5 Reasons why people work better in teams
Miranda Proferes - 30 August 2017
People work better in teams.
Look at a jazz combo; a "team" of 3-12 musicians. Each musician is talented in their own right, but, when supported by their peers, are much greater as a whole. Within the combo, each musician provides an individual skill and is given their moment to shine in the spotlight, supported by the other members.
Why should it be any different in our working lives?
A team can be described as 'A group of people, contributing their individual knowledge and skills but working together to achieve a common goal/task.'[i]
The breakdown of an organisation into much smaller groups, allows for these groups, or teams, to take ownership for their role in the organisation. The goals of the organisation are broken down and responsibilities handed to each team. Within each team to goal is further broken down, with every member given a task towards its execution. The result of this is a shared purpose and motivation for success within the team, but why is this? Why do people work better in teams?
"Coming together is a beginning. Keeping together is progress. Working together is success." -Henry Ford
As with the jazz combo, working in a team helps develop relationships between people. As you spend time with your team, you begin to understand them, to trust them, to learn their strengths and how to work with them. This shifts your focus from "me" to "we", building interpersonal relationships which benefit your team.
A study by Robert Huckman and Gary Pisano[ii] looked at the performance of cardiac surgeons in a familiar team environment, where they had an ongoing relationship with the hospital and surgery team, and as freelancers in alternate hospital environments. The results showed that the quality of a surgeon"s performance was significantly improved when in a familiar team environment. Their evidence suggests that this result is based on the familiarity developed between the surgeon and their team.
When everyone is working towards the same target, it is much easier to stay motivated. The shared deadlines and shared sense of purpose provide a common element for people and encourage them to stay on track. The idea of "˜not letting the team down" and the constant support at all stages by other team members, helps people to stay focused and positive towards reaching their individual milestones. The team environment makes larger milestones more easily achieved, providing faster reward for team members by breaking down goals into smaller, manageable tasks.
Dr Edwin Locke researched the idea of goal setting theory and its relationship to motivation[iii]. His research showed that setting goals affected performance by increasing motivation. The harder the goal, the higher level of output towards that goal. Fred Lunenburg furthered this research[iv] to confirm that "˜group goal-setting is as important as individual goal-setting". By working in a team environment, you are working as a group towards harder goals, which is broken down individually to smaller personal goals. The goals in themselves provide the motivation for both the individual and the team.
With familiarity, a team environment can foster friendship and loyalty. The shared vision for the team, means they view themselves as one entity. There is a sense of community and a motivation for the team to succeed. When a member of the team needs support, others in the team take responsibility to assist or cover for them. Like the jazz combo, it is the coordination of the team that is the success, not solely the individual player.
The size of the team is critical to the ownership felt by team members and in return, to its own success. "˜It has been shown that the number of people in a group influences both the number who never talk, and the number who feel they have ideas which they have not been able to express"[v]. The smaller a group, the greater input each team member has, which leads to greater accountability. Team members can then own their ideas and share in their success. This ownership motivates people to make their team successful, as they feel responsibility for their actions. The larger a team, the less ownership there is by each team member. When something goes wrong they feel less accountability as everyone and no one is to be blamed.
"If a team can't be fed with two pizzas, it is too big" - Jeff Bezos (Amazon)
You do not know everything. Each member of a team brings a different range of experience to the table, which broadens the overall skillset of the team. When solving complex problems, you have a more extensive wealth of knowledge to draw from and access to instant feedback. Working with other allows you to learn from other mistakes, passively, or actively, pick up new skills and knowledge, and discover fresh ideas. Similarly, being challenged by other team members can open your mind to a new way of thinking, and open pathways in different directions.
Teams require a mix of personality types. To function efficiently they need a facilitator (leader) and cooperation of all team members. Teams give everyone the opportunity to experiment in a supportive environment and this develops skills and leads to innovation. The soft skills learnt in a team environment, like decision marking, emotional awareness and conflict resolution, aid personal development and emotional intelligence.
The art of teamwork is not always easy, but the achievements that can be made as a team far outweigh those that can be made by an individual. As a member of a team you have partners to celebrate with, confidantes to commiserate with, motivators to help you through the most difficult stages and opportunities to expand your skills outside of your experience with the support of others.
For more information about Team Base Working, to download a whitepaper or book a live tour click on the this link: www.teambasedworkplace.com.au
[i] Stockley, Derek. "The importance of teams and teamwork" Derekstockley.com.au.
http://www.derekstockley.com.au/newsletters-06/067-teamwork-importance.html (accessed August 2, 2017).
[ii] Huckman, Robert S., and Pisano, Gary P. "The Firm Specificity of Individual Performance: Evidence from Cardiac Surgery." Management Science 52, no. 4 (April 2006): 473"“488.
[iii] Locke, Edwin A. "Motivation through Conscious Goal Setting." Applied & Preventative Psychology 5, Iss. 2 (1996): 117-124.
[iv] Lunenburg, Fred C. "Goal-Setting Theory of Motivation." International Journal of Management, Business, and Administration 15, no. 1 (2011).
[v] Alexander, Christopher, Ishikawa, S., and Silverstein, M. A Pattern Language OUP, New York 1977, p.713.