The constant progression from dependence to independence within the life cycle is characteristic of human growth and development. Infants discover ways of entertaining and transporting themselves, while toddlers learn how to dress and eat on their own. By the time people reach adolescence, they become increasingly independent of others for survival needs. However, adulthood demolishes the illusion of independence, unveiling both the reality and necessity of interdependent relationships. Today, many companies realize the value of strengthening teamwork skills as a means of increasing production, in spite of the unique challenges team interaction presents. This article focuses on the specific teamwork skills needed in order for employees to be successful today’s changing work environment.
First of all, team members need to possess good oral and written communication skills, which form a strong foundation for team success. The distinction between written and oral communication encompasses far more than speaking versus writing. For example, written communication is extremely technical and places great emphasis upon syntactical precision and connotative simplicity, allowing only a small degree of ambiguity; in contrast, oral communication is filled with subjectivities that often complicate the process. Specifically, oral communication includes several nonverbal factors, such as body language, voice quality, and facial expressions, which play a definite role in verbal communication. In addition, whereas writers generally restate and revise their ideas during the editorial process, orators have no such luxury, making it necessary for them to exercise prudence when communicating verbally, especially since people often view recantations and retractions as disingenuous (Monarth, 2007).
Leadership skills are another vital attribute of effective teams, particularly in light of the strategic decision-making involved in the team process. With most companies, employees converge with dissimilar personality styles and differing professional, cultural, and socio-economical backgrounds, struggling to balance the dichotomy of teamwork and personal autonomy. Most employees are capable of working through the difficulties and unique challenges associated with working as a team; however, teamwork demands strong yet nonassertive leadership to ensure team cohesion and effectiveness. Effective companies empower employees to function as leaders, providing them with a solid framework upon which to build corporate success and maintain a high level of employee motivation and job satisfaction. As a word of caution, please remember that teamwork excludes autocratic styles of leadership, which make one person solely responsible for making critical decisions.
Team decision-making can be extremely challenging, especially since workplace teamwork is a relative new concept for many associates. In order to overcome the obstacles of making sound decisions, employees must incorporate critical thinking strategies into the decision-making process. Critical thinking involves removing the cognitive blinders that lead teams to develop strategies without evaluating them objectively, neglecting to filter out unproductive suggestions presented in the decision-making process (Hackett, 2007). Critical thinking also utilizes a holistic approach to decision-making, employing inductive reasoning strategies that view situations as a whole, examine the parts, and reevaluate the whole before drawing conclusions. By using a more streamlined decision-making process, the likelihood of good decision-making increases exponentially as teams collectively, consciously, and purposefully share valuable insights discovered through critical analysis. In short, effective decision-making strategies necessitate the implementation of critical thinking to ensure a comprehensive understanding of the particular topic or issue.
Beware of Selfish Ambitions
As teams develop within the various departments of the company, it is extremely important that employees guard themselves against becoming selfishly ambitious and excessively assertive, which can potentially devastate team efficacy and cohesion. When kept in balance, ambition is a desirable and necessary part of success and upward mobility; however, it can be equally destructive when coupled with selfishness. In fact, when people fail to recognize the value of other team members by allowing egocentric biases to prevail, the likelihood of interpersonal conflicts increases drastically (Epley, Caruso, & Bazerman, 2006). Finally, assertiveness can quickly lead to aggression when employees attempt to usurp control of the team, which undermines the very purpose for team formation.
When employees encounter interpersonal conflicts within the team process, they must have effective problem-solving and conflict management techniques at their disposal in order to curtail the negative effects of disagreements. Most people use the terms resolution and management interchangeably; however, each term is markedly distinct from one another. Specifically, conflict resolution focuses on eliminating conflicts without regard to the future relationship of the individuals involved, whereas conflict management seeks solutions that both defuse conflicts and improve team efficacy. Furthermore, conflict management offers an exceptional opportunity to strengthen interpersonal bonds and solidify employee relationships. Fortunately, conflicts are not necessarily destructive in all cases. In fact, conflicts are constructive when employees stay focused on the main issue while engaging in conflict resolution, resulting in mutually satisfying outcomes for all parties involved (Longaretti & Wilson, 2006). Once this occurs, teams are more likely to experience increased output and efficiency. Therefore, conflicts can be a positive force with desirable results, but only when properly managed (Gallanan, Benzing, & Perri, 2006).
Team effectiveness is determined by the formation of cohesive relationships in which diversity is both celebrated and promoted. The inclusive tenor embodied by teamwork creates an environment that facilitates leadership, communication, problem-solving, and conflict management. A team is only as strong as its willingness to set aside personal differences in pursuit of a common objective. Additionally, companies should utilize teams as a means of providing its stakeholders with superior products and services, increasing profits and customer satisfaction. In the end, following these guidelines will help companies become the preferred provider of services to the businesses and customers in their industries.
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