Team Spirit

The Rise of the Team spirit is a fascinating invisible phenomenon that often we struggle to catch and control… Despite the deep psychological roots, the Social basis and The Manager’s view, the manager is somehow embarrassed and not prepared when people behave like a team.

Before the explanation why the manager has such feelings, let’s see how the Team spirit emerge. Hereafter two metaphors illustrate this process.

Metaphor 1: The Team Spirit Casper. Remember this little happy ghost who uses his magic for good and is searching for friends? When you need a little bit of magic in your daily work, just call Casper and see what will happen. Actually he is pretty predictive and tells you a lot about yourself. For example:

  • If Casper comes in your team only when you are happy, then you are still not a team. A small disturbance brings the old ghosts Fear and Suspicion up to a level that can destroy what you have already built together.
  • If you do something together, Casper is there but he hides when somebody is tired or stressed, then you are still not a team. With the time spent together Casper grows and grows and finally he became just like his bad fellows Fear and Suspicion.
  • When Casper is there whatever you do and however you feel, then you have a team, your team! Then trouble is challenge, not problem.

Metaphore 2: The J-curve. The forming of the team extrapolated to a learning process. 

This process starts with mistakes where efficacy sharply falls down. When recognizing the mistakes and taking corrective actions, the efficacy starts to improve untill it reach his saturation point. The efficacy at this point is much higher than the efficacy in the beginning. The J-curve testify that efficient work of a team is not an event, but a long learning process. Personel staffing would be an over-simplification of the topic.

According to the long-lasting research of Bruce Truckman:

There are four levels of team formation: Forming, Storming, Norming and Performing.

Forming vs. recruitment. The forming phase is the period of time when you recognize the person(s) in front of you as connected to your goals and they recognize you as connected to their goals. The result is a group of people with common goals.

Many people think that the company recruitment process is the only way to build a team. In practice this is exactly what we see when a company grows. As mentioned in the article Team and Society, a team being part of a bigger organization is a special case that corresponds to typical contemporary labor organization. Therefore we have to agree that hiring staff is part of the team building process. The team building process can be managed, facilitated or hindered by the recruitment. The result may be successful or not. As usual, the truth is a bit deeper than the surface that we see. Once gathered, the team need to build trust and respect.

Storming and fights.  This phase is the most painful one. Depending on people’s attitude, it build trust or destroy it forever. Once the team gets together, people start to face conflicting situations. There are three typical reactions to conflicts:

Avoid & Hide reaction consists in pretending there is no conflict, hide one’s suffering and hope it will disappear. Often the intentions are good (‘I don’t want to fight with you…’). Usually the problem does not evaporate and the result is frustrating for the one who hides (‘I knew you don’t care!’).

Confront & Attack reaction is to face the problem in a way that is harmful for the other people in the team. This happens when the attacking person feel insecure (‘It is not my fault!’) and this mistrust generate distrust in the team.

Welcome & discuss reaction means to face the problem in a constructive way and to search for a resolution that would be suitable to everybody, most commonly through a discussion. This behaviour fosters the trust.

Whatever the reaction is, this process consumes time and energy which decreases more or less the team efficiency. But at the end of the day we must align so to act simultaneously. The phase of storming is actually an investment for future performance. The successful completion of the storming phase is a stable basis to settle the team collaboration.

Norming: the calibration. In Engineering we say that we can trust the measurement only when the measuring system is calibrated. The calibration itself consists in setting rules and preferences that everybody complies to.

Does it sound complicated? In practice it is very simple: the team decides on what is good, what is wrong and what is acceptable. This can happen formally (clearly articulated) or informally (goes without saying). Those boundaries strengthen the mutual respect. Understanding team rules is critical for every new comer in the team: this is how we are, you catch it or you’re out.

Performing: reaching goals. The last phase is the longest and the funniest part for any group who has succeeded on the team road. At this phase with trust and mutual respect, the team is ready to reach his goals.

Such a long story for such a simple natural process! It could be question of hours, days, weeks, but it can also take months or years… Depends how strong the dreamers are.

Now the train of thoughts can go in two directions:

1. What are the pitfalls of the teams in their special case: as part of bigger organizations?

2. What comes after this Performing phase?

This is the Question. In other words: how the good performance influences the reality? In the special case of big economic organizations: what transformation will cause the high performing teams?

With the idea to free our minds for new horizons, let’s continue with the pitfalls: find here the link to the Manager’s Fears.

More Publications on Economy of Teams™:

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