What makes a team?
We all know, if you put a bunch of people together, it isn’t necessarily a team.
It’s still a bunch of people. But many individuals expect from this group, that they perform to their highest level and commit to a certain outcome. In other words, act like a team.
So when does that group become a team and can you ensure this group becomes a team?
In this chapter I’ll describe what happens at most companies.
You need a team?
What can you do to have a team in place? In other words, what do you control?
First of all, hire people. Then see if they act as a team and deliver the results as you expect them to. If they don’t, have them do some team building activities. Change a couple of team members with other, perhaps proven successful, teams. And look at the results again.
Still not satisfied? Looking into workshops then?
Maybe a few behavioural assessments? Like DISC, created by William Moulton Marston, which gives you insights into personality traits.
Heard about the forming–storming–norming–performing model?
Sure, every team goes through phases where they start to learn each other’s behaviour, reactions, strengths, weaknesses etc. Knowing this and supported by the model created by Bruce Tuckman can be clarifying and may be reassuring when you find your team not performing.
You have a facilitator in your group? Is he or she capable of transforming the group into a team? Well, it is worth a shot perhaps. Maybe some coaching or mentoring on the side?
All good efforts perhaps?
But is this group still not performing to their highest potential and not acting as a team?
I’m not saying that these controllable items can’t contribute in creating a team out of a group of people. Again, by all means, give them a go.
What I am saying is that the uncontrollable aspects are of great influence in making a team of what would, otherwise, simply, remain a group.
I believe being a team has to do with connecting with other group members at a deeper and nearly uncontrollable level. This deeper level is sometimes characterised as the identity.
You are born, raised by your parents or guardians, taught that there are values and certain rules to live by. In other words, you create your own identity (or self) and start living in your own particular way. A way that suits you best and is closest to your beliefs. You make decisions, try to learn from your mistakes and grow from there. Some do this very consciously, others without any plan. And it is all fine. From an early age, you’re becoming an individual with your own and unique identity. There is no one exactly like you.
And this identity is in my opinion, the biggest hurdle when it comes to working with others. Your identity is so unique that it hardly fits or connects with the identity of another individual. Let alone connect with the identities of an entire group of people.
This is why it is so darn difficult to have a group of people working together. And feeling like they are part of a team.
Some people claim that this identity is causing most of the problems in our lives and say that it’s best to get rid of it. They are aiming to become a ‘non-self’ on the spiritual path.
For now I won’t get into further details about the origin and the fascinating theory behind it. And to keep this article light and readable, I’ll skip to the part about what I would do to form a team.
Let’s try to create our definition of a team.
A team is a group of people connected with each other on a deeper and unconscious level. The connection is a bond which is created over time. The group is acting as an organic entity by having a common goal to work on.
This definition will probably change if I have new insights on this topic.
You will not become a team overnight. This takes time. In fact, it could take a long time.
The identities of group members differ in many ways, but still there is a chance of becoming a team.
This could very well happen when the group faces certain challenges.
Like during a disagreement with a member of your group. You get to know one and other during hard times. These times ask a lot from us and you’ve probably experienced it in your life. After these difficult struggles, when the dust settles, despite the outcome of the disagreement, you have learned something about your peers and about yourself perhaps. Hopefully you have levelled with each other and have grown a bit. If this is the case, the next arguments will be handled differently. You’re becoming a team by disagreeing.
When you have successes with the group, there is also growth occurring. You’re becoming a team by winning.
The group can become a team in many ways. By winning, failing, disagreeing, struggling, etc. In all of these situations, some of our identity characteristics come to the surface and this is the best opportunity to connect with the identity of others. In other words, become a group of people connected at a deeper level and start working and acting like a team.
One other thing.
A team is like good whisky. It needs to be left alone for a long time before you can taste the real quality.
Can you be recruited for a team?
This question about recruiting a member can be answered pretty easily.
Recruiting a new member is very difficult in terms of finding the right people who are able to connect with the other members. Recruiting is mostly about bringing people together with the appropriate experiences and education. You aren’t recruited for your identity. Your identity doesn’t have a resume. It comes to light when you join the group and start the collective journey.
When do you know you’re part of a team?
The group is becoming a team when it acts as an organic entity. The team has natural coordination. Where human emotions are welcome. Where people thrive. Where they learn from each other and are willing to invest their time. Where the people respect each other and respect their flaws and expertises.
Working hard, being honest with each other, having quarrels, searching for solutions, supporting one another, having each other’s backs, etc. These are all symptoms of being a member of a team.
And at the end of the day, you go home satisfied.
And start the day with fresh energy to overcome new challenges.
If you had the pleasure, like I am now, to work with people who you really feel connected with and unconsciously became a team. This feeling is awesome!
Then you are one lucky person to experience such a working environment. It’s pretty addictive.
Being in a team doesn’t give you the guarantee of having a team on your next assignment. The new assignment consists of other individuals with their unique identities. The process starts all over again and there is no guarantee this group of people will act as a team.
To wrap up, what makes a team?
By learning from the controllable aspects and respecting the uncontrollable ones, we form ourselves and the ability to be self reflecting. This is what makes us human. And this also makes it hard to work together with just anyone and everyone. When a bunch of people aren’t working as a team, by all means, try to mature the members individually, do some team building activities or any other popular methods out there. See what happens with the group and hope for the best, because the most influential hurdle goes much deeper. And this is what makes us unique and beautiful.
Count your blessings, if you’re part of a team. Enjoy.