Great Teams

When is a Team, Not a Team

25.09.21 07:11 PM By Mark Pym

The team is the best unit of performance for most organisations

Every Leader knows the importance of building a team however it can produce very different images among people.  Whilst this subject isn't often talked about, many Leaders climb the ladder of success based on their individual performance, preferring to rely on themselves than on other members of the team. There is also no doubt that a biases towards individualism exists in many organisations, often underpinned by the HR policies and processes, that primarily reward individual performance. That said, high performing teams, are a natural complement to individual initiatives and achievements, because it is well  established, that many problems can only be solved by a team and teams often engender higher levels of commitment to common ends.

The title of our blog, is when is a team, not a team, as in order to build a great team, we must first have a clear picture of what a real team is.

Once we have established this, we can then go on to discover, in a later blog, why some teams far outperform others in similar sectors, markets and circumstances. 

Of course, all this has been made much more difficult following the recent pandemic, especially in terms of groups of individuals, not being able to meet regularly, in close proximity to each other, unless absolutely necessary.   However, perhaps more than ever, close knit teams, in terms of how they operate and function (not necessarily in terms of location), have probably never been more important, in our VUCA new working environment.

So what is a team?  Can we call a gathering of people, reporting to a Manager a team? Equally, if the management unit are called a 'team' does this really make them a team?  

So lets cut to the chase here, as more often, than note, a 'gathering of staff', working in one department or under one Manager of Leader, should be referred to as a group,  not a team.  That is because a team, should be recognised as showing certain 'team' aspects, quite often not present in a group. 

If you find yourself in a unit or group calling themselves a team, look out for the common evidence, associated with a team.  This includes the following:

  • Dedication to a common purpose and performance challenge
  • Commitment to a common approach ('an agreed way to do things around here')
  • A sense of mutual accountability 
  • Candour and mutual respect in each others interactions

Probably more important than anything else is that in our view, a unit of people/group, cannot call itself a team, unless it has a deep commitment to a common purpose and performance goals (often referred to as a performance challenge).  It is this performance challenge that can often be seen, as the catalyst that binds the group or unit together, creating a 'team'.

Underpinning this will be a small number of individuals forming the team. Typically, in our experience, less than 10 people form a team. You also usually find in a team an adequate level of complementary skills (functional/technical & problem-solving/decision making & interpersonal) as without these the unit, becomes dysfunctional and cannot operate as a 'team'.   in our team-shift tool at , this is one of the pathways in the Structure cornerstone, as the skills are a key foundation of any high performing team. 

We would strongly encourage any organisation, to apply these basic 'team' tenants to establish if indeed, their 'units of performance,' are operating as teams or functioning as groups. Once this has been established you can then start, to determine what might be the best 'road-map' forward to build teams, that are focused on delivering higher  levels of performance. 

If you want to know more about how to start building a great team, you can take our free and confidential survey. Just click on the Get Started Now button below.

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