Effective Team Management: Everest’ Case

Introduction

The following is a report on a four-member team that was assigned the task of getting to the peak of Mount Everest safely while trying to get the least trouble possible. The structure of this report is founded on Christopher Johns’ four-step model of guided reflection. Our team was self- managing, and therefore, every result or performance that we achieved was literally the effort of the four of us. As per Tuckman’s model, group formation happens in four stages. The four stages are forming, storming, norming, and performing (Infornet, 2010).

Tuckman’s team building model

Infornet (2010), Diagram showing Tuckman’s team building model

However, our small group did not have the four stages well distinguished from each other. This is because, as discussed by Santrock & Halonen (2008), in a small group, people are able to manage their emotions and hide their true colors better. Being a small group, the team was very cohesive in almost everything we did, additionally, communication within the team was generally good because we could discuss many things and come up with a consensus without wasting much time.

Other qualities that made it easy for our team to attain our goal were the cohesiveness and mutual respect within the team. Every member of the team was accorded the respect he deserved and was completely entrusted with the role assigned to him. Following discussions on group roles, by Bacal Robert (1999), in his book titled ‘performance management,’ roles in our group were assigned based on the capability of the individuals as well as the professional capacity of that particular person.

To facilitate realizing our goals successfully, in line with directions in Santrock & Halonen (2008, p. 25), we decided to formulate a few guidelines that would give us direction on various aspects expected of us. First, we resolved to work as a team; moreover, we attempted to come up with reasonable approaches in which we were supposed to handle differences within ourselves.

Experience

My experience was not bad because we were finally able to achieve our goal, and despite the few problems we encountered along the way, we were still able to remain united as a group. Some of the problems we actually encountered along the way were just mere challenges that could have easily been overcome, as Bacal (1999) relates, incase our team possessed a visionary leader. The greatest weakness with our group was the fact that we were factually very few in numbers, and thus, some of the members were really overburdened with responsibility. In such a case, we heavily relayed on the flexibility nature of the team to solve problems as they came and formulate alternative ways for those plans that had failed. Correspondingly, the size of the team was somehow a blessing in disguise as we were able to take advantage of our size to rectify any blunder and consequently agree on any other contentious issue.

According to Packer (2008), a management specialist and writer, team dynamics play a critical role in determining whether a group achieves its goals or not. Belbin (2010), a business management professor and consultant, provides a model team that shows how different members of a team act in a complimentary way. In the Belbin model, different team members have different qualities and thus play different roles. The nine key roles played by team players include specialist, completer/finisher, implementer, monitor/evaluator, Shaper, coordinator, resource investigator, and plant (Belbin, 2010). All these different team players have different qualities and capacities and contribute substantially to the success of a team.

To some extent, the team project worked relatively well, but in other circumstances, we experienced a few hitches. In such instances, the team used to agree on the best way forward, which would incorporate ways and means of solving such drawbacks. The team being small, it would take us relatively a short time to come up with a conclusive resolution or an alternative course of action (Bacal, 1999, p.3)

The team easily dealt with challenges due to its size. As shown in the image below, group size plays a significant role in determining how decisions are made and the accuracy of the same.

Relation between team size and Decision Errors

Diagram showing relation between team size and Decision Errors (Infornet, 2010)

In trying to describe the experience of the team project, one cannot forget the characteristics that gave the team such a conspicuous outlook. My experience of the team project was certainly one of the best, because it was long since I had a chance of interacting with guys who possessed totally different characters and personalities and yet worked so together so well for a common goal. I had not imagined that people could show such unity and solidarity in their responsibility, all in the name of attaining a set objective. The experience of this project was certainly one of the most entertaining experiences I have encountered in the recent past.

Both personal and social attributes were some of the factors that contributed to my experience. Every particular member of the team had his own personal attributes that were used to describe him. These personalities were the same attributes that were used to assign different roles within the team. The overall team personality equally contributed a great extent toward the general performance of the team, as everyone was entrusted on the role he was assigned to depending on his personality. Another factor associated with personalities revolved around solving conflicts (Beyerlein et al, 2003, P.150).

Beyerlein et al (2003), editors of a specialist work team book, observe that once other members of the team comprehended other individuals’ personalities, it became quite easy for a group to avoid commotion and correspondingly formulate ways of handling conflicts once they arise. This aspect helped the team to concentrate on those important aspects that were likely to help us achieve our goal with less trouble.

On social attribute, the easiness with which members of the team communicated or socialized with each other largely affected the performance of the team. It is of paramount need for members of a team to exercise good responsiveness and mostly when it comes to matters pertaining sharing of information that will be useful or affect the whole team at large (Beyerlein et al, 2003, p.153). Presumptions of other members of the team or portraying characters of self-glorification are example of the aspects that caused disunity within the team and as a result exacerbate conflict within the members (Williams, 2004, p.9).

The specific role that I played in the team was that of the team coordinator. The role involved coordinating the members of the team as well as the required activities in order to enhance realizing our goal. As a team coordinator, I was expected to lead the team in the best way possible as far as organization of activities and coordinating members was concerned (Belbin, 2010, p.150). My role as the team coordinator also involved monitoring the progress of the team and reporting to members on whether the team was performing as stipulated by the organizers and whether we were in line toward achieving our goal. I equally was entrusted with giving advice and propose the best changes that could be implemented in order to enable the team achieve its goal.

My role as the team coordinator was actually a chosen one. I had been proposed by the rest of the members to coordinate their activities in order to facilitate achieving the team goal. The other members had actually witnessed some leadership qualities in me, which actually included the ability to communicate effectively, being a team motivator and showing commitment.

To some extent, owing to the fact that we were quite few in our team, it was not possible for a single person to perform a single role or duty. The four of us actually handled more than two roles, which was the fairest way of subdividing the roles for easier completion of the project and at the same time attaining our goal. Basing on the other roles that were assigned to me, I cannot claim that they overlapped because they were very different naturally and hence I had the chance of performing each duty at a time without necessarily overlapping them. However, this was not similar to all, other members had most of their roles overlapping overtime and this in a way created some differences. Though conflict is sometimes inevitable in a teamwork, it is to the benefit of the team incase conflict is kept at bay as much as possible (Gondal & Khan, 2008).

The main reason I performed this role was because I had been assigned by the other members on ground that they believed in my ability. Moreover, the trust was anchored on the fact that I possessed the required leadership skills to effectively perform the job. Likewise, I believed within my inner being that I was capable of excellently performing the job. Most importantly, I knew that as Mike Waddell (2008), who is a team management specialist, discusses, in a working team everybody had to at least do something in order to assist the group achieve its goal.

As framed by Gondal & Khan (2008), time and other material resources were among the factors and knowledge that influenced my decision and actions during the activity. In order to take an action that required a lot of involvement, I had to estimate the time that we had been allocated for that particular action and if we were on course, I would give consent for the action to be undertaken. However, there are some other decisions that I could not make single handedly, and that meant that I had to involve the rest of the members in coming up with the most satisfying decision after consulting each other and settling for a common ground (Gondal & Khan, 2008).

Alternative courses of action

Definitely, there were other courses of action that one could have taken within the team. There was simply no shortage of option as far as matter concerning what one had to do within the team. An individual could take any responsibility as long as the other team members approved of his capability to undertake the role effectively and efficiently (Packer, 2008, p.12). In case an individual felt that he could not comfortably handle the job he has been assigned, he or she could request the team leader to provide him with an assignment that he would be at ease with or simply depending on his ability request the team for a specific assignment.

The consequence of taking this course of action would definitely be a relief to that particular individual. In this case, relief was derived from the fact that initially the individual was faced with a task he could not perform but now that he has a course of action, he is definitely relieved.

The wider group will similarly be advantaged because of the course of action undertaken, for the reason that they can now be sure of being guided in the right direction (Tubbs, 1995). Correspondingly, Stewart L. Tubbs (1995), professor eastern University of Michigan, notes that the team member himself having the assurance within himself of excellently handling the job will equally give confidence to the other members of the group on your ability and finally end up believing that you will be able to lead them in to achieving the team’s goal.

The course of action that an individual may takes will in one way or another have some repercussion to the overall group outcome (Levi, 2010, p.113). Levi further observes that in taking the course of action, the individual will alter the outcomes for the overall team, because if initially the member would have led the group astray, the course of action actually taken will salvage the matter and at least the team will be in course to achieve its goal

Learning

Waddell (2008, p.34) notes that learning is a continuous process and that no knowledge is wasted. From the experience I received in my project, I have acquired immense knowledge and skills that I intend to utilize in my future undertaking. I have learned the values of a good leader as well as aspect that hold together the team and in the process provide admirable results (O’Connor, 2007, p.34). I have equally learned about group management and the role of individuals in a team. Additionally I have acquired knowledge and skills relevant toward a successful management of a group and mostly in directing it on the way to achieving its goals. Moreover, in my experience I learned a lot about types and style of leadership (Summer, 2006, P.45). I learned that different leaders execute their responsibilities depending on the style of leadership they have decided to adopt.

On the operation of a team, I learned that in order for a team to effectively perform it obligations and in the process achieve its goals, such a team does not only need dedicated team members but also a competent leader. (Williams, 2004, p.9) Williams further remarks that a competent leader will provide the much-needed direction to the team as well as acting like a source of inspiration when the team is discouraged. Similarly, a good team leader should be able to encourage his team members and raise their morale in times when they are disillusioned (Payne, 200, P.45). In addition, I have learned that when assigning roles to members, it is always advisable to first enquire from them on their capacity to perform the roles assigned. This will reduce time wasted in case such a member encounters a problem in the course of operation (Scheer, 2001, pp.105-111). This problem Scheer remarks that it will affect the progress of the entire team in the end.

From the experience I gained in my project, I have quite changed in the way I interact with people. I realized from the experience that people are different in personalities and the way they perceive things. This means that I no longer expect people to reason out as I do or perceive a situation like me. Similarly, from the experience I gained from my project I learned so much about leadership skills and equally had a chance to exercise my skills in the process I learned about my weaknesses and strengths which I have improved with time and thus, I can now relate with others people comfortably.

I had a chance through my experience to learn and develop some skills, which I believe are not only important to me for the time being but in the future as well. Some of the skills I acquired in my experience include communication skills, leadership skills, and listening skills. Much of the skills I gained, I believe, will be of help to me and mostly in the future in case I happen to get a leadership opportunity.

From experience I gained on different fronts, I tend to believe that now I will totally respond differently in similar future work-based situations. This is because I have gained enough knowledge of peoples’ characters and personalities and understood that people are very different in the way they reason and execute their responsibilities. This implies that in the future, I will be very cautious in my approach to people and definitely will not react or respond as I did in the past.

Conclusion

From the discussions in this report, it is clear that teamwork and effective team management does not come by default. From the formation of the team to the role of each team member, everything has to be clearly discerned and planned. From the report, the success of the team in accomplishing its goal and objective starts from the moment the team is formed. A successful team is one that demonstrates cohesion in the course of its operations. For such cohesion to exist, a team requires charismatic leadership, which is only possible if they elect or appoint a competent leader.

Additionally, the success of a team can equally be influenced by the task assigned to the team. Due to differing personalities among the members of the team, it is important to seek out and enquire or make consultations before assigning a task to a team member. Moreover, the goals of the team have to be clarified to avoid conflicts of interest within the team. With proper communication, unity, and determination among the team members, the success of the team is assured.

References

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Belbin, R., 2010. Management Teams: Why They Succeed Or Fail. Butterworth- Heinemann: Oxford.

Beyerlein, M., M. Johnson, A., D., and Beyerlein, S., 2003. Team-Based Organizing. Emerald Team Group Publishing: Oxford.

Gondal, A., & Khan, A., 2008. “Impact of Team Empowerment on Team Performance, Case of the Telecommunications Industry in Islamabad”. International Review of Business Research Papers, 4 (5), pp. 138-146.

Infornet. 2010. Team Building Dynamics. Web.

Levi, D., 2010. Group Dynamics for Teams. SAGE: California.

O’Connor, D., 2007. “Team Leadership Critical Steps to Great Projects”. Journal Of Management Education, 31(2), pp. 292-312.

Packer, G., M., 2008. Team Players and Team Work: New Strategies for Developing Successful. John Wiley and Sons: San Francisco.

Payne, V., 2001. The Team-Building Workshop: A Trainer’s Guide. AMACOM: New York.

Santrock, J., W., & Halonen, J., S., 2008. Your Guide To College Success: Strategies For Achieving Your Goals. Cengage Learning: Boston.

Scheer, S., 2001. ”Nurturing Future Leadership Skills”. Sage Journal Online, 8 (2), pp.105-111.

Summer, S., 2006. The Mixed Gender Team. Web.

Tubbs, L., W., 1995. “Implementing Team Leadership”, Sage Journals Online, 2(1).

Waddell, M., 2008. High Performance Management Team Development Programme. Web.

Williams, K., 2004. High – Performance Teams: How to Make Them Work. Butterworth- Heinemann: Oxford.