Teams are one of the most discussed work units. We throw “teamwork” and “team ethic” around during job interviews and performance reviews. When we apply for jobs, we highlight our teamwork capabilities on our resumes. Teams are indeed essential to productive work environments because they are the vital learning units in an organization. In other words, when teams learn, the entire organization learns.
But what constitutes a team exactly? Simply put, teams are a group of two or more people that have a shared goal. Not only that, they are committed to the team process and use team language (“we” instead of “I”) when discussing accomplishments and failures. Teams also focus on learning, whether that learning comes from outside information, success, or failure. Finally, teams possess a strong sense of commitment and accountability.
Teams that consistently perform above expectations are called high-performance teams. Everyone wants to be a part of a high-performance team, but how do they happen? These teams consistently have one trait in common: experiencing and working through conflict. Conflict is one of THE best things that can happen to a team, because when handled and resolved well, teams learn, grow, and function better as a unit.
Each person has different preferences for their role on a team. Everyone gravitates toward one these five team roles: Creator, Advancer, Refiner, Executor, and Flexer. The Creator focuses on generating ideas; the Advancer communicates the ideas; the Refiner challenges ideas; the Executor implements the ideas; and the Flexer assumes any of the other four roles based on the needs of the team. High-performing teams have members who are in their preferred role where they can excel and are sustained because those roles give them energy. It is our job as leaders to find jobs, tasks, and team roles where others can flourish. Without energized people, leaders will not be able to create high-performing teams or high-performing organizations.
-Lotte Mulder earned her Master’s of Education from the Harvard Graduate School of Education in 2013, where she focused on Leadership and Group Development. She’s currently working toward a PhD in Organizational Leadership. At ASCP, Lotte designs and facilitates the ASCP Leadership Institute, an online leadership certificate program. She has also built ASCP’s first patient ambassador program, called Patient Champions, which leverages patient stories as they relate to the value of the lab.
The team dynamics module gave me a great insight into my tendencies and an understanding on effectively getting the best out of teams.
When I received my assessment results, I learned I am an “advancer.” I tend to focus on execution and I pay attention to team interactions. One weakness of this profile, though, is how it potentially interacts with creators and refiners. If one is unaware of the valuable differences in prospective creators and refiners bring to the table, an advancer may get frustrated working with them in a team.
I came to realize I should be sure to include a refiner on the team, since having only executors or advancers could mean bypassing the analysis piece. I also gained new prospective on how I perceive creators. While in the past I may have discounted them as scattered or unrealistic, I learned this stems from the fact I like concrete ideas. Embracing innovation is essential to advancement and this is where creators excel.
The sections about communication and team roles were enlightening. How creators can easily get bored with discussions that are too concrete, and how executors are uninterested in theoretical discussions. On the flip side of things, creators need to partner with advancers, refiners and executors to bring about innovation. Advancers rely on refiners and refiners can benefit from the enthusiasm and networking of the advancers. I use these important concepts now in meetings and when I try to put teams together for a given project.
Although this may come with time, leadership and team member selection are paramount to foster the trust and respect and to facilitate free expression of ideas and sharing of information.
-Laila Osama Abdel Wareth, MBBCh, FCAP, MRCPC, EMHCA is the Chief of Clinical Pathology for the Pathology & Laboratory Medicine Institute at the Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates.