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Teams are a primary workforce structure in today’s organizations and are an essential ingredient for building successful organizations. Teams of people are what drive results in companies not individuals.
Many teams fail because they get off track in the beginning and never get back to true performance. This is especially true for newly-formed teams who have multiple challenges to address in the beginning of their work together. Most of these challenges can be narrowed down to three key elements:
New teams are said to be in the “forming stage”, according to Bruce Tuckman, author of the five stages of group development. Team members are paying attention to “start up” activities such as the project plans and schedules,. Their focus is more on the tasks to be accomplished with many team members working independently and not yet focused on their personal relationships with fellow team members. Since people generally want to be accepted by others, during this period they usually avoid conflict and disagreement.
To successfully launch as a new team and move to the next phase called “storming”, new teams need to have four elements in place.
Many teams fail due to a lack of trust. Trust is when team members are willing to be completely vulnerable with one another. According to Patrick Lencioni, “trust is knowing when a team member does push you, they are doing it because they care about the team” (from The Five Dysfunctions of a Team: A Leadership Fable). When trust is missing, people don’t speak up, they are afraid to voice their concerns, and diversity of viewpoints and new ideas are lacking. A lack of trust can seriously impede a team’s development and impact their capacity to work together to get things done.
Team members must develop comfort with being open to sharing new ideas and perspectives. This fosters effective problem solving and good decision-making. Many new teams have members who are consistently silent, avoid addressing problems and nod in agreement without truly agreeing. Open communication helps to foster trust and begins to set the stage for building collaboration.
Collaboration is when two or more people (often groups) work together through idea sharing and thinking to accomplish a common goal. It is simply teamwork taken to a higher level. When teams collaborate, everyone is on the same page, expectations are clear and there is transparency in all areas. Collaboration and good communication help to foster a solid identity for a new team setting the stage for their success.
Conflict is inevitable in the workplace and can get in the way of creativity and productivity in a team. When new teams begin their work together, they are averse to conflict and are typically uncomfortable with discussing differences that might arise. However, the sooner they can manage conflict the sooner they can move to higher performance. Conflict must be handled professionally and productively for a new team to work well together and be prepared to move to the storming stage where managing constructive conflict is critical.
As you can see, there are multiple elements needed for new teams to succeed. However, developing these elements takes a great deal of time which most new teams don’t have in today’s world. Most of the time, organizations need their new teams to jumpstart the project, get tasks done, and produce stellar results. This is difficult for new teams who are having to manage the social and relationship distractions while balancing their focus on the work. They are distracted by the absence of a team identity, do not feel mutually accountable to one another for the team’s objectives, lack commitment, and are possibly conflictual over team goals.
To help with this challenge, we suggest new teams accelerate and optimize their development. While there are many known strategies for accomplishing this, we have found Personality Training to be most effective. The Myers-Briggs Assessment (or known as the MBTI), is the most popular psychological instrument used today to describe personality and measure personality characteristics. It is an excellent tool when used with the whole team in a workshop format. It often takes weeks or even months for new teams to bond and build team cohesion. The MBTI workshop process can have breakthrough results in just one day.
The MBTI Workshop helps teams focus attention on building and planning their future team relationships. A safe environment is established for members to discuss their potential team dynamics (how they may likely communicate, make decisions and potential conflicts) greatly increasing team trust and bonding. Often people are hesitant to speak up and share their concerns. Learning about one’s personality and others on the team acts as a springboard to open up conversations and teach the team how to best communicate about everything – good and bad.
When team members learn about their type, they increase their understanding of their differences with each other instead of butting heads. Acknowledging differences is the first step to effective understanding and appreciating the contributions of everyone on the team. Sometimes it is difficult to remember that not everyone processes information and interprets problems the same way. If you know up front that someone has a different style than you, you can adjust your expectations and be better at compromising.
In addition to team members learning about themselves, the MBTI helps a new team identify their team culture. Questions such as: What are our strengths? What are our potential blind spots? How will our mix of personalities make decisions? Or manage conflict? Early identification of these elements can help new teams address potential problems and conflicts before they erupt and impact the work.
In one of the workshop exercises, teams complete a “team analysis” that displays who is on the team based on the MBTI model of 16 different personalities. The new team has a visual model showing where there are personality type similarities and differences and can immediately see who on the team will blend and who will differ. This information allows for potential differences to be alerted to instead of learning this via trial and error.
Another workshop tool frequently used is called the “Zig-Zag Model” for decision making. Here the team learns an optimal way to make decisions where all personality preferences are used creating a more balanced decision and way to solve problems.
Using the MBTI assessment is hugely beneficial to the leaders of a new team. They need to quickly get up to speed, learn who is on their team, how they prefer to work and how best to communicate effectively with them.
When new team leaders learn what their personality type is and the types of their team, they can immediately use this information to learn how best to lead the team. They can also predict with confidence which tasks are most suited for each team member. They can discover who is the person on my team? How do they like to work? What best motivates them? How will my type blend with my type? And what are the strengths and weaknesses of my new team?
The team leader can balance participation on the team knowing who is most likely to express themselves externally (Extroversion Preference) or who prefer to be more reflective (Introverted Preference).
They can blend the Sensing and Intuitive preferences so that all of the necessary details are presented along with the big picture for solving problems and making decisions.
They can be sure to bring out the types that are unique to the team to promote diversity of viewpoints.
And, they can prevent “group think” (the practice of making decisions that discourages creativity) by emphasizing the importance of including all types in how they approach problems.
We can’t expect new teams to perform well right away. They first need to learn about each other’s working style, develop good communication, understand the team goals, and get the leader up to speed. The Myers-Briggs tool can help the new team build momentum faster and accelerate a team’s ability to produce results.