How to Improve Team Effectiveness

effective team

Teamwork and Effective Teams

I read everything I can about teamwork and effective teams. Simon Mac Rory’s new book, Wake Up and Smell the Coffee: The Imperative of Teams, takes us on a journey to deliver improved team effectiveness.

Simon Mac Rory is a team development specialist and founder of the ODD Company. He says that sometimes, when he’s in a room with some teams, he says, “For Pete’s sake will you wake up and smell the coffee” which is how the title of his new book came to be. I recently asked Simon to share more about his perspectives of teams in the workplace.

 

“If teamwork is so important you would think that organizations would treat team performance as a strategic imperative, but most do not.” – Simon Mac Rory

 

What do most people get wrong when they think of the term “team”?

There are so many misconceptions about teams in the workplace that it is hard to choose one or two. If I am to choose, these are my three top gripes in terms of what people get wrong when they think of teams.

The biggest and most fundamental issue is in the assumption that teamwork happens by magic. 90% of what we do in the world of work happens through collaborative effort, and that makes teams and teamwork an imperative and a strategic imperative at that. Yet the majority of organizations have no strategy for teams. Label a group of people a team, stand back and ‘hey presto’ you will have a high performing team. Nothing could be further from the truth. If teamwork is so important, you would think that organizations would treat team performance as a strategic imperative, but most do not, preferring to muddle on with poorly performing teams and accepting mediocracy.

Contrary to popular opinion only 10% of teams are high performing, a frightening 40% are dysfunctional and detrimental to members’ experiences and lives, leaving 50% which are performing at best with small incremental results. This is what most organizations accept. I consider this unacceptable, particularly when delivering high performing teams is not rocket science. It does, however, take effort, it does take strategy, it does take time, it does take budget, and critically it takes persistence and commitment from the organization, leaders and team members. We are not all team experts, we do not operate intuitively as a team, and if organizations want high performing teams, they need to put in the effort and stop dreaming. They need to think and strategize about it and stop making so many ridiculous assumptions.

The assumption about teamwork and fun drives me crazy. Teamwork is not fun. Work is work and fun is fun. Fun is defined in the Oxford English dictionary as “behaviour or an activity that is intended purely for amusement and should not be interpreted as having any serious or malicious purpose.” Now tell me what that has to do with the world of work? The fact that it can be an enjoyable experience to work in an effective team should not be confused with it being fun. Real team development does not happen up the side of a mountain, putting life and limb at risk once a year or completing exercises with no connection to the reality of the workplace. Real team development that delivers sustainable development and effectiveness happens in the work place day-to-day. Give time to tackling real issues for the team and not worrying about how to build a house of straws, how to build a raft or how to build trust by falling backwards into someone’s arms. I come to work to work and I would much prefer to give of my time with my colleagues, dealing with and finding solutions to real work challenges. Team members are much more likely to be engaged, committed and enthusiastic if they are dealing in reality, where their opinions and ideas, and inputs to real challenges of the team are welcome and actually considered—in other words, doing the work they are employed to do. Enjoying your work is important, having fulfilling work is motivational, being challenged is good (most of the time) but do not confuse this with fun. Work is serious and not fun.

And size does matter after all. There is substantial evidence that team size has a very great impact on the effectiveness of a team in a work context.

 

“There is substantial evidence that team size has a very great impact on the effectiveness of a team.” – Simon Mac Rory

 

The issue of team size is linked to how we define a team and indeed to the way the term ‘team’ is used and understood. The term is applied generically and seems to encompass all group activity and often is used to refer to an entire department and in some instances to an entire company. These larger groups, mistakenly called teams, are in fact comprised of many teams. The term team should only be used to refer to a real team, that by definition is:

“A group of people, less than ten, that need to work together to achieve a common goal, normally with a single leader and where there is high degree of interdependence between the team members to achieve the goal or goals”.

There are several issues that have been identified when a team is in double digits – social loafing, cognitive limitations and the communication overhead. These are aside from the issue of larger teams breaking down into sub-teams and the inevitable emergence of cliques which can be very damaging to effectiveness and relationships. The biggest issue in failing to deal with team size is communication overload.  The more members in a team, the more communication channels required to keep the team informed. A team of 5 people require 10 conversations to be fully connected and informed. This rises to 45 for a team of 10 and 91 for a team of 14. The reality of the situation is simply the larger team will not be able to manage or complete the communication required.   Organizations need to get their language and definitions right. A team is not a group, a department or a company if it is comprised of more than ten people. Once you go into double digits, I can assure you that there is more than one team in play.

There are many more assumptions but these three are the biggies.

 

“Teamwork is not fun. Work is work and fun is fun.” – Simon Mac Rory

 

Wake Up and Smell the Coffee

42 Team and Teamwork Quotes

Working effectively as a team creates momentum, improves morale, wins contests, and can even save lives. Here are 42 quotes on teams and teamwork:

 

“Talent wins games, but teamwork and intelligence wins championships.” -Michael Jordan

 

“The speed of the boss is the speed of the team.” -Lee Iacocca

 

“Coming together is a beginning. Keeping together is progress. Working together is success.” -Henry Ford

 

“Teamwork makes the dream work.” -Bang Gae

 

“Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much” -Helen Keller

 

“The strength of the team is each member. The strength of each member is the team.” Phil Jackson

 

“A successful team is a group of many hands and one mind.” Bill Bethel

 

“Good teams incorporate teamwork into their culture, creating the building blocks for success.” -Ted Sundquist

 

“None of us is as smart as all of us.” -Ken Blanchard

 

“No individual can win a game by himself.” -Pele

 

“No one can whistle a symphony. It takes a whole orchestra to play it.” -HE Luccock

 

“Teamwork is the secret that makes common people achieve uncommon results.” -Ifeanyi Onuoha

 

“The ratio of We’s to I’s is the best indicator of the development of a team.” -Lewis B Ergen

 

“Individual commitment to a group effort – that’s what makes a team work, a company work, a society work, a civilization work.” Vince Lombardi

 

“So powerful is the light of unity that it can illuminate the whole earth.” -Bahaullah

 

“We must all hang together or most assuredly we shall all hang separately.” -Ben Franklin

 

“It is literally true that you can succeed best and quickest by helping others to succeed.” -Napoleon Hill

 

“Trust is knowing that when a team member does push you, they’re doing it because they care about the team.” – Patrick Lencioni

 

“A group becomes a team when each member is sure enough of himself and his contribution to praise the skills of others.” -Norman Shidle

 

“If a team is to reach its potential, each player must be willing to subordinate his personal goals to the good of the team.” -Bud Wilkinson

 

“People achieve more as a result of working with others than against them.” -Dr. Allan Fromme

 

“Teamwork is the ability to work together toward a common vision.” -Andrew Carnegie

 

“Teamwork. A few harmless flakes working together can unleash an avalanche of destruction.” -Justin Sewell

 

“Interdependent people combine their own efforts with the efforts of others to achieve their greatest success.” -Stephen Covey

 

“The nice thing about teamwork is that you always have others on your side.” Margaret Carty

 

“There is no ‘I’ in team but there is in win.” -Michael Jordan

 

“Strategy is not a solo sport, even if you’re the CEO.” Max McKeown

 

“A leader must inspire or his team will expire.” -Orrin Woodward

 

“Bad attitudes will ruin your team.” -Terry Bradshaw

 

“The main ingredient of stardom is the rest of the team.” -John Wooden

 

“Teams share the burden and divide the grief.” -Doug Smith

 

“Everyone is needed, but no one is necessary.” -Bruce Coslet

 

“On this team, we’re all united in a common goal: to keep my job.” -Lou Holtz

 

“With an enthusiastic team you can achieve almost anything.” -Tahir Shah

 

“Many of us are more capable than some of us, but none of us is as capable as all of us.” -Tom Wilson

 

“Individually, we are one drop. Together, we are an ocean.” -Ryunosuke Satoro

 

“We realized that no one of us could be as good as all of us playing unselfishly.” -Bill Bradley

 

“Sticks in a bundle are unbreakable.” -Kenyan Proverb

 

“When he took time to help the man up the mountain, lo, he scaled it himself.” -Tibetan Proverb

 

“When spider webs unite, they can tie up a lion.” -Ethiopian Proverb

 

“A single arrow is easily broken, but not ten in a bundle.” -Japanese Proverb

 

A boat doesn’t go forward if each one is rowing their own way. Swahili Proverb

 

Free inspiration delivered to your inbox. We keep your email safe. Please sign up today.

Already on my list? Enter your email above and you'll get instructions on how to access the webinar.

 

For more quotes on building a winning team, click here.