File - Carey S. Jordan

Running head: TEAMS
The Dynamics of Teamwork
David Cross, Anthony Johnson, Carey Jordan, Bryant Ketchersid
OMGT 320 – Managing Group Dynamics
March 23, 2014
Jordan Lancaster
Southwestern College Professional Studies
Teamwork is an inherent part of human interactions, but the how and why of what makes a team
effective is often not understood. This lack of information can doom most teams to failure in
meeting their desired goals. Exploring what makes teamwork not only useful, but effective, will
allow leaders to better position themselves for future success while leading teams of all sizes.
This paper will explore and expand on the benefits and inner workings of teamwork, in order to
provide appropriate context for team leaders.
The Dynamics of Teamwork
Most interactions in life require some degree of teamwork. Teamwork is how human
beings have accomplished much of the success that has defined modern civilization. From
landing on the moon to developing modern technology, humanity has risen and fallen on the
ability of teams to accomplish one set goal. For teams to be effective, they need to be functional.
This is a challenge. Taking a diverse group of individuals and trying to move them in one unified
direction is inherently chaotic. Dysfunctional teams can be as damaging as a functional team is
successful. Being able to manage and lead a team to complete a set goal, while avoiding
dysfunction, is a skill that any successful needs in their skillset. This can only be accomplished
by knowing and understanding what it is that defines a successful team, coupled with the
knowledge of what missteps need to be avoided.
Understanding the importance of teamwork is only half of the battle. Exploring the
dynamic of what makes leadership effective will help prepare individuals to take leadership
positions in a variety of fields. This paper will examine the types of teams, how self-directed
teams operate, how to get teams to innovate, the importance of diversity in the makeup of a team,
and how leaders can impact overall team effectiveness. By examining each individual section,
the overall effectiveness of teamwork will be revealed. Great things can be accomplished, but
most of them require effective teamwork in order to be accomplished.
Types of Teams
Working as part of team is something that everyone has experienced. They can be found
in every aspect of a person’s life to include work, home, sports and hobbies. There are several
different types of teams. The first are parallel teams. Parallel teams are teams that function in
parallel to other responsibilities. For example, if a production manager is asked to be a part of a
multi-department team to cut organization costs, they are asked to do this in addition to their
primary duties. This would be considered a parallel team. These types of teams are characterized
by a low degree of authority and a high level of management involvement (Harris & Sherblom,
2011, p. 132).
A second type of team is a self-directed work team. As the name suggests, these types of
teams direct and manage themselves. They have full control over decision-making and the use of
resources. In self-directed work groups, all members of the team share responsibility and
“becomes part of the solution” (Harris & Sherblom, 2011, p. 135-6). Because self-directed work
teams are so different than traditional teams, they can be challenging. The costs associated are
high and establishing the teams can take a long amount of time (Maynard, 2009).
A third type of team is a problem-solving team. This type of team is set up to solve a
specific problem or problems. Their sole purpose is to come up with solutions. These teams can
be long-term or short-lived depending on the level of complexity of the problem they are solving.
Problem-solving teams are very common in today’s workplace.
A fourth type of team is a virtual team. Some believe that virtual teams are the fastest
growing type of team in business. With so many organization having multiple or international
locations, virtual teams are a smart way of doing business. Virtual teams use electronic mean to
meet and communicate. Examples of technologies used include e-mail, video conferencing,
texting and cloud technology. The biggest challenge of working in a virtual team is that it is
difficult and may take longer to build trust (“Participate in a virtual team that works”). The
biggest benefit to working in a virtual group is that you can easily work together with people
who are culturally Critical Considerations for Self-Directed Teams
Teams are volatile. While they can be capable of great things, navigating the pitfalls that
are inherent in a team is difficult. This challenge increases when the team is self-directed with no
outside control or influence. (Harris & Sherblom, 2011). Self-directed teams rely on the
members within to determine the interior makeup, norms, and eventual goals of the team. While
there may be an intended purpose for the team from an outside force, the true dynamic power
structure of the group is dictated by the internal politics of the self-directed team. Understanding
how the organizational hierarchy of the team works will assist leaders with making certain that
the team is on the best path for success.
Most teams are set up with a strong outside influence and rely on a heavy outside hand
for guidance and correction. However, some teams are self-contained organisms that must selflead and self-motivate, without any outside help or influence. The advantages of this system are
that it fosters innovation and encourages personal growth, while keeping the costs required for
management oversight and infrastructure low (Jones, 2013). Teams that can be trusted to work
on their own have the ability to save parent organizations a large amount of capital in
administration fees (Jones, 2013). However, keeping these teams moving forward requires that
the entire team be on the same page, while keeping in mind the critical considerations that are
necessary for the team to be successful in order to function. Minding personality conflicts,
making group decisions, and keeping the communication process running are all critical
considerations that need to be understood and dealt with for a team to be successful, while
continuing as a self-directed team.
Personality Conflicts
Every individual personality can add or subtract from a group, but certain strong
personalities can disrupt the entire operation of the group, without adding anything meaningful to
how the group functions. This can disrupt the entire overall flow of how the team solves
problems. Strong-minded individuals can sometimes be a blessing for a group, as they can
convince the team to rally around one overall defining vision. These individuals are needed in
small groups, because they can fall into trap of having “too many chefs” in the proverbial
kitchen, leading to disarray and a flurry of motion with very little movement.
While personality conflicts can, and do, arise in every group, self-directed groups are
especially vulnerable to being disrupted by the negative effects of unresolved personality
conflicts. Self-directed teams rely on the cohesiveness of the team in order for the completion of
the overall goal. Teams that do not coalesce effectively will have a much more difficult time in
achieving any of the set tasks that the group has determined. Identifying the types of
personalities that would not be encouraging is a priority many leaders have (Riggio, 2012).
Employers around the world are spending more money trying to determine not only if they have
the right mix of knowledge, but also the rights mix of personalities required for any one job.
Self-directed teams go through the four stages of group forming (Harris & Sherblom, 2011),
which allow them to tailor their approach to one another over time.
Decision Making
Self-directed teams are not as robust as teams with a strong outside influence, which can
lead to an overall increase in the time that it takes to make decisions (Harris & Sherblom, 2011).
This increase can be attributed to several factors that are inherent in the makeup of a self-directed
group. These teams tend to have a more circular decision making process, requiring the approval
of every member before making a decision. This type of process leads to a far lengthier decision
making process, any team member can delay the overall progress by constantly objecting. This
volatility can cause not only a lack of direction, but can keep whatever goal the team has from
being accomplished in a timely manner.
Another factor that can lead to a lengthier decision process is that self-directed teams
have to determine their own cultural morality and norms (Harris & Sherblom, 2011). This
process can take time, as new teams can go through several iterations of the norming process
before the final form is found. Every time that a group is reengaging with self-realization, it can
affect how the team will make decisions. Understanding that a self-directed team is often a team
in transition will help leaders adjust to the decision making pace required for this specific type of
team. Also, understanding how a team reaches a bifurcation point will allow leaders to make
adjustments to the overall decision making process.
Keeping the Loop
Feedback is important for individuals and groups to keep track of their progress and learn
which modifications need to be implemented to keep improving on their performance. Feedback
also encourages constant communication between all levels of an organization (Harris &
Sherblom, 2011). A lack of communication could cause disruptions in any group, but it can be
disastrous for self-directed teams, as self-directed means that the team is relying on itself to
determine what their overall purpose and way forward should be. A team that does not
communicate is going to have a difficult time in figuring anything out. Building a culture of
constant communication is a critical factor in ensuring that a team is on the path to success.
Southwest Airlines utilizes a constant feedback system that focuses on a team-centered
approach to problem solving (Jones, 2013). This allows all team members to immediately
address issues and provide input on performance. This kind of feedback allows small groups the
ability to systematically analyze, convey, and receive information relating to their performance
in a bidirectional format (Jones, 2013). This type of feedback is essential for self-directional
groups, as it allows the group to chart the course and make corrections with clear
communications among all members. Building consensus is easier if the free exchange of
information is available to all members.
Self-directed teams have many advantages over their counterparts, but it is important to
remember that small groups have a volatility that is missing in larger organizations (Jones,
2013). Keeping track of what makes these teams function will show leaders how to help direct
the team into a more proper heading for the business.
Maximizing Creativity in Teams
What is creativity and how does it pertain to team? Creativity in a team or group setting
is a thought process that provokes change from norms to solve problems and innovate ideas. In
business creativity is used as a means to create or modify existing items such as business models
or product innovation. Team environments take individual creativity to a level that can be built
upon by others. This type of collaboration helps foster an environment of openness and sharing
while pushing for improvement not just as individuals but as a team.
When teams push to maximize their creativity they have to take in considerations of
certain barriers that are instilled upon every individual. These Barriers consist of perceptual
barriers, cultural barriers and emotional barriers. Perceptual barriers are those characteristics that
blind us to the hidden dimensions of an issue (Harris & Sherblom, 2011, p.166). Some examples
of perceptual barriers come in the form of narrowing the scope of the problem in a root cause
corrective action team. These perceptual barriers come in the form of constricted thinking or not
thinking outside of the box. As a team this barrier is one of the first and most important barriers
that need to be overcome to help foster that growth of imagination. Cultural barriers are social
and cultural norms that we have all come to learn and understand. This type of conformity
reduces are ability to see things in a different prospective. Emotional barriers are the last type of
barriers that inhibit creative thinking in groups. Emotional barriers keep thoughts like, risks,
unorthodox ideas and the fear of being judged in every individuals mind. Overcoming this type
of barrier increases not just the individuals thinking process, but the group as a whole.
There are ways to overcome boundaries and have a team or group that is full of
creativity. Idea needlers is a process that help enable groups to have and open mind such as,
commenting on an idea to help foster creativity from an individual that is standoffish. This type
of idea needling usually comes in the form of a question to help further a topic that has been
touched on. Manipulating verbs is another way to change the way a problem is perceived by
alternating key terms and opening minds to different solutions.
Keeping a group positive helps create an environment of openness and helps keep
members interested with ideas flowing. When members feel like they are not contributing or are
becoming defensive the group as a whole starts to feel it. Overcoming these types of problems
while in return maximizes creativity and keeps the whole process flowing.
Benefits and Challenges Presented by Team Diversity
Diversity brings on new ideas and more innovative ways of doing things as a team.
Mannix E. & Neale M.A. (2006). One ramification of the finding that diversity stirs up the pot
in healthy ways is that managers need to rotate the composition of their groups periodically to
keep things fresh (Psychological Science in the Public Interest, Vol. 6, No. 2, 2005). When a
team has people from different backgrounds, races, and genders, it enhances team effectiveness
because everyone can make major contributions because each shares different life experiences.
For instance, on a team there may be two team members of the same race but, from different
parts of the United States. One may be from Oakland California and another from Boston
Massachusetts. While each may initially share the same skin color, they may not share the same
views when it comes to their ideas and life experiences. This is what makes some teams very
effective because each of them bring a different perspective to make a team more productive.
Some of the challenges that diversity can bring to a team is one of misunderstanding.
Communication is already a challenge in homogeneous groups and when people with diverse
backgrounds are mixed in with a group, it presents a different set of challenges. It is often
simpler when we share cultural values, common experiences, and basic assumptions with those
with whom we interact (Harris & Sherblom, 2011, p. 241). A generalized statement that one
makes that may be a complement to some people may be offensive to others. For instance, a
simple statement to one female in a group like, “You go, girl,” that may be aimed to complement
someone for something extraordinary that they have done, may be taken out of context or
offensive by another female. This could lead to a breakdown in team effectiveness by creating
another barrier of discussion, which slows down productivity.
How Leadership Style Can Impact Team Effectiveness
“There is no wrong leadership style”, said Chief Master Sergeant Jerry Lewis who is one
of my mentors in the Air Force (J. Lewis, personal communication, July 2008). Growing older
and wiser in the Air Force, this statement seems to be somewhat true. The book list three
leadership styles that is common in a team; the leader-as-technician, the leader-as-conductor and
the leader-as-coach approach. All are styles are effective, it just depends on what one is tasked
to do and the situation.
Leader as Technician
Leading as a technician can be an effective leadership style when the stakes are not high
or if a project is of little importance. In a group set up to solve a problem with technical issues
underlying it or with requirements for specialized knowledge or experience, we are apt to look to
someone with expertise in that area to lead the process—the leader-as-technician (Harris &
Sherblom, 2011, p. 241). For instance, if a team was put together to repave a parking lot and
there was one person on the team that had asphalt paving experience, then that person would
more than likely be the technical leader of the team for execution. Conversely, during the
planning phase prior to the project execution, the team would require input from everyone
especially the engineers to draft a design, development, and material requirements.
Leader as a Conductor
One word comes to mind when thinking about being a leader as a conductor and that is
trust. Too often, in the U.S. model, leaders tend to err on the side of micromanagement of the
group process (Harris & Sherblom, 2011, p. 242). Some leaders do not trust the people involved
in the execution process. This happens all too common during some process execution in the Air
Force. The leader holds numerous meetings or sends out constant reminders to folks, despite
having already set suspense’s for a particular action(s) to be accomplished. Sometimes, more
than often, the lead conductor does this for no apparent reason but, mainly just to what most
people call CYA or “cover your assets” for lack of a better word.
Leader as a Coach
A leader-as-coach explains, demonstrates, and leads, rather than ordering or cajoling
(Harris & Sherblom, 2011, p. 242). In Air Force Pamphlet 36-2241 figure 10.4, depicts four
different leadership styles provides additional guidance, in particular the S2 leadership style for a
leader as a coach. In line with our text, the coaching style of leadership explains decisions and
provides feedback or clarification to a team. Of all the styles, coaching seems to be the most
effective in order to empower a team to accomplish a particular task; however, coaching would
require a lot of patience, a quality that most people fall short of.
Figure 10.4. Situational Leadership Model (Retrieved from Air Force Pamphlet 36-2241,
Professional Development Guide, 1 July 2011)
Great teams are that way because of multiple individuals that make it that way;
leaders, subject matter experts and support are keys to that success. Leaders are used to set
parameters within that group and keep the creativity and overall process flowing. Subject matter
experts are used for their knowledge and their ability to create and innovate in their fields. The
support function of teams helps keep the overall process flowing. All of these functions create a
diverse team that has the ability to overcome challenges.
Teams are an essential part of our society in every form. We use teams as a means of
interaction and togetherness to reach a common goal. In sports teams are used to win the game,
business groups are there to solve a wide range of problems or create innovative ideas. Although
the idea of teams can sometimes be challenging, the need to be a part of one is pivotal to solve
complex and sometimes simple problems. Understanding and overcoming these issues within a
group leads to a successful and effective team with the ability to sustain solutions that have been
put into place.
Harris, T.E. & Sherblom, J.C. (2010). Small group and team communication, (5th ed.). Boston,
MA: Allyn and Bacon.
Maynard, M. (2009). Self-managed teams: how they succeed or fail. In BUSINESS: The ultimate
resource. Retrieved from
Participate in a virtual team that works. (2014). TeamWork, 21(2), 2.
Jones, G. (2013). Organizationonal theory, design, and change. Upper Sadle Rive: Pearson.
Riggio, R. (2012, Oct 7). What Is charisma and charismatic leadership? Retrieved
from Psychology Today:
Mannix E & Neale M.A. (August 1, 2006). Diverse Backgrounds and Personalities Can
Strengthen Groups. Graduate School of Stanford Business, (Vol. 6, No. 2, 2005).
Retrieved from
J. Lewis, personal communication, August 10, 2008
Secretary of the Air Force, (2011). Air force pamphlet 36-2241, professional development guide.
Retrieved from website:
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