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Thu 9 Apr 2015 04:14 PM

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Managing team psychology to develop effectiveness

Ahmed Sharawy asks how business leaders can best understand their staff to get the best out of them

Managing team psychology to develop effectiveness

What is effectiveness? According to Oxford Dictionaries, ‘effectiveness’ is, simply, the degree to which something or someone is successful in producing a desired result.

Having understood that, it can be easily inferred that organizations need to be effective to grow sustainably, which leads to the following question, how can organizations develop effectiveness?

Well, following a methodical thinking approach, organizations’ leaders needs to define the variables that positively and/or negatively influence their teams’ effectiveness and assess the extent to which these variables affect them, to adopt the right management styles. Easier said than done, but still achievable.

Although, the number of variables can be countless, most leaders agree that all the critical variables correlate to either the ‘people’ or the ‘environment’, which narrows the number of variables to a controllable limit and defines what organizations should do.

Leaders should understand how the business environment and team development process affect people’s thoughts, feelings and behaviors. In this article, I’ll present various aspects of human behavior, in different phases of team development, nevertheless, in my upcoming article, I’ll build on these thoughts to present ideas for structuring effective teams in different environments.

Teams follow a natural rhythm of development through three stages: Commitment (Early), Productivity (Middle) and Resolution (Final). At the early stage, the team is, relatively, slow because people are vigilant and careful not to start their work with mistakes, to leave the best impression and avoid being perceived as the group’s weakest link.

People build trust in team effort, through time, when they are comfortable to open-up about their mistakes and weaknesses. Hence, it is imperative and critical for leaders to be tolerant and lenient with their teams, to build a foundation of trust and develop team co-operation.

A common challenge, in the commitment phase, is the bewilderment and disorientation of team members, due to lack of role clarity or task understanding. Studies have shown that role clarity is directly proportional to teams’ effective performance. Although organizations issue job descriptions and charts to clarify ambiguities, team leaders have to support their teams in what they do and manage impairments associated with weak efficacy to raise team spirit and encourage persistence and hard work.

Through time, teams develop to the productivity stage, which holds different challenges that influence members’ social behaviors. A common challenge is ‘social loafing’ which is a phenomenon that people make less effort when they work in a group than when they work alone.

When members feel that they can benefit from the team performance and neglect to do their share, organizations can suffer disastrous consequences. To avoid this phenomenon, team members need to understand the importance of what they do to meet the team objectives and leaders need to assess individuals’ performances frequently and use punishment threats.

Team members should commit to clear action plans, upon which they should be individually evaluated. According to the game theory, although each team member is better off by neglecting to do his share in a single encounter, his individual accountability and fear of punishment changes the outcome. Another common challenge that teams encounter, during the middle stage, is regular task conflicts, due to difference in opinions.

It is crucial and critical for leaders to earn people’s trust, in the early stage, and leverage social capital, in the productivity stage, to open up channels of communication, encourage team members to speak out and engage in passionate debates of business ideas. Successful leaders manage task conflicts professionally, by focusing the team members on the ultimate goal to overlook their differences and enforce psychological safety, by depersonalizing conflicts to prevent them from influencing the team’s interpersonal relationships.

In the final stage of team development, leaders should resolve all the conflicts that take place across the team development cycle, before moving to a new project to avoid tension, incompatibilities and disruption in team networks.

Most organizations underestimate the value and importance of time that team members invest to conclude their projects in the resolution stages and negotiate their projects to avoid what-they-consider ‘inefficiencies’. Ideally, teams should not only resolve their conflicts and complete their projects, but also be given time to exchange information and experience and to document their lessons learned at the different team levels.

Effective team members achieve their organizations’ objectives, by completing their tasks, maintain social relations and benefit individually, by developing their capabilities, knowledge and experience in their functions.

Organizations that recognize these quality assurance and effectiveness measures invest in lessons learned systems, develop incentive schemes for target achievers and organize team building activities, regularly.

I find it helpful to conclude my thoughts, by sharing Fisher’s thought on teams’ maturity cycles: At first the team comes to you and say “here is a problem, what are YOU going to DO about it?” Later they come to you and say “here is a problem and here are some of the things we think can be done about it”. Still later they say “here is a problem and here is what we think WE should DO”. Eventually they say: “There was a problem and here is what WE DID”.

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Galal Mazhar 5 years ago

A couple of comments;
I believe that it is be efficiency rather than effectiveness that companies seek. While effectiveness is simply "getting the job done", efficiency is using the minimum (or most economic combination of) resources to get the task done.
And on that aspect you're discussing, an effective leader might get the job done with a team of 10, while an efficient leader could do it with 8!
Another point is jumping straight to punishment for slackers. While I have found this to be pretty useful in several cases, I believe that, for the sake of team spirit, personal interest of team members, and all other HR related issue :), punishment should not be a solution that is immediately used before exploring other methods (motivation, re-assignment of tasks/locations, etc.).
However, I do believe this is a nice article, and I can't help but notice that your writing skills are evolving from one article to the next. Best of luck my friend :)

Ingie Chams 5 years ago

the article is on point! Good job Ahmed :))
keep it up!