We interact with teams or in teams throughout the day without always realizing it, whether in the office with a co-worker trying to make a deadline, the classroom on a class project or assignment, or at home with a roommate, spouse, or a parent coordinating chores. We all use teams in our lives whether we notice or not.
Research on organizational behavior has regarded leadership as one of the most critical factors in the success or failure of team based organizations and academic institutions (Bass, 1990; Follett, 1926; Katzenbach, 1993, 1997). Furthermore, as organizational structures continue to flatten (Rousseau, 1997), it becomes essential for managers and academics to effectively shift their leadership strategies from individual job assignments toward team projects.
With these two facts in mind, I felt that it was important to present some strategies for leaders to use with their teams. I have highlighted several important steps from Dyer’s (1977) work that can help leaders increase cooperation, cohesiveness, and group identification.
1.) Emphasize common interests and values: Members are more likely to identify with a group in which there is agreement about objectives, strategies for attaining them, and the need for cooperation.
2.) Use ceremonies and rituals: These are the most effective when they emphasize the group’s values and traditions. Some examples include; rituals that induct new members into a group and ceremonies that celebrate achievements or mark the anniversary of special event in the history of the group.
3.) Use symbols to develop identification with the group: Group identification is strengthened when members agree to wear or display the symbols of membership. Some examples include; team name, logo, insignia, or emblem may be displayed on flags, banners, clothing, or jewelry.
4.) Encourage and facilitate social interaction: Development of a cohesive group is more likely if the members get to know each other on a personal basis and find it satisfying to interact socially. Here are some ways to facilitate pleasant social interaction; hold periodic social activities such as dinners, lunches, sporting events, and parties.
5.) Tell people about group activities and achievements: People tend to feel alienated and unappreciated when they receive little information about the plans, activities, and achievements of their team or department.
6.) Conduct process analysis sessions: This process involves and open discussion which includes suggestions from the team members to improve the group’s effectiveness. These should focus on, how members communicate, work together, make decisions, and resolve disagreements.
7.) Conduct alignment sessions: The purpose is to increase mutual understanding among team members (Mitchell, 1986). I will break down this process into three steps. Prior to the session, each member is given an open-ended questionnaire about values, concerns, and personal objectives and are asked to prepare answers for the session. During the session, each member spends some time describing and explaining their answers. The facilitator is intended to keep the session focuses on mutual understanding. After the session, a summary is created to describe what mutual themes and thoughts were taken away from this session.
8.) Increase incentives for mutual cooperation: One way to increase cohesiveness and team identification is to emphasize formal incentives such as a bonus based on improvements in team performance. These incentives can range from parties to extra holidays.
Bass, B. M. (1990). Bass and Stogdill′s Handbook of Leadership (3rd ed.). New York: The Free Press.
Dyer, W. G. (1977). Team building: Issues and alternatives. Reading, MA: Addison-Wesley.
Follett, M. P. (1926). The giving of orders. COT, 156–162.
Katzenbach, J. R. (1997). Teams at the top: Unleashing the potential of both teams and individual leaders. Boston, MA: Harvard Business Press Books.
Katzenbach, J. R. & Smith, D. K. (1993). The wisdom of teams: Creating the high-performance organization (pp. 45). Boston, MA: Harvard Business Press Books.
Mitchell, R. (1986). Team building by disclosure of internal frames of reference. Journal of applied behavioral science, 22, 1, 15-28.
Rousseau, D. M. (1997). Organizational behavior in the new organizational era. Annual Review of Psychology, 48(1), 515-546.