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Wilfrid Laurier University Laurier Brantford
September 2, 2014
 
 
Canadian Excellence

HR/LY323 Teamwork Skills



WHY TEAMWORK SKILLS?

The ability to work effectively as part of a team is one of these universal transferable skills that almost every employer is looking for. Like so many skills, however, it is not something that one is born with and while it is likely something that one can become proficient at by doing it, research indicates that people become proficient at teamwork more quickly if they receive appropriate training (Castka et al, 2001; Riebe et al, 2010; Useem 2006).

Jerry Useem (2006) presents an interesting perspective on teamwork:

Teamwork is an individual skill. That happens to be the title of a book. Christopher Avery writes, "Becoming skilled at doing more with others may be the single most important thing you can do" to increase your value--regardless of your level of authority. As work is increasingly broken into team-sized increments, Avery's argument goes, blaming a "bad team" for one's difficulties is, by definition, a personal failure, since the very notion of teamwork implies a shared responsibility. You can't control other people's behavior, but you can control your own. Which means that there is an "I" in team after all. ...

Yet this is not the selfish "I" that got so much attention during the "me" decade; it's the affiliatory "I" that built America's churches and fought its wars. Neil Armstrong didn't get the the moon through rugged individualism; there is no such thing as a self-made astronaut ... (Emphasis added.)

In their review of the literature on skills and teamwork, Riebe et al (2010) describe the kinds of valuable generic skills that successful teamwork requires:

There are a number of generic skills which form the foundations of an effective team. Oakley et al. (2004) suggest that members of an effective team often: work together by assisting one another to the greatest possible extent; are effective at managing conflict; and ensure that each team member is responsible and accountable. Watson (2002) suggests that skills such as time management and organisation, record keeping, planning and goal setting as well as the ability to lead, make decisions and communicate are all required for a truly effective team. In addition to these skills, Watson (2002) also suggests that reflective practices such as an awareness of interpersonal strengths and weaknesses, as well as the ability to analyse and evaluate the team's performance can also greatly contribute to the overall effectiveness of a team. Factors such as understanding group norms are also essential for effective team management. Group norms for example, include aspects such as attendance at meetings, constructing and adhering to timelines as well as having an expectation of group members' performance (Houldsworth and Mathews, 2000). Watson (2002, p. 2) explains that in order to be an effective team member, students should “show an aptitude for many or at least some of these generic skills”.

Catska et al assemble, through their review of the literature, a list of critical skills gaps that can create barriers to effective teamwork (2001, 129). Among these are six what they call interpersonal and joint skills:

  • dealing with conflict,
  • dynamics of teamwork,
  • how to conduct meetings,
  • effective decision making,
  • communication skills,
  • effective record keeping.

Below you will find that I have provided information (not necessarily the best, but good) concerning each of these points. Please read and consider these in preparation of working in your team. If you encounter other useful sources, please let me know about them so that I might add them to these pages.

REQUIRED READING

To access these readings, go to the Laurier Library home page and select, under "Find Journal Articles and more," "By journal title". Enter the journal title and use your head to find the article.

Franciso, Janet M. "How to Create and Facilitate Meetings That Matter," Information Management Journal. Nov/Dec 2007 41 (6): 54-58. Generally very useful for thinking about whether and how to have meetings; also includes a "Meeting Exit Survey" that could add a greater reflective element to your meetings.

Helmer, Lynn. "Personal Best: Running a great meeting." Medical Economics. Feb. 2, 2007. 84 (3): 30-32. Complements the Franciso piece with more details and specific advice

Johnson, Virginia. "Minutes Count." Successful Meetings Aug. 1993 42 (9): 93-95. Provides some practical advice on the value of keeping meeting minutes and tips for making them useful.

Lalanne, Jacques. "Everyone's a critic." CMA Management Jul/Aug 2002. Vol. 76, Issu. 5, page 38-40. This article is particularly strong on the importance of critique to success as well as how to provide it and how to receive it.

Mill, Stephen. "Five rules to managing project teams: Communicate, delegate and recognize the potential within each employee, while remaining focused on the company goals." Computing Canada 28.10 (2002): 25. CPI.Q (Canadian Periodicals). Web 30 May 2011. This very brief article takes the perspective of an assigned team leader, but the suggestions are of universal value.

Nurmi, Raimo. "Teamwork and team leadership," Team Performance Management: An International Journal 2 (1) (1996): 9-13. This short article is most interesting for the discussion that starts on page 10 and discusses four different leadership styles/team dynamics: Dictatorial; Compromising; Integrative; and Synergistic.

Capobianco, Sal, Mark Davis, and Linda Kraus. "Good conflict, bad conflict: How to have one without the other." Mt Eliza Business Review 7 (2) (Summer 2004-Autumn 2005): 31-37. Very practical descriptions of ways of responding to conflict that can help you be part of the solution rather than part of the problem.

RECOMMENDED READING

Esquivel, Michael A. and Brian H. Kleiner, "The importance of conflict in work team effectiveness." Team Performance Management 2 (3) (1996): 42--. Most interesting for the study it discusses about how "devil's advocates" both improve group performance and tend to be squeezed out of groups.

Kochery, Timothy S. "Conflict Versus Consensus: Processes and Their Effect on Team Decision Making." Human Resource Development Quarterly 4(3) (Summer 1993): 185-191. Most useful for its summary of "groupthink" on pages 186-87.

WORKS CITED

Castka, P., C.J. Bamber, J.M. Sharp, and P. Belohoubek, "Factors affecting successful implementation of high performance teams," Team Performance Management: An International Journal 7 (7/8) (2001): 123-134.

Riebe, Linda, Dean Roepen, Bruno Santarelli, and Gary Marchioro, "Teamwork: effective teaching an employability skill," Education + Training 52 (6/7) (2010): 528-39.

Useem, Jerry. "What's That Spell? TEAMWORK!" Fortune 153.11 (2006): 64-66. Business Source Complete. EBSCO. Web. 30 May 2011.