Understanding the Importance of Team Dynamics

A proven way to build a successful business team is to assemble a group with a stellar mix of knowledge and expertise. Get to know the strengths and personalities of existing team members to create an effective dynamic. If necessary, seek out new team members to strengthen your lineup.

Team dynamics are those psychological forces influencing the direction of your team’s performance and behavior. Those dynamics are created by the personalities involved and how they interact. Understanding a team’s dynamics can alert you to how successful it might be.

Kurt Lewin, a social psychologist and change management expert, first described group, or team dynamics in 1939.

The term means to understand the individuals that make up a team, a method of exploring behavior and the reasons for that behavior, Lewin explained.

In group dynamics, he said, we recognize the abilities of an individual and how they will interact with a group. His work is considered central to good management practices.

Positive team dynamics occur when team members trust each other, work collectively, and hold each other accountable. When a team has a positive dynamic, its members are more successful and there is less chance of conflict.

A team with poor dynamics includes people whose behavior disrupts work flow and results in wrong choices, poor decision-making or no decision-making at all. Poor dynamics leave the team more vulnerable to conflicts.

Be an effective leader

An effective manager must also be an effective team leader who gets to know employees well enough to pair them successfully for projects, University of Notre Dame Professor Michael Crant teaches. “When you get these types of people together… you get the magic of teams.”

Crant, the Mary Jo and Richard M. Kovacevich Professor of Excellence in Leadership Instruction at the Notre Dame’s Mendoza College of Business, is an expert in proactive business management. One of the classes he teaches online is Critical Management Skills.

Find out if that magic exists among your team by asking previous supervisors or colleagues about your team members to gain insight in to their work ethics and personality traits. Looking at past performance reviews also helps gather insights about how the individual team members can cohesively work together toward a common goal.

Another quick way to gain such knowledge is to have team members complete a background and interest survey.

Half of the survey can be work-related and the other half personal. It can include career goals, ways to improve a team and previous business experience, along with favorite vacation spots, pets and hobbies.

Meet with your team

Set up a meeting to review and discuss the surveys with the team. A manager can interact with a team by providing his or her own answers.

Celebrate with your team to create a culture of inclusion. Get to know them personally and celebrate often with them. During those celebrations, update the team on company milestones and allow them to share personal achievements.

Give your team space and allow them to ask questions of each other to avoid miscommunication, personality clashes and build team performance.

Address issues early on

“It’s important to address as many of the issues that arise together as a team, rather than singling people out,” says Ashira Prossack, a millennial and Gen Z engagement expert who writes about leadership trends for Forbes. “This will reinforce the fact that the team functions as a unit and working together as one is a priority. Sometimes teams require more structure in place to prevent conflicts from happening over power struggles. Remind the team that conflict is healthy and encouraged, as long as it’s productive.”

Still, teams can have their weaknesses, Crant warns. Social loafing, for example, is where one member of the team doesn’t act, thinking another member will pick up the slack. Being vigilant about this will help you avoid over-rewarding the slacker and under-rewarding the team member who hustles.

Another thing to watch out for with teams is that they are more likely to take risky positions because responsibility is defused. Individuals are less likely to take a risky position because if something goes wrong, that individual must shoulder all the responsibility.

Remember, getting to know your team members’ personalities and strengths can assist you in determining how they will interact. Learn their goals and previous business experience and share your own. Celebrate both professional and personal successes with them. Encourage team interaction and act on conflicts quickly.

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