Team Dynamics – A League of Their Own

Part 1 of a 3 Part Series

By Maggie Anderson

We always hear that a business is as good as its people; the employees are the ones that make a company a success.  This “human capital” concept is valuable, but from a management perspective, how can you use that?  How do you find the right people for the job?  How do you find the employees that will effectuate success, the people that will work collaboratively with a team, and proactively create opportunities?  And from a college student’s perspective, how can I be that person for a company?

As a marketing major at Butler University my professors have lectured my classmates and me about leadership, management, teamwork, and other meaningful lessons about Real Life, Real Business.  However, what I am beginning to understand as I learn more during my internship with Integrating Corporate Leaders is that the real challenge comes when putting those concepts into play.

I grew up an athlete, so I tend to connect to what I know- Sports.  So, if the employees create a company’s success, how do we field a perfect team? 

Step 1: Recruit the Players

We have heard it before: surround yourself with those that are more talented than you are.  In choosing people for your team, it is crucial to recognize and utilize diverse points of view.  It is about finding the people that not only generate ideas, but also take those ideas and put them into action.  Find those who have the ability to get a hit but know when to take the walk instead.  Those people put the team before themselves.  They are the people who understand the common mission, and are invaluable in a team effort.  Gary Olson, Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs at Idaho State University, says that in hiring, just like in athletics, “Don’t just search, recruit.”  If you want these kinds of players for your team, you should actively seek those people. 

Step 2: Choose from the All Stars

Jim Collins in his book, Good to Great, explains a “first who, then what” approach about not only getting the best people, but getting the right people.  As we weed through the selection process in hiring, we must have a very clear understanding of the kind of person we are looking for. 

Collins explains that employers must put “who” before strategy and get the right people on the bus and the wrong people off the bus before you can move forward.  The right people on the bus share the core values of the organization. They do not need to be managed, they have the potential to be one of the best, and are “productively neurotic” as he puts it.  And before you cross those “must-haves” off the list and hire someone, make sure that person is fitting into the right seat on the bus.  If we put the pitcher on third base it is not as beneficial for the team.  As such, the right person can be the wrong person if they are not in the right position.

Once we identify the right people, we develop them.  Lori Silverman, a consultant in management in organizational studies, stresses the importance of engaging employees.  She says that when people invest personal interest in a company it creates passion and commitment, which leads to desire to put forth effort.  So we engage and we empower each individual on a team.  We invest in them and in turn they invest in us.  With focus on developing the individuals, we can then integrate them into the team.

Step 3: Form a Championship Team and keep them

Once we have the right people, how do we put them together?  You can have the right people for a job but still have conflict in a group.  Team dynamics are a leading problem for dysfunction and inefficiency in the workplace.  However, the right team dynamics can do the exact opposite.  Creating team chemistry is a grand slam to success.  How is it that the 2006 St. Louis Cardinals won the World Series Championship after only winning just over half of their games- the worst record ever for a World Series champion?   They started off with several injuries and some poor performance from key players, but in the end they rallied and won it all.  We’ve seen this same thing happen countless times in the sports world and it transfers into the business world as well.  Even with all of the right people, the team as whole needs to find a foundation of togetherness from which to build.

Statistical research identifies four critical elements of an effective team:

  • Information exchange

  • Supporting behavior

  • Team leadership/initiative

  • Communication

This means creating transparency between management and employees, collaboration, flexibility, understanding, leadership training & growth, as well as an understanding of the power of communication.

Interpersonal conflicts throw curve balls every day, so leaders and teams as a whole need to agree to openly identify dysfunctional behaviors and work to beat them.  This relies on trust, cohesion, and openness.

Step 4: Leading with Emotional Intelligence

Sometimes addressing interpersonal conflicts is difficult when different personalities are thrown together in a team.  Research findings on the effects of different personalities in teams has led hundreds of thousands of businesses to seek help from places like Hogan Assessments. 

Hogan uses four personality tests developed from over 30 years of research and helps companies identify key talents and evaluate leadership potential.  Butler University buys into the idea too.  Each freshman business major takes the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, which helps determine who they will be grouped with for their first semester Freshman Business Experience course. 

I am an ENFJ-Extrovert (v. introvert), Intuition (v. sensing), Feeling (v. thinking), and Judging (v. perceiving).  One attribute the test says I possess is that I may act as a catalyst of individual and group growth and I facilitate others in a group.  An ISTJ, on the other hand, is orderly, serious, quiet, and dependable.  Together, we might compliment each other perfectly in a group.

Bob Wall says in his book, Coaching for Emotional Intelligence, managers and coaches should focus not only on what employees are doing, but how they do their work.  This includes personal qualities and interpersonal activity.  Identifying and evaluating these kinds of behaviors is not a simple task but being aware of one’s own emotions and the emotions of others helps create personal connections and positive dynamics in a group.  Ultimately, it is about understanding ourselves from the inside out, then creating a team.  I have experienced firsthand while interning with ICL the facilitation of the EQ Test and it’s relevance when organizations are  determining those they want to hire or assist in their professional development.

Once we actively seek out and identify the right players, we can connect the group.  In doing so we find common ground and build trust and a sense of togetherness.  Then through understanding emotional intelligence, the group can move forward to become a highly functional team.  The right people and diversity in thought build a strong and productive team.

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