On Teams:  A Blog About Team Effectiveness

“On Teams” - Welcome aboard.

Written by Scott Tannenbaum.

Hopefully you have had the experience of being on a few excellent teams in your life, at work or at play. Unfortunately, I suspect you have also been on teams that struggled. The difference is palpable. It is no fun being on a struggling team, and not simply because of the poor results. Being on a great team makes us appreciate working with others. Being on a struggling team can make us want to work in a cave.

So what makes a team effective? Do teams with more talent usually "win"? How important is the team leader? What can we do to jump start a new team and how can we turn around a struggling team? Which attitudes and cognitions matter? Do teams have a personality? Which "teamwork processes" drive team performance? What can we learn from work teams, medical teams, combat teams, sports teams, and even teams of astronauts?

In this blog, we'll explore questions such as these. My co-contributors and I will share our observations and experiences working with all sorts of teams. We will also explore research on team effectiveness – the "science" of teamwork (and yes, there is a science of teamwork!). Welcome aboard!


# Diana 2014-03-27 20:53
I have been the leader of a "broken" team for about a year now. The team did not respect each other or management. They had no sense of accountability nor did they take pride in their work. Because this team is involved in healthcare, I took my role seriously and went in aggressively to try and turn this team around. It has been a constant, daily struggle but I am starting to gain the trust of a few staff and I finally feel like I can make a difference on this unit. It's really been challenging and it would have been easier to give up like the previous managers on this unit. I would welcome any recommendations to keep this momentum moving in the right direction. Thank you
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# Scott 2014-03-27 21:38

I appreciate your perseverance -- some teams are difficult to turn around but it sounds like you've made some progress. Here are a few thoughts for you to keep the momentum going.

First, recognize that team turnarounds don't happen by winning over the entire team at once. They happen by engaging with individual team members and helping them move forward, one by one. When enough team members believe in the team you will reach a "critical mass" and it becomes much easier. It sounds like you aren't quite there yet, but you are making progress. One on one conversations help since what is holding back one person can be very different than what is holding back another.

Second, please remember to also focus on the positive. There is a technique called appreciative inquiry that can be helpful. Ask the team about positive experiences, what has gone well, what they did that they are proud of, how they helped solve a problem or served a patient. From there you can explore how the team can do more of that, what will help them do so more frequently. Problem solving is important, but sometimes it can energize a team to learn from what is working too.

Third, be careful not to make commitments that you may not be able to keep. If a solution is outside your control, it is better to tell the team you will research the problem and commit to reporting back to them than to say you will fix it. I see team leaders lose credibility when they fail to live up to their commitments. Don't spend your chips that way.

Finally, it can help to focus your team's attention on things they can control or at least perhaps influence. I find that struggling teams often revisit the things they can't do anything about which simply drains their energy. Take a look at one of my more recent blog posts entitled "Who is in control" for a few related tips in this regard.

Best of luck with your team!
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