Motivating groups to build teams
Team members must invest considerable effort and energy in building and supporting their team. Some team members already understand the value of developing their social, interpersonal, and team skills and are ready and willing to invest their resources to develop their team. Other team members may question the value of learning to work and learn in a team. Some may have had outstanding academic records in high school and wonder why they need to learn to work more closely with others. Some may have participated on dysfunctional teams in high school and want to avoid repeating that experience. Some may place a higher priority on co-curricular activities and see the time and energy required by their teams as conflicting with their individual goals. One step that faculty members can take to increase the investment that team members are willing to make is to help them understand the value of team skills after graduation. Therefore, faculty members using teams in their courses can share the resources below with their students at the beginning of the term to help them get a clearer picture of the value of learning to work and learn as teams.
Helping students discover the value of teams deals with at least three major issues.
- Value of team skills after graduation: This helps students to know that employers value abilities for functioning effectively on teams.
- Overcoming negative attitudes about teams from prior experiences: Many students have negative experiences from prior participation on dysfunctional teams. Helping students understand how they can learn from past experiences and improve their experiences is important.
Performance as a team often exceeds performance as individuals: Providing students opportunities to compare their performance on a task as individuals to their performance on the same task as a team may help students to better appreciate the value of teams.
Value of Team Skills after Graduation
If you can't operate as a team player, no matter how valuable you've been, you really don't belong at GE.
“In today's organization technical competence only gets you up to the starting line. High-performance relationship management is the critical skill which allows you to go the distance.”
“The key to employability is acquiring the knowledge and skill sets in demand by employers. Those who fail to gain or maintain knowledge and skill with tools, such as computer-aided design and other software relevant to their work are disadvantaged. The lack of communication and interpersonal skills, needed to work effectively on teams, can also be a stumbling block.”
According to a study conducted by the American Society for Training and Development and the U.S. Department of Labor, Employment and Training Administration7, employers want their employees to have the following skills:
- Listening and Oral Communication
- Competence in Reading, Writing, and Computation
- Adaptability: Creative Thinking and Problem Solving
- Organizational Effectiveness and Leadership
- Personal Management: Self-esteem, Goal Setting/Motivation, and Personal/Career Development
- Group Effectiveness: Interpersonal Skills, Negotiation, and Teamwork
During interviews, prospective employers often ask applicants questions about their teaming experiences. Example questions are listed below.
- We cannot do everything ourselves. Give me an example of a time when you dealt with this reality by creating a special team effort at work. Highlight the special aspects of the situation that best demonstrate your skills in this area.
- The term “participative management” has been used for years to describe a technique of building team spirit by collecting suggestions from others. Describe a time when you used suggestions to build team commitment.
- There is a big difference between being committed to an individual or to a team. Tell me about a time when your commitment to a person was tested because of your commitment to the team. Explain what you did and why.
Overcoming negative attitudes about teams from prior experiences
Many students have been in dysfunctional groups before coming to college. Ask them what happened that made the group fall apart. Then, ask them to identify what could have kept the group together. This may motivate them to want to have a better experience. The worse the previous experience, the more willing students are to learn from their mistakes. You might also ask them to write about their worst teaming experience and identify what went wrong.
Performance as a team often exceeds performance as individuals
Students can learn the value of teams through exercises that they can complete as individuals and then as teams. Through these exercises students learn that they can perform more effectively as a team than as individuals. Examples of these exercises include
- LOGO Exercise: This exercise is available at http://www.fcae.umassd.edu/fcteam/teamfacultyguide/frames_index.html. The site is password-protected. Check with at University of Massachusetts Dartmouth about access.
- Desert and Space Survival Exercises: These exercises are available at http://www.eas.asu.edu/~asufc/teaminginfo/teams.html.
Student teams also provide a support system that students can use when they cannot find their professor, don’t remember their homework assignment, etc. Focus groups conducted with students across the Foundation Coalition show that, when students need help, the first resource they turn to is their team.