To Team or Not to Team?  

Teams are not the panacea for all your organization’s ills.  Just because your company has adopted a team approach, not everything must be accomplished by teams!  Especially as more people are now working remotely, it’s even more important to differentiate the tasks and challenges that are best handled either by an individual working alone or by a small sub-group from the main team.  Where appropriate, bring the right people together in person or virtually when the issue is:

  • Complex. The work requires expertise from a variety of disciplines.  One person doesn’t have all the information or answers.  
  • Non-linear.  The work occurs simultaneously and many different tasks, functions, and people are linked together.
  • High Stakes.  The problem or opportunity area affects more than a few individuals, and people have a big stake in the issue.
  • High Commitment.  The business results will require a high degree of involvement and commitment in order to develop and implement the solution.

Teams are not appropriate when there is:

  • No Time.  You may not be able to form a team when there is an immediate, full-blown crisis.  (But you can let others know what you did after the fact.)
  • Expertise.  One person has the knowledge and resources to accomplish the task.  In addition, that person should have the power and authority to implement the decision with or without others’ involvement, support, and commitment.
  • No Support.  If the organization doesn’t support the team efforts, don’t even bother with the team approach.  For example, if management isn’t open to the team’s suggestions, won’t provide the resources, or can’t accept the team’s recommendations, you’re doomed.
  • No Common Ground.  Team members have no work in common — or if they do, it is clearly not the team’s main line of business.  

Just because you put people on a team together doesn’t mean they are going to act like or work as a team.  It may make perfect sense to continue treating team members as separate individuals, rather than artificially trying to weld them into a more cohesive team unit.  The challenge is to divert work to where it is best accomplished.  Not everything has to be tackled as a team issue.

One other note for those of you jumping on the team bandwagon: teams don’t really “do” work.  Teams are great at discussing, planning, and agreeing (or disagreeing) on what to do, but the physical and intellectual work still must be performed at the individual level.  

So, if you find yourself spending over 50% of your time in meetings, you have been sucked into “meeting mania.”  Take a good look at where you are spending your time.  Ask: Is this meeting necessary?  Is there a better way to help us achieve our goals?  Do I have to be present?  Are we making substantial progress on achieving our goal?  Are we following the rules for effective meetings?   

 

For more on the Extraordinary Team’s approach to building high-performance teams (vs. team building) combining consulting, coaching, training, and process facilitation within the context of working real issues, visit this link.

KRISTIN ARNOLD, MBA, CPF | Master, CSP is a high-stakes meeting facilitator and professional panel moderator.  She’s been facilitating teams of executives and managers in making better decisions and achieving greater results for over 27 years.  She is the author of the award-winning book, Boring to Bravo: Proven Presentation Techniques to Engage, Involve and Inspire Audiences to Action.  Her latest book, 123 Ways to Add Pizazz to a Panel Discussion was published in January 2021.

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