly, team members maintain the hope that it will die by itself.

Accommodation

Some members of the team may decide to give up their position in order to make the situation agreeable. They become cooperative, but the cost of this action for the team may be high because it affects the values of opinions from other members

Confrontation

The parties or the members involved act progressively by attempting to win their way by facing the conflict directly. However, wining can turn to be more important for some parties than making the right decision for the team, thus the individual interest may outwit the best interest of the team.

Compromise

Every member makes a concession to provide solution to the problem.

Collaboration

When both parties in a conflict have a genuine concern, the team needs to search for the best solution that can satisfy everyone. This approach requires both respect for others and cooperation.

Whether the conflict has a valuable or detrimental effect on the team depends on the type of conflict and the task of the team members. Task conflicts are mainly the foundation to which new innovations are established in an organization. They basically occur when people try to perform routine tasks fail to agree on the best approach to dealing with the tasks. The resolution to task conflicts leads to positive results on team performance.

Dealing with Strong Emotions in a Meeting

Emotions in a workplace or meeting can be devastating, but they can be easily controlled and managed well. If someone does not make his/her internal feelings and experience understood by others, he/she remains confused and unprofessional. There are various ways in which such a situation can be controlled.

Learn and Avoid Emotional Trigger

An emotionally active person should understand the simplest situations that arouse emotions and set off to avoid them. It is also important to know what can trigger and frustrate him/her. A team member should always seek to remain productive despite escalating intense emotions.

Acquire the Coping Skills

Emotions have their own ways of hampering the work of the rational parts of the brain in the heat of a moment. An emotionally active person should learn how to cope with negative emotions and avoid affecting others with contagious emotions.

Taking Positive Actions

Writing is one of the most effective ways of dealing with strong emotions since they have a way of activating human’s logical thinking process. It can help a person to work through an intense emotional situation that may be hard to cope with.

Dealing with Unsure Situations in the Workplace

The difference between a good worker and a smart or great worker is determined by how one deal with an unexpected circumstance in the workplace. While some people may crumble under pressure and fear of the unknown, others thrive by finding new ways of overcoming adversities. The most recommended way of dealing with unsure situation is consulting with others and remaining optimistic. The main reason for consultation is to share ideas because others might have come across the same problem or heard about it. A problem of uncertainty is usually an opportunity in disguise for a team member to show their level of creativity and innovativeness by trying to maintain a positive attitude even in inevitably hard situations.

Conclusion

The dynamic ability of team leadership is the main characteristics of effective team performance. The approach taken to resolve a conflict depends on the personalities, social relations and a particular situation. This type of conflict resolution has to analyze the two main dimensions of team cohesion; distribution and integration. Distribution is concerned with the outcome of one person while integration is concerned with the outcome of the other. In other words, people in a conflict seek to get the best for themselves and little for the other, or they may opt to be cooperative and get concerned with how everyone fairs. These two dimensions are independent and lead to the creation of better solutions for both parties. There different approaches adopted to solve conflicts have individuals who bear the primary responsibilities of defining team goals and develop and structure team members to achieve the intended missions. Thus, every member of the team should assume leadership roles in case of a crisis to maintain the team cohesion and dynamics. Leadership roles also exist even in self-management teams although leadership conducts of such teams have considerably significant variance from similar roles played by other traditional teams.