Teamwork : Eleven
By Dr. Dick McCann, of TMS (Team Management Systems) in Australia.
Copyright © Dick McCann. All rights reserved.
Dick is a Partner in Team Management Systems, with a background in science, engineering, finance and organizational behavior. Holding a PhD in engineering, he is the author of a leading book on Influencing and coauthor (with Dr Charles Margerison) of many books and articles on teamwork. Dick is now Managing Director of TMS Australia, a Director of TMS Development International and President of TMS (USA) Inc.
The number eleven is a symbol of unity and perfection. In Arab culture it covers the stages of life one goes through to achieve both self and spiritual knowledge. In tarot card reading it is significant, for it combines the Pentagram (the image of man) and Solomon's Seal (the six-pointed image of the world). In China it represents the way (Tao) of combining heaven (number 6) and earth (number 5), to achieve perfection.
All those years ago when Charles Margerison and I identified the skills of linking, neither of us was aware of the important cultural and spiritual significance of the number eleven. However, over the last twenty years, the eleven skills of linking have become the basis for coordinating and integrating the work of teams. The combination of the six people linking skills and the five task linking skills is now widely recognized as the way to improve team leadership skills.
The concept of linking was developed from empirical studies we carried out on teams, during the 1980s. In these studies we identified eight distinct factors which contributed to the success of teams. These factors were arranged into the Types of Work Wheel.
The Margerison-McCann Types of Work Wheel
Factors opposite one another had low intercorrelation coefficients while those adjacent had moderate intercorrelations, thus verifying the progressive nature of the Wheel. The factors are essential Types of Work or key tasks that team members need to undertake.
We also identified another factor which seemed to be common (psychometrically) to the eight Types of Work, but was worthy of separate classification as it defined a process rather than a task. We called this factor 'linking' as it described actions that were responsible for coordinating and integrating the work of the team. 'Linking' was placed in the center of the Wheel to indicate its shared relationship with the eight Types of Work.
The concepts of linking were deduced from the interviews carried out with participants in the research study. When the key task aspects of individual team work were removed, there were a number of concepts left which grouped into activities best described as shared team processes. These were distinct from the eight Types of Work which seemed to describe mainly the job demands of individual team members.
The 'Linking' center of the Types of Work Wheel comprises six people skills and five task skills. Linking the tasks of the team is just as important as linking the people. Without one, people suffer; without the other team outputs suffer.
THE PEOPLE LINKING SKILLS
These skills equate to the number 6 in the Tao - the symbol for heaven. They create the atmosphere in which the team works. They promote harmony and trust.
Communication covers the concept of 'pacing' where team members need to vary their communication style to match the preferences of the person they are talking to. This enhances rapport and leads to better outcomes.
Active listening means 'listening' to others and showing them that you are interested in what they say by asking questions, building on what they say, and summarizing what has been said.
Good team relationships are essential if your team is to become high performing. If there is a lack of respect, understanding and trust in the team, then there is no real team.
Problem solving & counseling means that team members will be available and responsive when other team members have a problem.
Participative Decision making is important so that action can take place. Team members need to be involved in decision making on key issues so that there is joint ownership of solutions and commitment to their implementation.
Interface management is a term used to describe the process of managing the links between each team member (internal linking) and between team members and key external stakeholders (external linking).
THE TASK LINKING SKILLS
These skills equate to the number 5 in the Tao - the symbol for the earth. They create a solid core or foundation on which the work of the team relies. They promote confidence and stability.
Work Allocation as a linking skill means assigning tasks to team members according to their competencies and preferences.
Research has shown that all teams must perform well on the eight Types of Work. If the team is unbalanced in terms of preferences, there is a possibility that the non-preference areas might become a low priority for the team. If this is the case, then the team needs to plan ways of developing skills in areas that are not preferences. In doing so they are implementing the skill of Team Development.
Delegation is important for leaders of teams or team members who have staff reporting to them. It is a process of training and coaching people so that they can develop competence. Competence leads to confidence, which then leads to trust.
Teams without clear objectives will fail. Research has shown that teams with clear goals that are actually delivered take pride in their work. This leads to improved team morale and motivation. By concentrating on the outputs and outcomes, the energy of the team can be focused on results. Teams where the 'goal posts' are constantly changing are usually low performing. Team members may work hard but their efforts are spread in all different directions.
All teams should strive for quality in everything they do. Quality is the key to organizational success and makes the difference between successful and unsuccessful organizations. Quality standards in teamwork means having standards and procedures that everyone must follow. These standards are those that meet the expectations of the client.
WITH-A-LINK or WITHOUT-A-LINK?
Teams that are familiar with and regularly audit their linking are more inclined to:
Know what each team member is doing
Know what other teams within the organization are doing
Know what the leader is doing
Perform well if some team members are absent
Perform well if the leader is absent.
Teams who ignore linking tend to:
Be oblivious to the work of other teams until it impacts their own work
Be unable to perform as well if team members are away
Be unable to make decisions if the leader is absent.
Being aware of the linking skills is not enough. These are skills that need developing, just like any other. Each skill needs to be discussed within the team and where necessary audited on a regular basis. Good performance on the five task skills prepares the ground for efficient outputs. Good performance on the six people skills establishes an atmosphere of harmony. Together they lead to team excellence.
Just as in the Tao - the combination of 'six and 'five' which adds up to 'eleven' and perfection!
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