UPDATE - How's your team's fitness?

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Team fitness is a team's capacity to pull together - but in most cases it's an elusive goal for leadership. Like trying to eat less and exercise more, the path to team fitness takes time, it takes heart and soul.

UPDATE - How's your team's fitness?

Do you know any of those pretty little cliches about the power of teams? TEAM stands for "Together Everyone Achieves More." Or, "I Can't But We Can."

It's really not possible to describe just how much I dislike those self-satisfied little cliches. And yet, I've found truth in them.

UPDATE: A new book explores, in part, the role of emotional and social intelligence in highly dynamic teams and organizations. It's called "Knowledge Solutions: Tools, Methods and Approaches to Drive Organizational Performance", and it's just been released by Springer. It's a comprehensive take on knowledge management and knowledge capture.

It's author, Olivier Serrat, works for the Asia Develoment Bank. Serrat's book uncovers the essential role that emotional intelligence plays in organizational life.

What Serrat's take on knowledge management highlights (to me) is the important role of social sensitivity and cooperation that knowledge leaders rely upon to create highly resilient organizations that can retain knowlege and so survive and thrive. Some people refer to this capacity to work together effectively as a team or collective's IQ.

Where teams get things done by working alone and individually, then the collective IQ of the team is said to be very low. In this circumstance, there's a direct and negative impact on the capacity of leaders and their organizations to capture and retain knowledge. Where teams get things done by working together, when getting to solutions is faster and solutions better through team work, then the collective IQ is said to be high. And conversely, there's a direct positive impact on capacity to retain knowledge over the long term.

Dr Scott Berry | Team and Executive Coach

Hi, it's Scott from Scott Berry Consulting. The "collective intelligence" of your team is not just the sum of their individual competencies or intellectual quotient (IQ). It's the balance between competition and cooperation. It's level of trust, agreed norms, shared vision and quality of social interactions. Yet, because team IQ is more"felt" than "seen", it is largely ignored.

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What the experts say

Peter Senge, author of The Fifth Discipline, described the tendencies to want to work alone and avoid team collaboration as a powerful organizational force. He said,

"...there are powerful forces at work in the organization that tend to make the intelligence of the team less than, not greater than, the intelligence of individual team members. Many of these factors are within the direct control of the team members.  Peter Senge, The Fifth Discipline.

There's consensus among leadership reseachers and practitioners that transforming work groups into highly functional teams is one of the most urgent challenges that today’s organizations must achieve, if they're to survive.

We hear that team work is essential to the bottom line. But why?

Turning work groups into teams is essential to an organization’s survival and its ability to thrive. But all too often, the label 'team' is given to groups who come together for work, but who are completely misaligned and find they can't get the job done by relying on each other.

Here are some basic facts about the importance of team fitness:

·     To thrive in this new, globalized economy an organization must constantly and expertly introduce and manage change.

·     In today’s organizations, constant change must be managed by teams.

·     If teams don’t do it, then change doesn’t work.

·     If change doesn’t work, the organization doesn’t survive.

Assessing team fitness

A team fitness assessment is a way to diagnose a group’s capacity to work together effectively for high performance (from Bendaly 1996). Here's some ideas to help you consider the higher level themes you might assess:

·     Shared leadership: this means team members are well informed, fully participate and have an equal voice.

·     Group work skills: this measures the quality of decision-making, problem solving and consensus in meetings – because effective meeting is critical to team effectiveness outside of meeting.

·     Climate: this refers to how members feel about the way the team functions, their level of comfort with the norms and behaviors in the team.

·     Cohesiveness: this means the degree to which the team pulls together. Levels of agreement and commitment to what the is in place to achieve as well how it achieves those goals.

·     Team member contribution: this refers to team member’s understanding what is expected of them and the degree they fulfill those expectations.

Work groups become teams only when they have transformed in to highly effective and cohesive groups that get results because they work together, rather than in spite of having to work together.

Dr Scott Berry | Team and Executive Coach

If there's a gap between where your team is now and where you really want them to be then coaching can help. A coach is someone who takes a broader view of the team. They can help you with tools and techniques that help teams increase their social sensitivity, shared unity, so they work better together and easily achieve team goals.

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Read more (WARNING: there's a risk of finding yet more turtuous cliches)

Check out Olivier Serrat's new book here.

Louis E Romero describes the journey to highly functioning teams like this.

Murry Newlands introduces 7 things to do as a manager to create high functioning teams is this way.

Josh Bersin summarizes some new research that says we should be more focused on teams and less focused on leaders.