The Team Building Directory

Advice and information about all things team buiding

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Basic Team Working
What is a team anyway?


  • A team is a small number of people with complementary skills who are committed to a common purpose, performance goals, and approach for which they hold themselves mutually accountable

  • Small Number
  • Complementary Skills
  • Common Purpose & Performance Goals
  • Common Approach
  • Mutual Accountability


Ten common teaming problems


  • Floundering
  • Overbearing participants
  • Dominating participants
  • Reluctant participants
  • Unquestioned acceptance of opinions as facts
  • Rush to accomplishment
  • Attribution
  • Discounts and “plops”
  • Wanderlust: digression and tangents
  • Feuding members


Five issues to be considered in team building

1. Interdependence
This is the issue of how each member’s outcomes are determined, at least in part, by the actions of the other members. The structure of the team task should be such that it requires cooperative interdependence. Functioning independently of other team members, or competing with them should lead to sub optimal outcomes for the entire team. Tasks that require the successful performance of sub tasks by all team members are called divisible, conjunctive tasks.

2. Goal Specification
It is very important for team members to have common goals for team achievement, as well as to communicate clearly about individual goals they may have. The process of clarifying goals may well engage all of the issues on this list. Indeed, shared goals is one of the definitional properties of the concept “team.” A simple, but useful, team building task is to assign a newly formed team the task of producing a mission and goals statement.

3. Cohesiveness
This term refers to the attractiveness of team membership. Teams are cohesive to the extent that membership in them is positively valued; members are drawn toward the team. In task oriented teams the concept can be differentiated into two sub concepts, social cohesiveness and task cohesiveness. Social cohesiveness refers to the bonds of interpersonal attraction that link team members. Although a high level of social cohesiveness may make team life more pleasant, it is not highly related to team performance. Nevertheless, the patterns of interpersonal attraction within a team are a very prominent concern. Team building exercises that have a component of fun or play are useful in allowing attraction bonds to develop. Task cohesiveness refers to the way in which skills and abilities of the team members mesh to allow effective performance.

4. Roles and Norms
All teams develop a set of roles and norms over time. In task oriented teams, it is essential that the role structure enables the team to cope effectively with the requirements of the task. When the task is divisible and conjunctive, as are most of the important team tasks in our society, the assignment of roles to members who can perform them effectively is essential. Active consideration of the role structure can be an important part of a team building exercise. Task roles may be rotated so that all team members experience, and learn from, all roles. Even then, it is important that the norm governing the assignment of roles is understood and accepted by team members.

Norms are the rules governing the behavior of team members, and include the rewards for behaving in accord with normative requirements, as well as the sanctions for norm violations. Norms will develop in a team, whether or not they are actively discussed.

5. Communication
Effective interpersonal communication is vital to the smooth functioning of any task team. There are many ways of facilitating the learning of effective communication skills. Active listening exercises, practice in giving and receiving feedback, practice in checking for comprehension of verbal messages, are all aimed at developing skills. It is also important for a team to develop an effective communication network; who communicates to whom; is there anybody “out of the loop?” Norms will develop governing communication. Do those norms encourage everyone to participate, or do they allow one or two dominant members to claim all the “air time?”

(From Scholtes, Peter R., The Team Handbook, Joiner Associates (1988))