Turn Your Group into a True Team

by Linda Hill and Kent Lineback  for Harvard Business Review, June 28th, 2011. 

Are the people who work for you a real team?

It’s easy to extol teamwork, but not every group is a team. In fact, most teams we see, aren’t — because their managers focus on building the most effective relationships they can with each individual who works for them. They spend their time managing person by person, paying little attention to collective performance. They rarely use their groups to diagnose or solve problems. And when issues arise that clearly affect the group as a whole, they tend to handle them one on one.

In taking this approach, they’re overlooking an important management tool: the powerful influence that social dynamics in a real team can exert on the behavior and performance of its members.

What is a team and what makes it potentially such a valuable instrument of leadership? A team is a group of people who do collective work and are mutually committed to a common team purpose and challenging goals related to that purpose.

Collective work and mutual commitment are the key characteristics. By going beyond mere cooperation and coordination, collective work produces more innovative and productive outcomes that exceed the simple sum of individual efforts. Mutual commitment means members hold themselves and each other jointly accountable for the team’s performance. They not only think and act collectively, but the social and emotional bonds among them are compelling. They share a genuine conviction that “we” — the potent concept behind every team — will succeed or fail together, and that no individual can succeed while the team fails. (continue reading… )

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