7 Keys to Building Great Work Teams


under the rug. Of course, no rug is large enough to cover misperception, ill feelings, old hurts, and
misunderstandings for very long. Soon the differences reappear. They take on the form of tension, hidden agendas, and stubborn positions. On the other hand, if leaders help work teams to manage conflict effectively, the team will be able to maintain trust and tap the collective power of the team. Work teams manage conflict better when members learn to shift their paradigms (mindsets) about conflict in general, about other parties involved, and about their own ability to manage conflict. Three techniques that help members shift obstructing paradigms are reframing, shifting shoes, and affirmations.
Reframing is looking at the glass half-full, instead of half-empty. Instead of thinking "If
I address this issue, it'll slow down the meeting," consider this thought: "If we negotiate
this difference, trust and creativity will all increase."

Shifting shoes is a technique used to practice empathy by mentally "walking in the shoes" of another person. You answer questions such as "How would I feel if I were that person being criticized in front of the group?" and "What would motivate me to say what that person just said?"

Affirmations are positive statements about something you want to be true. For example,
instead of saying to yourself right before a negotiating session, "I know I'm going to blow
up," force yourself to say, "I am calm, comfortable, and prepared." If team members can
learn to shift any negative mental tapes to more positive ones, they will be able to shift
obstructing paradigms and manage conflict more effectively.

Tom Peters, in Thriving On Chaos , writes "The surviving companies will, above all, be
flexible responders that create market initiatives. This has to happen through people." It
is no longer a luxury to have work teams that can perform effectively within a turbulent
environment. It is a necessity. Teams must not only respond to change, but actually initiate it. To assist teams in the management of change, leaders should acknowledge any perceived danger in the change and then help teams to see any inherent opportunities. They can provide the security necessary for teams to take risks and the tools for them to innovate; they can also reduce resistance to change by providing vision and information, and by modeling a positive attitude themselves.

A cohesive work team can only add value if it pays attention to the ongoing development of three important connections: to the larger work organization, to team members, and to other work teams.

When a work team is connected to the organization, members discuss team performance in relationship to corporate priorities, customer feedback, and quality measures. They consider team needs in light of what's good for the whole organization and what will best serve joint objectives. Leaders can encourage such connection by keeping communication lines open.

Management priorities, successes, and headaches should flow one way; team needs, successes, and questions should flow in the other direction.

When a work team has developed strong connections among its own members, peer support manifests itself in many ways. Colleagues volunteer to help without being asked, cover for each other in a pinch, congratulate each other publicly, share resources, offer suggestions for improvement, and find ways to celebrate together. A few ideas for developing and maintaining such connections are: allow time before and after meetings for brief socialization, schedule team lunches, create occasional team projects outside of work, circulate member profiles, take training together, and provide feedback to one another on development.

Teams that connect well with other work groups

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