Are you leading a team or a workgroup?
February 22, 2017
By Lori Stewart, SPHR®, SHRM-SCP, HCS, Partner, Human Resources Consulting
In today’s fast-paced work environment, with companies and departments being asked to do more with less, many businesses advertise positions requiring employees who can work in a strong “team” environment. However, the reality is many organizations are not operating as a true team, but rather a workgroup. The differences between a team and a workgroup are substantial, and understanding the difference can contribute to team success or team breakdown.
There are six important characteristics that make teams work, and if even one is missing, the reality is you are not a team but a workgroup. A workgroup is a collection of people who share the work load while pursuing individual task accomplishment. A true team is working together to achieve a common goal and purpose.
There tends to be six key characteristics that separate teams from workgroups:
- High level of trust — Trust is the most basic foundation of the team. Trust is earned, and there are three variables that must be present for trust to grow: perceived authenticity, perceived integrity and confidence that team members care. Increasingly, younger members of the workforce are looking for authenticity and transparency in their future employer. Recognizing this can help you build a strong team from the beginning of employment.
- High level of respect — Respect is solidly linked to the talents and skills a person demonstrates in accomplishing a particular task. Respect is also earned and increases trust. When we recognize and respect the skills and talents of each member of our team and give them to the tools to use those skills, we increase mutual respect between team members. This respect for each other’s talents leads to a greater sense of trust that each member will perform their portion of the task.
- Commitment to a common goal — Each member of the team must be aware of and agree on a clear goal to work together to achieve it. If this piece is missing, each person is spending valuable time on tasks that do not contribute to the overall team goal. Lay out goals in advance, and involve the team in setting them. When team members feel they are a part of the process, they are more eager to work toward the accomplishment of the common goal.
- Conflict resolution — It’s a simple fact that, with any group of people, there will be moments of conflict. The important aspect is to address it directly and not ignore it. This is only possible when trust and respect are in place.
- Focus on measurable results — This means implementing processes as a team that achieve sustainable, repeatable and achievable results. This increases self-worth and commitment within the team.
- Mutual responsibility and accountability — Each individual on the team must hold themselves accountable for the outcomes with which they are tasked. The team leader is not solely responsible to hold the members accountable. When each individual takes on personal accountability, the team as a whole becomes stronger as each part is responsible for its piece of the puzzle.
Studies have shown that when individuals feel part of something larger than themselves, they are more motivated to perform their best, not just for personal advancement, but for the sake of their team and organization. Developing a culture of a team rather than a workgroup can lead to higher margins of success for your department and your organization.