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The library of essays of Proakatemia

Creating Teams



Kirjoittanut: Valter Szűcs - tiimistä Satku.

Esseen tyyppi: Akateeminen essee / 3 esseepistettä.

KIRJALÄHTEET
KIRJA KIRJAILIJA
Effective Teamwork
Michael A. West
Esseen arvioitu lukuaika on 19 minuuttia.

Creating Teams

I chose this topic to write my essay on because, when I saw this book on the shelf, I had a thought that why does this even need a book. But after reading some pages from it, I realized that I can actually reflect on our Proakatemia Company. So first, my thought is what a team is: briefly, basically a group of people working together towards a common goal. But it’s of course more complicated than that. Teams have to have different individuals to fill in different roles. It doesn’t matter what kind of team we are talking about, it could be sports teams, companies etc. If you put people with the same characteristics and the same skillset in the same team, the team is going to fail in my opinion. Like people can be amazing as individuals, and you can put those people together, but if they don’t have what it takes to be a team player then it’s technically over from the beginning. I always had the question in my mind that: How do we get the “magic” mix? How do we know which personal characteristics are necessary to work together as a team? Why diversity is important? This book helped me look into this topic thoroughly, and it helps me reflect on my team’s problems.

Stages of development

One of the most famous models of team development is Tuckman’s Theory from 1965. He suggested 5 stages of creating a team. These five phases are: forming, storming, norming, performing, and adjourning. I think Satku is right in between the first two. Forming and storming. People have a lot of uncertainty and anxiety, because there are no clear goals and no clear connection between the teammates. People are afraid to talk, afraid to speak their opinions and ideas out loud, everybody just wants to stay in their personal safety box. This box has to break soon, so we could move forward as a team, not just as a “class”. People feel lost, unmotivated because of the uncertainty of the team’s future. So this starts an avalanche of bad feelings which leads to zero commitment and no feeling of camaraderie. People who are not ready to open up, just stay closed up in their own little Bubble thinking that if they don’t talk they can’t hurt the team, but in my opinion that is the exact opposite and they should just start to tell the teammates about what’s on their mind because that would be beneficial for everyone.

The reason why I feel like Satku is in the middle of the Forming and Storming phase, because some people are starting to open up, and I can proudly say that I feel like I belong in this group. Conflicts started to emerge between teammates. Individuals versus individuals and individuals versus subgroups. Some people are starting to open up, letting go of their hidden tensions, which they had for weeks and months. Opinions are getting out so that people who are ready to get into conflicts and ready to build trust in the team are getting some insights about what we can do as a team to solve those conflicts. The competence of the leaders have been challenged by different individuals. The reason why I think we are still just in between the phases because, some people have already arrived, and are ready to go, but some people are still stuck in the forming phase. It’s really hard to make people committed and to make them communicate properly. But slowly the team leaders are digging a path for us to move forward and they are trying to find the common “language” between the team members.

The stage where we are still not in is Norming, Performing, and Adjourning. The Norming phase consists of conflict resolution and that the team begins to work together as a positive cooperation. Since we don’t have conflicts yet, we can’t really solve any problems. The norming phase is where plans are made for the future and the standards of the team are established. With these steps, we could finally clear out the uncertainty from People’s mind, and make them move forward with the people who are already on the path. In this phase, team members will be more open to communication and problem solving. Here is where the team could finally develop into a team where they can function effectively as a team and not just a group of different individuals. The phase where it’s not just the team leaders deciding everything for the team, but when people could cooperate together and more people would be responsible for the team’s status. Like I said before, this is just a future reflection of what it could be, I strongly believe once we get past the first few bumps, we will roll smoothly in our shared upcoming years. The fourth stage is performing, where team members begin to see successful outcomes of their energies invested into the team. This is the phase where, I think we could actually call ourselves a company. Where we would finally be settled down, everybody would be comfortable around each other and we could be working effectively together. I think once we reach this phase with Satku, the team leader’s roles would be reduced a lot. Like finally we could become the cooperative that we wanted. Where everyone is in charge, everyone has the same goals, and we can finally agree on things together while not giving power to just a few people. I think that is the final goal of Proakatemia to be honest. Just creating an environment and friendships where we can feel ourselves and we can have fun and generate money together. Tuckman’s fifth stage is Adjourning, which is just as possible, but I don’t think it will happen in our team company. This is where an important or key member leaves the group or a project so it stays in the air. This could lead the team to revert into earlier stages.

Overall, I think it is totally natural for a team to jump here and there between the stages. Like I can’t even expect that everything would be linear and just improving without any hiccups. It’s like a relationship technically, there will be nice parts and ugly parts, but you have to keep fighting for the nice parts. At least, in my opinion more nice parts than bad parts, is already a win for the team. Satku is jumping here and there between the first two stages, but I really hope we will get the whole team to move forward, so we could move onto the Norming and Performing stage, where everyone can feel included, useful and heard.

Creating Teams Based on Personality and Ability

The question about what is the best mix of team, can be sorted out based on Personality and Ability. It’s an interesting title, because again, I think if you put the same personality in a team more than one the team will fail, no matter what. Or if not fail, it will certainly not reach the maximum potential that it could be, if a different persona would be in the team. I’m amazed by Proakatemia coaches to be honest. Like how is it possible that they see the different personalities which can fit into these studies, and what do they even see in the first place, before selecting the students into this special study place. Barrick and Mount came up with the “Big Five” Personality model in 1991. A model that we can use to analyze the mix of Personality in teams and the effects on team performance.

Explaining the “Big Five” model

As the name suggests it contains 5 different personality types. The first one is Openness to experience. I definitely cannot be listed in this Personality type, because I think I am more stuck to the ground than other people. I am not the type of person to discover abstract opinions, ideas. My brain simply cannot fantasize about stuff, because it’s stuck to logic. I am also not the ideating type of person, I need people to create ideas before me, so than I can enhance that idea, or help them with it. I think this Personality type also consists of trying out new actions and ideas, this is maybe the only thing in this type, which I can kind of relate to. The second one is Conscientiousness. Basically behaviors associated with competence, order, attitude towards achievement and self-discipline. From how I understand this, this Personality has the traits of being responsible, and careful. I think I belong in this type, because I always have a desire inside of me to do my tasks well and take the obligations seriously. I really like people with the same personality, because their minds are organized and not all over the place, so they are actually easy to follow and they show the same self-discipline towards goals as me. The third type based on this Big Five model is Extroversion. These people tend to be outgoing, positive, energetic, talkative people. The moment I hear the word extrovert, I instantly think of someone who thrives in teams and they enjoy the attention they get in crowds. I have some of these traits, I can be extroverted in groups where I feel comfortable. Proakatemia taught me that I can mix and match my personality based on who I am talking with. So with a lot of people I can be extroverted around and enjoy the company and the thinking out loud together. The book didn’t mention the opposite of this, the introversion. I think I am more of an introvert, than an outgoing person. Ever since I stepped into Proakatemia, I noticed that I don’t seek as much stimulation as others, just to learn things, and enjoy a good conversation. I like to reflect more on what I hear, I like to think about it later, and when I have a strong thought I can share it with the team so everyone could understand my point of view. This doesn’t mean that I don’t have the extroverted traits, I just don’t thrive in that setting the most. But I think the previous Personality style bonded together with this makes the most effective team members. The fourth type is Agreeableness. Based on the book, individuals like this are perceived as kind, sympathetic, honest and trustworthy. I mean this is pretty straight forward, if you don’t have these traits, I think you don’t have a place in Proakatemia, but then here again, comes my amazement towards coaches that, how did they know that 99% of the people they chose, have these traits in them? I want to read people like that at some point in my career. I think this personality doesn’t really help the team in performance,but it helps in the process of creating trust within the team and creating a good connection. The fifth type is Neuroticism, the tendency of emotional instability. Basically associated with negative emotions. These types of people are reacting to stressors like, anxiety, worry, fear, anger, frustration, guilt so much worse than people who score less in neuroticism. People who score high on this scale are likely to develop mental disorders. Pretty interesting if you ask me, even though I think I’ve never met someone like this. Overall, the thing I learned from this research is, it’s still better to mix people together and make a team with different personalities, than just choosing the strongest personalities and hope if they have what it takes to make a team or not. In Satku we are so different. Each and every single one of us. I really like the vision I have for this team, because since we are so different, we can teach a lot to each other and we can learn so much more things than for example a Finnish cooperative.

Myers-Briggs Type Indicator

There are several different models of personality mixing that are popular in the business area. Such as the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, a questionnaire from 1962, which measures and shows the Cognitive style of a person. It has four dimensions: extroversion-introversion, sensing-intuition, thinking-feeling, and judging-perceiving. It is pretty straight-forward what these measure. Like for example how a person uses their energy towards people and the world. The second criteria defines the method of information perception by a person. The third is how people process the information they receive. Last but not least, the fourth one is how the person implements the information they have processed. These different combinations can describe each person differently and it sorts them into 16 different personalities. After taking the test you can learn a lot about your own strengths and abilities. You can learn how you can fit in teams with your own personality type.

Belbin’s Team Roles Model

Another popular approach to team Personality issues is Belbin’s Team Roles Model from 1993. He suggests that there are nine Personality types and that a balance is required within teams. The reason I’m mentioning this is because we were sorted out to our team companies based on Belbin’s test. It is pretty interesting how, you can get to know yourself better by just filling these tests. So you could understand more of how you can integrate yourself into a team more or why do you feel different than others. I think it just showed me, that it is okay to have different opinions and different thoughts about different topics, since our personalities could be so much different than others. Every individual has one main and several side roles in their personality. Mine was Monitor Evaluator. I was really happy when, I got this result, because I’ve always seen myself as this person who can contribute the most when a crucial decision needs to be made. I think I am capable of disconnecting the emotional side from the logical side pretty well and form it into serious questions. It is so realistic what the test says, because I got that a lot of times that I am too serious, too dry, too boring or even overcritical. I think I am not the best leader and not so good at inspiring others. I rather show an example than push people into doing what I think is the best for them. A sentence which I really agree with, is that I need someone who can help me create ideas, and someone who is a leader above me, but listens to my advice or things like that. I think in that environment, I can perform the best and I can give my all there. The second Personality trait I got was complete finisher. Some part of it is real, because I really put the dots on the i’s, I always finish what I started, but I disagree with Belbin’s statement that these people could be overanxious and have a difficulty of delegating work. But I guess if I would have a different main personality maybe that would be the situation, but I have no problem with finishing and organizing tasks. There other different Personality types are: Coordinator, Shaper, Plant, Resource Investigator, Implementer, Team worker and Specialist. I think my other main Personality type could be Implementer, because I work well in positions where I can be aware of external obligations and I think I have a positive self-image. I can do jobs for people which they don’t want to do and actually succeed in them.

Creating teams based on skills

Social Skills

Another aspect of creating teams is thinking beyond the unchangeable things like the Personality of an individual and think more of their motivation, knowledge and skills for working in teams. I’ll start to talk about Teamwork Skills with the Social skills. I think it is essential to have all the tools from social skills to be in Proakatemia. Since the whole thing is based on connections between people. These skills include active listening skills, so basically listening and asking questions to a person. One of the sides of the Dialogue Diamond. Communication skills, like how you communicate effectively with others. Another thing connected to Proakatemia’s dialogue method, you can’t just always be a listener, and you also have to give. Another thing is social perceptiveness, basically paying attention to other’s reaction and finding the meaning behind why they react that way and how you can help them. We also have to have the ability to be able to self-monitor our actions, or words for others. We have to be self-aware enough to acknowledge if we are doing something and that hurts others or the connections to others. You also have to have like basic human skills in my opinion such as, warmth and cooperation and the will to help. Finally, the most important Patience and tolerance. Accepting Criticism and accepting differences and also dealing with frustrations inside the team is the most essential thing you need to have to succeed in Proakatemia.

Knowledge, Skills and Abilities for teamwork

Another side is Knowledge, Skills and Abilities for teamwork, in short KSAs. For example in 2024’s Sales Days, our team was so lost during the 3 days, just because we skipped this process. We didn’t sort out the team based on abilities and skills and we basically just freestyled our way during sales days. Everyone just turned on Survival mode and tried to do the things they are comfortable in. But this is not the point. There are 2 different sides of KSAs. The first ones are the interpersonal KSAs. These can be divided into 3 phases. The first one is Conflict resolution. Unfortunately, I mentioned before in the stages of development that we are not in this phase yet with Satku, but I can try and reflect on it to understand more, what is really missing from our team. We didn’t have a normal communication that helps us open up, and when somebody decides to open up and mention a problem I think the team basically shoots it down with being silent or non-supportive. Since we don’t have healthy debates about problems, we just throw up a problem and hope that there is someone who can catch it and solve it for us. In my opinion we are really missing the goal settings, both on the individual level and as a team. I think a lot of people would work better under the stress of some team goals, expectations. But also, there is the other side of the story, some people are already working hard enough to live so you can’t really put a fair workload and a balanced teamwork in the team in my eyes. I also have to learn how to create realistic, but actually challenging goals for myself, but hey, I am also here to learn. We are also missing the feedback sessions. We had one basically which was a complimenting workshop, but the real thing we need, an actual session where we tell both good and bad about people. I think our team is really not ready for that yet though. After a while, I think we will slowly develop these attributes which are crucial for Satku.

Ever since I came to Proakatemia and we’ve been divided into Satku, I just realized that cultural backgrounds and diversity is a real thing and I have to take it seriously. I get so mad when someone from a different study program says that they basically study the same thing and it’s so easy to create a company and a team. I always have that boiling feeling in my head when I hear this, because they never have to go through this phase where we are now. If we would be a Finnish team of course it would be easier to form a team, since we would have a very similar cultural, educational background and the same values ​​and views of the world. Since Satku is an international team, we can’t get through the norming and storming phases quickly. We are very dissimilar to each other in every level in my opinion. Like the first thing is education, I don’t think some people have the same understanding of the common language, English. It is really the truth, but you have to be really patient and you have to explain things more deeply than you would expect. Of course the different cultures are killing. Because of them, the individual values ​​are always so different from each other, it is harder to agree on things, because we see problems in a different way. Of course conflicts are seen very differently from different eyes. Some might think that there is no problem at all and we can just jump over things, some people jump into conclusions the minute something appears, some people want to solve problems, some don’t. This is the hard part of an international team, but on the other hand I think there is way bigger upside to it. In my opinion, once we get through this phase and we start working together as a team, as Satku our diversity will offer a wide range of views and knowledge. Some people have been working for years, already had different jobs, completed different universities, but we never really had the chance to explore the knowledge in their head, since we are just trying to become one team, and everyone is in Survival mode. I’m really looking forward to the opening up moment, since I know I can learn a lot from different people, while learning about different cultures. I think this is the meaning of Proakatemia in a sense. To learn more about the world, other than business. In a case study of Susan Jackson in 1996, she advocated to find the difference between task-related diversity like for example who is good at organizing, different positions or has a special knowledge about something and the relationship-oriented diversity like age, gender, ethnicity, social status and personality. She is strongly on the task-related diversity’s side, because it tends to be more efficient in decision making and the quality of the decision is higher than the relationship-oriented diversity. So now I’ll dive Deeper into the task-related diversity first.

Task-related diversity

To lead onto the topic it’s always important what our goal is, while making a team and choosing its members. How would it be a more functioning team, if we collect specialist in one area of ​​their knowledge and mix them up with the same people with different areas, or would it be better if we mix up people with knowledge from various areas and variable quantity of knowledge and putting them together? First I was on the opinion of the first, one because I thought that that could easily work. Like everyone has their job and everyone knows who to go to if there is a problem. It seems so easy, but based on the counter arguments I heard it is not the most beneficial way to form a team. It can work of course, but it still requires a lot of expertise.

On the other hand, I asked around in Proakatemia and people from different companies. All of the answers were pointing to the obvious, the second choice, where you mix up people with similar knowledge levels and areas so they could align better in the long run. In our team, and I guess the History of Proakatemia, the recruiting has always worked this way. It makes so much more sense, and also since this is a school and not a “workplace”, it is actually so much more beneficial for the learning journey. I also read a new phrasing called, “Skill-mix” which is basically a thing I never thought about, but it is actually so needed in my opinion. It is basically saying that when creating a team, you have to find a balance between the trained and untrained personnel, and how they could help each other. It seems obvious, but reflecting on how I look myself in the team, it’s like there are a lot of highly trained individuals, who are really educated in different topics in business and then there is me, who knows literally nothing about businesses. That’s the beauty of it I think. I really hope I can also supply other needs for them, what they don’t already have. Again going back to the Orientation of Proakatemia, it is really fascinating how well the strengths and skills were identified in each team member. Like there are endless possibilities ready to be taken. A study from 2000 by Carol Borrill and colleagues says that, groups that contain people with diverse and overlapping knowledge domains and skills are particularly creative. Also Wiersema and Bantel in 1992, found out in their research that team members with a more diverse educational background would more likely turn out to be great leaders. Research just shows, that a team with greater functional diversity will just perform on a higher level.

Downside of Diversity

All well and all good. But diversity can also have a downside. I think when a team is too diverse it can reduce the members’ agreement about goals, objectives, opinions and the team will just simply fail. So I think the challenge is to find the sweet spot where you have to create a team without threatening the shared view of tasks, and how the team works together efficiently. When diversity is too low, the group’s way of solving problems will just go into the most comfortable way and not the most beneficial way. When the diversity is too much, I think the communication within and the coordination between team members will fail. I think this is happening right now in Satku, because we are always just hitting a wall on some ends, because the thinking is so different and the group’s culture is so diverse. It seems like a headache right now, but in the long run, when we fix this situation and we finally get on the same road, or on the same page it is going to be super beneficial for the team and finally we can go into the efficient working phase, mentioned earlier. An article from Paulus in 2000 says that, a group of people with different backgrounds, knowledge skills and abilities, will always be more innovative than those whose members are similar, because of the different perspectives and experiences. Of course from what I see in this topic is that, the divergence in a team is good for creating good debates, creating more solutions based on the indifference of the members.

Relations Diversity

Now I’ll reflect on the Relations-oriented diversity, the other side of a diverse team. The first point here is age. Research shows that in teams made of people with very different ages, people are more likely to leave than in teams where the members’ ages are relatively close to each other. Also in top management teams, age-diverse ran companies were a lot less profitable, said by West, Patterson and Dawson in 1999. In my experience, you can feel the age difference in Satku, like you can see the different generations, and how differently and how slowly or how fast, one and the other thinks. Some people Panic about things, which I consider not even a head scratch, some people can come up with solutions or advice, which for example I never heard of. I am really excited about how this is going to turn out, but I guess I can just lead this point back to the positive sides of diversity, because it can really be beneficial for us to learn about different points of views.

The second point is gender. When I first read this point, I instantly thought about how men only and women only teams would operate together. In my opinion men only teams, would focus on the task more than the colleagues and working together. Women only teams I think would focus more on the team building and that everyone participates. I think a good mixture of men and women are needed in companies so then a balanced diversity would grow the efficiency and performance of a team or company.

The third point is team tenure, which is kind of interesting to talk about, since we have been together as Satku for like 3 months now, every single one of us. It takes time to get to know each other, it takes time to integrate in a group full of strangers, and I don’t even expect everyone to be on the same page this early into our journey. Going back again to the thought of, time will help solve a lot of our problems that we experience now.

The last point I want to mention, the most important point in my opinion is the culture. It is so difficult yet, there is so much potential inside of it. In Satku we have several different cultures, which we already experienced on our skin, how differently we think. It can be big things, it can be small things, and somebody will always have a comment on things that the majority of the group agrees to. At first I was like, does this divergence help us or hinder the performance of the team. I still have many questions in my head which I can’t really get an answer to right now, but if I look at the topic objectively I think it definitely helps and it goes back again to the positive effects of diversity. But sometimes it’s so hard when people can’t adjust their culture, just a little bit to fit into a group, and it’s frustrating after some time. For example, in some cultures being late is acceptable, but here in Finland and generally in the world it is not. We put down our rules, that being late is unacceptable and you have to be on time, but yet again there are people who just can’t adjust into that culture, which leads to a lot of hidden conflicts or tension within teammates. The norming and storming phases which I mentioned earlier are taking so much longer than in a Finnish team for example, because the international teams are just trying to find their identity as a group, and are trying to find a way to cooperate and to integrate into the culture.

Implications of Diversity

In my eyes creating a team is more than just, putting together people to solve tasks based on their knowledge and skills. It involves thinking about the different personality types which are required to make sure the team stays as effective and beneficial as possible. Also, we need to consider basic skills in team members, like communication and conflict management that are needed for effective team performance. I think you also need to look at different abilities and skills of course. You can’t just put together the same 20 people and expect something special from them. A team with like-minded clones inside of it will experience so much comfort, but I think in the long run they will be ineffective. Teams should have enough levels of diversity in members’ backgrounds, life experience, cultures and work experience to ensure the variety of perspectives in decision making and work. From my point of view diversity is a weapon, and when used effectively and properly it can create really good things. It can translate into effectiveness and good innovations, but of course it can backfire, because if not used correctly and if some people can’t integrate into a group, it can threaten the well-being of a team. I think Satku’s leaders are on a good path and they have a good ability to handle the effects of divergence.

Ending

I want to end this essay on a good note. Just a short idea of ​​what creating a good team actually is. I think it’s like a basketball team. There are always stars, individuals who can shine alone, but they can’t do everything alone because at some point they need the team’s help to accomplish things. And then there are people who have great abilities to support the team members, and add something onto the team. It’s how well these players can play together and understand each other’s styles, and indifferences and how they can make it work. If these talents are not used correctly, there might be a problem in the recruitment of the team, you can’t put too many stars into a team, because they will just try to outshine each other, while Killing the purpose of team work. Creating a good team is about finding the magic mix that combines the skills, abilities, energies and everything. It’s always a beautiful sight when you see teams work in a way that it’s just beautiful to watch.

List of References

Book of Michael A. West- Effective Teamwork (p.28-48) https://www.perlego.com/book/1000806/effective-teamwork-practical-lessons-from-organizational-research-pdf

Tuckman Model:

https://www.mindtools.com/abyj5fi/forming-storming-norming-and-performing

https://www.wcupa.edu/coral/tuckmanStagesGroupDevelopment.aspx

Barrick and Mount:

https://www.researchgate.net/publication/47739408_The_Big_Five_Personality_Dimensions_and_Job_Performance

https://www.sitesbysarah.com/mbwp/Pubs/1991_Barrick_Mount.pdf

Myers and Briggs:

https://www.truity.com/blog/page/16-personality-types-myers-briggs

https://www.16personalities.com/personality-types

Bel’s:

https://www.belbin.com/about/belbin-team-roles

Susan Jackson:

https://smlr.rutgers.edu/sites/default/files/Documents/Faculty-Staff-Docs/Chap20_Work_Team_Diversity.pdf

Carol Borrill:

Other links:

https://web.mit.edu/jrankin/www/teamwork/KSA_Stevens.pdf

https://www.researchgate.net/publication/226205033_Age_diversity_and_its_performance_implications_-_Analyzing_a_major_future_workforce_trend

https://www.researchgate.net/publication/27403973_Gender_and_Leadership_Style_A_Meta-Analysis

 

 

 

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