The Development of Teams - Business in Thailand
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phuket Leisure: The Development of Teams

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Once an organization has decided to create internal teams and to have them as the major contributor to problem solving opportunities, it must then take time out to study the behaviour and development of the workings of a team in order that it is not surprised when something appears to go wrong. Teams develop as individuals do; they pass through learning and developmental stages; they move from childhood to adolescence to adulthood. There are many growing pains along the way. But just as you cannot, generally speaking, throw out your children because you dislike or lose hope at a stage in their development, so you must have the same belief and attitude to your working teams. It will all come out right in the end as long as you understand the journey it must make. The foolish manager is the one that disbands the team because he has not appreciated the necessity for growing pains to be worked through and does not recognize a difficult stage in the development of a team, rather believing that the team itself has failed.

The first stage in the development of a team is that of ORIENTATION. The team begins its work with members feeling moderately eager to commence activities and having high expectations of their success. Individual team members may feel a little anxiety as they wonder just what will be expected of them and where will they fit in the team. Inevitably all teams will possess central or dominant characters that test the situation to see how far they can impose their individualism upon other team members. At this stage the team will have a high dependence on authority and still respond to hierarchy. This may be termed the "sniffing" stage when clarification of mission, goals, roles and responsibilities takes place.

The second stage in the development of teams is the DISSATISFACTION stage when the discrepancy between hopes and reality takes a mighty blow. Members begin to feel dissatisfaction with their own dependence on authoritarian figures and become very frustrated as the goals, tasks and plans they had prepared seem to be going nowhere. A general feeling of incompetence and confusion surrounds the team and much interpersonal interaction is negative. Members may compete with one another for power and attention and polarities will occur. The wise leader will be one who has studied the cause and management of conflict and able to turn negativism into positivism by channeling the energy created along constructive lines. Conflict may be managed in different ways. It may simply be avoided by ensuring that all meetings are non confrontational and where it seems that a conflict might occur to simply ignore or pass over that particular issue. A simple denial that a problem exists avoids conflict. Obviously, this is not a constructive or healthy way for the organization to move forward. A more amenable means of dealing with conflict is by accommodating it. This approach may find some support in the compromising culture of Thailand, as cooperation and the desire not to risk damaging relationships, even at the expense of personal goals, is sufficient justification. Competing is another way to manage conflict, where essentially the attitude becomes, "survival of the fittest' and winning at any cost. This can often be assumed to be the Western way in business and it has certainly worked in the past; but not any more. Companies need teams, teams need compromise and internal competition takes energy away from defeating external competition. Thus, the way forward in today's really successful companies is to approach conflict from an attitude of structured problem solving in a climate of compromise. This demands that the needs of all parties are regarded as legitimate and important, that there is a high respect for mutual support and that all parties will openly discuss issues. A mutually beneficial solution must be found without anyone being forced into a corner and having to make a major concession. The fusion of Thai and Western culture when led by exceptional individuals understanding both cultures, can form the model of how the very best and most effective teams can work in industry today. When conflict is dealt with constructively, people can be stimulated to greater creativity, leading to a wider choice of action and better results. All team members and especially the team leader, must understand that no team development stage is bad and that each stage is an integral part of the journey toward effective production.

Differences in rank must be buried to achieve team effectiveness, listening skills must be improved and the ability to interpret non-verbal clues and body language must be improved. Dissatisfaction eventually decreases as the team moves to the stage of RESOLUTION and discrepancies between expectations and reality are resolved. Harmony begins to develop, together with trust, support and respect; responsibility is shared and confidence and self-esteem become of paramount importance. At this stage the leader begins to disappear as the team asserts its own independence. This brings us to the PRODUCTION stage of team development where the strength of the team is beginning to be felt and there is high confidence in accomplishment of tasks, leadership responsibilities are shared as the original leader has already begun to disappear, realizing that to remain would be counter productive to the further development of the team.

Let us summarize the four stages of team development, ORIENTATION, where there is low productivity and high morale, DISSATISFACTION when the honeymoon is over and the goals are difficult to achieve, RESOLUTION where the team is really learning to work together and difficulties are resolved whilst at the same time confidence and cohesion are developing. Finally the team moves to its PRODUCTION stage where both high productivity and high morale exist in concert together. Each of these four stages demands a different kind of leadership, thus the leader must become a situational leader. In effect, the outstanding team leader adjusts his or her style to provide what the group cannot provide for itself.

One key element of the successful developments of teams is the tough call of having to retire a player if inadequate performance persists; failure to perform this difficult act is one of the unforgivable mistakes a leader can make. Others, and there are many, include the failure to understand team dynamics and the inability to alter leadership styles to match the developmental stages of teams. Above all, if a leader is unable to control conflict then he or she is lost and the team will fail. As the team progresses through its stages of development, from directional through support to minimal interference, the leader has to learn to stand aside. He or she passes from the initial directing stage, through coaching to supporting and finally, delegating. However, there cannot ever be an empowered self-directed team unless the team leader is willing to share control. There has to be a fundamental management mind shift from decision making and maintaining control to helping people and teams develop to enjoy competence, commitment and the ability to share in making decisions. Teams really feel empowered when they are involved, contributing and productive and all leaders have to realize that it is much more exhausting to lead and develop a team than to manage by "my way or the highway". Fundamentally, empowering and leading teams is all about letting go, so that others can get going.



- January 2003 Volume 6 ,Issue 1

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