Reflective Essay on Team Building Skills

Writing a reflection is comparable to that of using a Pensive, in the direction of reliving the already lived experience with the objective of learning from the past matters to enhance future performances. This reflection will closely practice (Gibbs,1988) Reflective Cycle. First stage will begin with a description of what happened, followed by feelings about that event or experience, further evaluating and analysing towards arriving at a conclusion along with making of an action plan for performing in a more efficient manner if a similar situation arises in the future.

To begin with, in our course Managing Organization and People, Our Professor helped forming the teams by a structured process, he also encouraged to break the ice between the team members, by making us do a very exciting team building activity. Soon after, we were briefed about the case study on decision making; the job was to make a presentation on the given case.

My team comprised of 5 members, and four members out of five were from the same country and common native language, I was the one who added country diversity to our team. Since other four members shared one common native language, with English as their second language, it appeared to me that they will be more comfortable communicating in their first language rather than English, which was our course language.

In our first meeting we had dialog around the over-all plan, which we will follow to accomplish the goal of making our presentation. Division of the tasks was done, but there was no concrete discussion over how we as a team would check if individual’s work is aligning with the overall schema or not.

I was feeling confident to have a team with dedicated and friendly members, although few concerns were there, which arose after our first group meeting. The concerns were, communication, trust, fear of conflict, leadership.

At the subsequent meeting the worries turned out to be true, instead of progressing we were in retrograde motion. The other four members preferred interacting in their first language rather than our course language not just this, but also everyone had a different point of view concerning the most essential question of the case study, we were asked to state organizations problem and opportunities clearly, but no one was ready to accept others view point, dissatisfaction was fumed and question was left unanswered.

Other than Professor’s first team building activity, no other such activity was performed to better build the relationships and trust amongst the team members. In the absence of a strong connection between team members, we couldn’t debate plentiful about how we will resolve this state of disagreement and if a leader was needed to facilitateand direct us in such circumstances. The bright side was that in terms of accountability, commitment, result oriented approach our team seemed standing strong.

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I felt quiet uncomfortable in this situation and tried taking the step of simplifying things by making everyone indulge in talks and making them to participate more. To ease the situation, we decided that everyone will stick to the chosen parts and at last we will add individual work to arrive at a better collective result.

The situation was very challenging, but taking a call of not interfering in each other’s work till we complete, seemed the best possible way to avoid disagreements. However, the study by (Clark & Clark, 2015) proved that team with better individual skills can be outperformed by team with more synergy, and in absence of synergy it was implied that our team’s productivity was not going to be the optimum.

“It is often claimed that by engaging in team building …any group can transform itself into a high-performing team” (Shandler & Egan, 1996 as cited in Riener & Wiederhold, 2016) and the study by (Riener & Wiederhold, 2016) concluded that “members who engage in team building tasks give better efforts than who don’t.”  Whereas our team never positioned team building activities in high importance ranking. We should have engaged in more team building to help us develop a good bonding. It was a major step missed by our team for turning out as a high performing team.

Advancing to other key interconnected issues related to team structure were: –

  1. Self-managed or leader driven, which best suited us.
  2. Avoiding arguments or shaping them to healthy discussions.

Well defined by (Phillips, 2001) “Whether a team is leader driven or self-directed; higher level of productivity and greater results are desired in a team”, we as a team had the same goals of achieving higher level of productivity and our team was a self-directed team with no leader present, I think with the type of team mix we had, there was a leader required to reduce the differences between team members to help us in achieving higher productivity.

Discussing more about a leader and importance of a leader in team, as stated by (Hamlin & Jennings, 2007) “Leaders influence both the mode of interaction and outcome of these interactions”, therefore, in presence of a leader with right approach, our team interactions which were whirling as never-ending arguments, could have been shaped to fruitful debates, instead of it our arguments were gradually shaping to conflicts, again the big question; conflicts are helpful or obstructive for a team’s productivity. There have been different views on this,

The Study by (De Dreu & Weingart, 2003) tells that conflicts adds tensions, increases gap and troubles between team members, therefore they should be treated as obstructions in any team’s progress. Whereas, the study by (Amason, 1996, Cited by Brockmann, 1996)has a different view anddivides conflicts into two types. Type one is cognitive conflict, which aims at issues, ideas or process, it is constructive and useful for a team, whereas the second type is affective conflict which aims at people, emotions and values, it is harmful to a team and is destructive conflict.

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As a self-directed team, when we were not able to manage conflicts, a leader with positive influencing approach was required to route our team’s destructive conflicts in direction of cognitive conflicts and we could have better responded to the case study question of stating organization’s problem and opportunity.

(Claus & Langfred, 2007) suggested that Self-managing teams when cannot manage conflicts; tend to reform themselves in an inefficient structure, and with higher conflicts the trust level decreases. It was well reflected in our response to conflict, we decided to work on individual tasks without much interference and with greater autonomy we built a greater level of trust.

“Trust is a crucial factor for team performance” (Erdem, 2003, cited by Aki & Mila, 2012) and with the developed trust we started performing slightly better. Cooperation followed by trust is what we gained next, which also resolved the perception of imbalanced diversity that I had in my mind. (Mitchell & Boyle, 2015) concluded that “Professional diversity could be good for innovation if team members have openness”, Though initially, I was bit concerned that our team is not very diverse as all members except me were from the same culture and same language group, which was different from our course language, but later I realized that we all were very diverse in our professional experiences and fields; with openness to suggestions, creative thinking did prosper in our team and after divisions of task and developed trust, team members were very cooperative and communicated in English only.

The five characteristics of a dysfunctional team stated in (Lencioni, 2010) are: – lack of trust, fear of conflict, lack of commitment, avoidance of accountability, inattention to results, we were able to overcome four out of five characteristics by having a team with trust, commitment, result oriented approach and accountable members but we could never reach a stage of having a healthy conflict. We knew our presentation was not going to be the best, but it was time to feel motivated and deliver our finest with the available resources.

Conclusion

If given a chance to go back to the time, when teams were formed, definitely I will make the team indulge in more team building activities for achieving a greater bonding, which would have further helped us to sensibly handle and shape the conflicts into cognitive conflicts. Although, every member of the team worked with dedication and commitment, but we failed to understand the importance of synergy, that’s how collective effort could have helped us to accomplish the given task with distinction. Our team achieved the required coordination, trust, communication, but we were too late to reap the benefit of these gears, so time management is one another important aspect we missed at.

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Action Plan

This team project experience is one key asset that will help me in future to grip better the alike situations, and being a business student such teamwork situations will certainly come again in my professional career. Learnings which I have gained from this experience are that when working in a team conflicts are essential for success, but only if teams are mature enough to be self-managed or there is a right leader appointed who can shape conflicts in a positive direction to help teams achieving the synergy. which is the most desired element of team performances. Therefore, I will never shy away from such situation rather I will take first move to make team talk about it.

References

Aki, S., & Mila, H. (2012). Building Trust in High-Performing Teams. Technology Innovation Management Review, Iss June 2012: Global Business Creation, Pp 38-41 (2012), (June 2012: Global Business Creation), 38.

Brockmann, E. (1996). Removing the paradox of conflict from group decisions. Academy of Management Executive, 10(2), 61-62. doi:10.5465/AME.1996.9606161555.

Clark, C., & Clark, B. (2015). Is the Sum of the Parts Greater Than the Whole? Skill vs. Synergy. Academy of Strategic Management Journal, 14(2), 23-35.

De Dreu, C. W., & Weingart, L. R. (2003). Task versus relationship conflict, team performance, and team member satisfaction: A meta-analysis. Journal of Applied Psychology, 88(4), 741-749. doi:10.1037/0021-9010.88.4.741.

Gibbs, G. (1988) Learning by Doing: A guide to teaching and learning methods. Oxford: Oxford Polytechnic Further Education Unit.

Hamlin, A., & Jennings, C. (2007). Leadership and conflict. Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, 64(1), 49-68.

Langfred, C. W. (2007). The Downside of Self-Management: A Longitudinal Study of the Effects tf Conflict on Trust, Autonomy, and Task Interdependence in Self-Managing Teams. Academy of management journal, 50(4), 885-900.doi:10.5465/AMJ.2007.26279196

Lencioni, P. M. (2010). Overcoming the five dysfunctions of a team: A field guide for leaders, managers, and facilitators (Vol. 16). John Wiley & Sons.

Mitchell, R., & Boyle, B. (2015). Professional diversity, identity salience and team innovation: The moderating role of openmindedness norms. Journal of Organizational Behavior, 36(6), 873-894. doi:10.1002/job.2009.

Phillips, C. (2011). Managing team conflict. Center for Human Systems. Retrieved from http://www. chumans. com/human-systems-resouces/managing-teamconflcit. Htmlip.

Riener, G., & Wiederhold, S. (2016). Team building and hidden costs of control. Journal of Economic Behavior and Organization, 1231-18.doi:10.1016/j.jebo.2015.12.008


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