Have you ever worked in a group or team? How did the team function? What was the demographic makeup of the team, and how did you all get along?
Creating an effective work team is by no means a simple task, and can involve getting the right group of people together, setting appropriate goals, using the right leadership style, and more. Although not a complete solution, the following tips might help spark some ideas on creating your own effective work team.
1) Avoid over-cohesiveness
Naturally, most of us feel more comfortable with people who are similar to us. We tend to get along well with people who have similar preferences and tastes, or those who may be of similar age, race, or other demographics. However in work groups and teams, too much cohesion or lack of diversity can be detrimental and costly to the organization.
A highly cohesive team is great, but oftentimes there is a point where the team is so cohesive it impedes the organization’s performance. Instead of worrying about the company’s goals, team members strive for whatever is in the team’s best interest, which may or may not coincide with organizational goals.
For example, a team might strive to finish work early everyday so they can go out for drinks, or a team might get so caught up socializing with their peers that their work output suffers.
By composing a diverse team with varying demographics that is moderately cohesive, a broader range of ideas can be taken into perspective and quite often can lead to new solutions or ways of thinking.
2) Look at the less obvious demographic categories
Just a few decades ago, diversity in the workplace simply meant working with people of different ethnicities or racial backgrounds. Today there are many different categories that relate to diversity, such as gender, sexual preference, religion, education, ethnicity, and more,
Two of the most important yet often overlooked demographics are differences in age and differences in economic upbringing.
First, it seems that some organizations avoid hiring older individuals, or are finding ways to relieve older workers of their duties because they will likely be exiting the workforce relatively soon, and may be entitled to pensions or retirement plans.
Older individuals might not be so up to date with current trends, but their experience and knowledge can be of paramount importance; their opinions and points of view are definitely worth listening to. Similarly, young people also have unique perspectives, ideas, and ways of thinking, yet organizations are still weary of hiring people with little experience.
Second, a diverse team may also come from varying economic backgrounds. Even if a team is composed of ethnically diverse members, if they were all raised in middle class society, went to high school then directly to college, they will probably think and act similarly.
Having people from both ends of the economic spectrum will definitely provide a broader range of ideas, although there could be some trouble seeing eye to eye. Providing clear goals and leadership can be the best way to help a team reach their targets.
3) Provide clear goals and leadership
Forming or being part of a work team can be difficult, especially if clear goals are not specified. Make sure that every member of the team fully understands the goals and strategies to reach those goals. If clear-cut goals are not defined, the output may be less than expected.
Furthermore, a fitting leadership style is also necessary. Who is the team leader? Is the team going to be self-managed, or will they report to a superior? Depending on the group or team dynamics, a leader may have to be stern, compassionate, empathetic, and more. Lead by example, and let team members take ownership of their tasks and hold each other accountable for their actions.
These are just a few important items to consider when creating or managing an effective work team. Have you had experience in a work team before, or are you part of one now? What has your experience taught you? We’d love to hear your opinions.