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The Main Ingredient of a “True Team”

What is the definition of a team? How is a team different from a group of people? Are you a part of a true team? These topics are rarely discussed but are essential for shaping the right leadership and communication strategies.

Harvard Business Review (HBR) argues that a team is a group of people who do collective work and are mutually committed to a common team purpose and challenging goals related to that purpose. Collective work and mutual commitment are the key characteristics. Members of a true team share a genuine conviction that “we” will succeed or fail together, and that no individual can succeed while the team fails. Mutual commitment means that teammates not only think and act collectively, but the social and emotional bonds among them are compelling.

A team of researchers from Technische Universität Braunschweig ran a unique longitudinal study on the effects of the team commitment over time. They uncovered several important findings:

(1) Commitment drives results
Team commitment leads to higher team performance and co-worker altruism.

(2) Team commitment can compensate for other gaps
For example, a lack of overall commitment to the company can be compensated by team commitment. This is important for retention management, especially in larger organizations or subsequent to M&A events.

(3) Building commitment takes time
Team commitment can’t happen immediately. It develops slowly over time when employees reflect on their relationship with their team.
Team commitment can be improved by measures such as team-building and involving team members in decision processes.

Many team leaders tend to spend most of their time managing individual by individual, paying little attention to the holistic group dynamics. HBR encourages leaders to manage their teams as a whole while not forgetting to recognize individuals for their distinct contributions. Creating and leading a true team is a crucial management skill whether you lead a permanent group of direct reports or a virtual, highly diverse, widely-dispersed, temporary team created to tackle a specific problem or opportunity.

What are the implications for teams?

Building team commitment is a journey that requires deliberate planning. Shared virtual team experiences provide an opportunity to (1) bring the team members together, (2) inspire them to achieve a common goal, (3) celebrate team successes, and recognize individual contributions.