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Teamwork is not always like a well-oiled machine: Group member concerns that can hold a team back

Posted by Deb Muoio

May 28, 2014 10:10:00 AM


Teamwork is the foundation of success for most companies. Creative ideas are more easily generated, large workloads can be shared, and it’s always great to have others to turn to for help. For many people though, teamwork rarely works like a well-oiled machine - more like a rusty set of gears that creak and squeak at each other. And there’s always that one gear that doesn’t work well with the rest…

So what are the most common issues people have with teamwork? A teamwork study we conducted using PsychTests’ Team vs. Individual Orientation Test (TIOT) reveals that the top three concerns about working in a group are 1) unclear team roles, 2) unfair workload, and 3) concerns about being held up (taking longer to reach decisions, slower teammates, etc.).

While the majority of people don’t mind having a mix of solo and group projects, teamwork comes with some reservations. Even sports teams may look good when playing, but the locker room could tell a different story. Almost every team, in sports and business, has its “divas,” or the ones who refuse to listen to others, the ones who don’t want to pull their own weight, the ones who want to keep all the good ideas to themselves...the bottom line is, if you don’t have a strong team leader pulling everyone together – and this is often a management issue – you’ll have a whole bunch of “I’s” rather than “We’s.”

Teamwork concerns are an important issue that management should not overlook. It’s been said that a team is only as strong as its weakest member. So if you have someone who just doesn’t jive with the rest or who’s difficult to work with, it affects everyone involved. These are facts that one cannot change; what we can do is to make the best of it by managing team and solo work accordingly. It’s also important to strengthen your existing team. Here are some team-building exercises that can foster harmony among team members:

The “I” Statements Exercise

Whether expressing negative criticism or negative emotions, the manner in which they are worded can make all the difference. The key lies in using “I” statements. When “you” phrases are used, it places the onus on someone else (“You never listen to my ideas”), and its accusatory nature can put others on the defensive, and create uneasy conflict situations. The goal of this exercise is twofold: To talk about the issues in group work that tend to bother each member, and to practice expressing thoughts and feelings in an objective and productive way.

Have each team member answer the following questions, and then share their responses with the group:

1) When doing group work, it frustrates me when I:

2) When doing group work, the things I am least looking forward to are:

3) When it comes to starting new projects, I dread:


The VIP Status Exercise - Values, Ideals, and Principles

To achieve success, a team needs to have a common vision – to be united under the same banner. What does your team represent? What do they hope to accomplish? What are the principles that are the basis of this team? The following questions should be answered as a group:

1)     What are the group’s top 3 values? Why are they important? Examples of values include Honesty, Achievement, and Credibility.

2)     Name three ways/instances your team has practiced these values at work. If you can’t think of any, write down three ways in which you can do so.

3)     What kind of team practices/habits/attitudes do you feel hinder the team’s progress?


The “Bet you didn’t know” Exercise

Trust is the foundation of a strong team. Teammates have to trust that each person will get their part of a job done, that they’ll be there to help, and that they will always have the team’s best interests in mind.

In this exercise, group members are asked to reveal something that they have never shared with their teammates. It doesn’t have to be exceptionally personal – just something they may not know about one another. Perhaps one person has a fear of clowns or saw a ghost as a child. Maybe it’s time for that cartoon-loving member to come clean.

Sharing something personal requires a great deal of vulnerability and trust, so each team member should respect each person’s willingness to disclose.

If you’re interested in using TIOT (Team vs. Individual Orientation Test) or other tests for HR purposes, request a free trial of ARCH Profile.

Want to learn more about using psychological tests for hiring, leadership development, career development or talent retention? Download our free eBook loaded with down-to-earth information about psychological testing for HR purposes. 


Request your free trial of ARCH Profile!

Topics: HR Tips, Employee Development, Team-building

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