A team is much more than just a group of people and hence there is a significant difference between group thinking and team thinking. The times have changed and so have the approaches to business solutions. Team building has gained a lot of emphases lately and managers are putting significant efforts to harness the potential of individuals and channelize them towards achieving a common objective. One of the major responsibilities of managers or team leaders today, while building a high-performing team, is to inculcate and encourage team-thinking to facilitate better decisions and results. Team thinking is essentially collaborative thinking, focussed on a common goal, where every member of the team is willing to listen carefully and consider views and options for making the best decision for clients, organization, and individuals.
Why Organizations Require Team Thinking
Team thinking is crucial for building an efficient team. Basically, team thinking is about valuing the opinion of every person on the team, considering the fact that the best solution can emerge from any source or even from more than one source. Hiring a skilled and smart employee doesn’t work for an organization if the employee doesn’t know how to become a good team player. Sometimes, a new employee understands their job role quickly but finds it difficult to acclimatize to the concept of teamwork. However, a successful team isn’t just made up of skilled and effective employees but also requires every one of them to think like a team. In fact, even a team with average employees can stand out as a successful one if every team member truly cares about each other, and thinks and functions like a cohesive team. Such a team focuses more on collective thinking and practice continuous communication.
Levels of Team Thinking
To help team members fully grasp the concept of team thinking, managers and team leaders need to identify how the team members approach a solution and how it can be improved. Also, there are levels of team thinking and it’s important to recognize which employee is on which level.
- Wait for Instructions: some employees refrain from taking any initiative and always wait for instructions from the team or the leader before performing any task.
- Give Suggestions and Wait for Approval: often employees identify a problem and make recommendations to fix it but wouldn’t take any action till the team leader specifically instructs so.
- Recommend and Act: over the course of time as some employees gain self-confidence, they address issues and then actually go ahead to solve it.
- Act and Inform: there are employees that first take action and then inform the team leaders about it. The employee at this stage usually seeks validation. In the absence of validation, there are chances they go back to earlier stages.
- Take Actions Whenever Required: at this stage, the team members take action and aren’t even concerned about validation. They have already gained confidence in their abilities to perform tasks for the team.
- Act and Communicate: employees at this level take action and consults with others subsequently to enhance cross-collaboration within departments. This is about effective communication and collaboration and is important for organizational workflow.
- Make Difficult Decisions for the Team’s Success: this is the level where the team leaders need to be. They make decisions for the benefit of the team, even if those decisions have a negative impact on some employees.
Most of the organizations have team members residing at levels two and three whereas high-performing teams have members at levels four to six. Leaders can help team members achieve a higher level through identification of skills, motivation, and effective delegation. Once the employees understand the fundamentals of team thinking, they become more dedicated to their team and the organization, which results in enhanced productivity, higher engagement and reduced turnover.
How to Make Team Thinking Successful
In order to drive team thinking towards success, all members of the team must think together keeping in mind the same goal. This helps the team discuss more ideas in a short span of time for informed decision making. The individuals need to be goal-oriented, open-minded, and self-evaluative, and practice continuous skill improvement. Also, there are eight roles in team thinking according to Bensimon and Neumann (1993) – definers, analysts, interpreters, criticizers, synthesizers, disparity monitors, task monitors, and emotional monitors. All these eight roles must be performed effectively in a team.
To promote team thinking, the leaders must foster strong work relationships among employees. Rushing to agreements and rejecting independent thinking occur when people are not comfortable sharing ideas, or worry about the reaction of others. Cultivating trust among employees is crucial for creating a safe and positive work environment where people share, listen and get heard and indulge in team thinking.