Saturday, June 4, 2011

Team building

I published this paper while studying at the University of Phoenix. The research helped me gain specific knowledge of the requirements needed to build an effective team in any business setting. This research does not apply only to an educational system. These techniques can be used in any business or industry.

University of Phoenix Team Building Training

A team training program for the University of Phoenix must encompass all areas of communication, collaboration, and conflict. The program must be developed to ensure communication is coherent, constructive, and relevant. Collaboration needs to be cohesive and creative so the learner(s) can retain the information better. In case of conflict, a plan has to cover as many scenarios as possible to effectively bring the team or group back to together. Lastly, the program must meet the criteria for the University of Phoenix training policy. In the Williams Institute self-assessment survey I found my tendencies run most toward Obligation and least toward Results. This is true as I believe people have an obligation to respect others and their ideas and beliefs. Ethically this creates a better world of diversity where people can share theories and ideas freely. In business it is the companies who have embraced diversity of thought and creativity with the greatest success and longevity. Apple, Microsoft, Google, General Electric, and many, many others have cultivated diverse workforces. The companies obligation to allow free thinkers the open doors to invest in themselves and take the ideas to the next level have created some of the greatest innovations of the last century. IPod, Windows, Magnetic Resonasence Imaging, etc. have revolutionized the world and greater ideas come every day. These companies fostered teams with fantastic ideas and visions to make them reality.


Team communication has to be beneficial to the effectiveness of the team. Since the teams will work closely together on various projects, as well as individually, continued contact about the ongoing progress of the project must be available for the members.
Beginning Phases

During the beginning phases of the project or assignment the team needs to be in constant contact, either face-to-face or by video/phone conferences to ensure the flow of information is not broken or miss-communicated. This phase, Forming, needs to be an open dialogue of all the members so ideas and creativity can flow like a flood. The importance of this phase cannot be under emphasized because the team has to understand the scope of the project. Also during this phase the team is learning about each other. Training the members to develop relationships quickly can be difficult because not everyone is an extrovert. Those members who are not used to speaking up or contributing without being asked need to be coached by the leader to share their ideas without fear of hostility or animosity.

Team building behaviors and procedures:

• Emphasize common interests and values.

• Use ceremonies and rituals.

• Use symbols to develop identification with the group.

• Encourage and facilitate social interaction.

• Tell people about group activities and achievements.

• Conduct process analysis sessions.

• Conduct alignment sessions.

• Increase incentives for mutual cooperation. (Yukl, 2006, p. 335)

Other challenges are headstrong members who can and will butt heads on ideas and proposals. These members need to be controlled by the leader in a respectful and authoritive manner to keep order and civility in the team. Developing these leaders can be difficult because human nature can allow leaders become headstrong and power-hungry. A leader of this caliber can destroy a team in a matter of moments. Team members will shut down and not want to participate with a leader that is abusive. By training team leaders to be open to creativity and collaboration can create teams with infinite possibilities. Leadership in team development is critical and must be handled by well trained facilitators.

Cross functional team leadership skills

1. Technical expertise: The leader must be able to communicate about technical matters with team members from diverse functional backgrounds.

2. Cognitive skills: The leader must be able to solve complex problems that require creativity and systems thinking, and must understand how the different functions are relevant to the success of the project.

3. Interpersonal skills: The leader must be able to understand the needs and values of team members, to influence them, resolve conflicts, and build cohesiveness.

4. Project management skills: The leader must be able to plan and organize the project activities, select qualified members of the team, and handle budgeting and financial responsibilities.

5. Political skills: The leader must be able to develop coalitions and gain resources, assistance, and approvals from top management and other relevant parties. (Yukl, 2006, p. 329)

In this example of cross functional team leadership, the chart show the main skills needed for an effective leader. Very rarely are these skills inherent to a person, it is taught through years of team building and training.
Secondary Phases

Storming and Norming are the next phases of a team’s creation that a leader has to control so as the team continues down the path without distractions or tangents. This communication phase has now, hopefully, opened the door to creativity. Ideas and theories should be flowing like a river, focused and following a route to a destination. This is unlike the previous phase where ideas had no set direction or purpose, like a flood. Here is where the leader’s job becomes more like a driver and not the cattle herder of the Forming stage. Training this team to is easier because it has a focus and a foreseeable destination. The leader’s training now switches to collaboration and away from leading. Many leaders have a hard time switching to this phase because he/she has been in control and now that control has to be relinquished to the team so the collaboration phase can continue unhindered. Training the leaders to relish the cohesiveness of the team and not the power of leading the team is imperative to success to teams. Not to say the leader does not and cannot regain that power at a moment’s notice, but to place it in the background until needed.


Collaboration in teams is normally an after effect of the Forming, Storming, and Norming phases of team building. When a team has gone through the building phases it can usually collectively come together and get the ideas and theories hammered out into working molds of the project. In the cases where this did not happen on its own, collaboration needs a jumpstart from the leader.

1. Treat the collaboration as a personal commitment. Its’ (sic) people that make partnerships work.

2. Anticipate that it will take up management time. If you can’t spare the time, don’t start it.

3. Mutual respect and trust are essential. If you don’t trust the people you are negotiating with, forget it.

4. Remember that both partners must get something out of it (money, eventually). Mutual benefit is vital. This will probably mean you’ve got to give something up. Recognize this from the outset.

5. Make sure you tie up a tight legal contract. Don’t put off resolving unpleasant or contentious issues until “later.” Once signed, however, the contract should be put away. If you refer to it, something is wrong with the relationship.

6. Recognize that during the course of a collaboration, circumstances and markets change. Recognize your partner’s problems and be flexible.

7. Make sure that you and your partner have mutual expectations of the collaboration and its time scale. One happy and one unhappy partner is a formula for failure.

8. Get to know your opposite numbers at all levels socially. Friends take longer to fall out.

9. Appreciate that cultures— both geographic and corporate—are different. Don’t expect a partner to act or respond identically to you. Find out the true reason for a particular response.

10. Recognize your partner’s interests and independence.

11. Even if the arrangement is tactical in your eyes, make sure you have corporate approval. Your tactical activity may be a key piece in an overall strategic jigsaw puzzle. With corporate commitment to the partnership, you can act with the positive authority needed in these relationships.

12. Celebrate achievement together. It’s a shared elation, and you’ll have earned it! (Mintzberg, Lampel, Quinn, & Ghoshal, 2003, p. 259)

Although this passage refers to the alliances between companies, a team should have the same ideas and planning in its conception. Clearly defined goals and a contract, of sorts, to outline the ground rules are helpful. Bringing each member together on the same page takes skills in listening and developing relationships. Getting down to the member’s level and finding out what works to motivate the member is essential. This is also the stage where those who are slower in responding can be accidentally left behind and the team can suffer a serious setback. This can cause distrust and/or feelings of dishevel within the team. The left behind member(s) can begin to believe his/her/their ideas and contributions do not matter and begin to disconnect from the team. The other direction is the momentum of the other member(s) is brought to a screeching halt and, possibly, reversed causing exasperation and annoyance. This too will cause the member(s) to disconnect from the team. By keeping the team cohesive and interested the team is destined for success. Team efficacy is important to the future success of the team. It is the management’s job to ensure a team has everything it needs to be successful.

Success breeds success. Teams that have been successful raise their beliefs about future success, which, in turn, motivates them to work harder. What, if anything, can management do to increase team efficacy? Two possible options are helping the team to achieve small successes and providing skill training. Small successes build team confidence. As a team develops an increasingly stronger performance record, it also increases the collective belief that future efforts will lead to success. (Robbins & Judge, 2007, p. 352)

With training in developing relationships, team building, conflict management, and interpersonal skills a team has the best chance possible in succeeding.


Conflict within teams is an inevitable truth and has to be controlled in a constructive manner so the team benefits from the differences and diversity of ideas. Without conflict a team is just a train heading nowhere. Someone must come up with an alternate idea or eventually the train will run off a cliff or hit another train. Alternate routes are imperative for a constructive and relevant journey. The team cannot just agree all the time because the conclusion(s) may not be in the best interests of the project. Teaching conflict resolution and constructive criticism is one way to have conflict be a beneficial part of team collaboration.


Once all these areas, communication, collaboration, and conflict are controlled as a positive part of the team building process the team can begin Performing as a cohesive unit with success in its future. Team building training at the University of Phoenix is a vital part of successfully obtaining the mission and goals of the school. Each member of the team must be on-board or the team cannot, or will under extreme duress, succeed. Success of the team increases not just profits for the school but also the personal goals of the team members and the goals of the students completing their education.

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