Julie Black, a manager at a South Florida publishing company, was about to have another bad day. Her team member had blown a deadline and she would have to stay late, once again, to finish the project her boss was expecting in the morning.
Its so frustrating that one person on a team can create havoc in everyone elses lives, she complained.
As NBA playoff season heats up, Miami Heat fans are watching teamwork at its best. But shaping a championship team where individuals play cohesively to pull off a win can be one of the trickiest jobs a corporate leader faces. Workplaces are riddled with dysfunctional teams like Blacks, where a single player a slacker, a workaholic or a narcissist can affect the professional and person lives of everyone on the team.
Getting individuals to play together as well as LeBron James and Dwyane Wade can be especially challenging in a workplace culture that places a high emphasis on individual performance and competition. Even when you have a bunch of egos, at some fundamental level, they need to believe they are working for the greater good of the team, says South Florida executive coach Alexa Sherr Hartley. Great players who do not get along with teammates end up limiting their careers.
Most workers chose the function they carry out, rather than the people on their team or in their department. A team thats too much alike risks exposure to blind spots. Diverse teams risk contention. But on any team, there may be a person who has a tendency to procrastinate or one who shoots down ideas that would actually move a project forward.
Rebecca Nicholson isnt exactly someone who shies away from confrontation with a difficult team member. Yet, she knows obvious solutions such as simply kicking the member off of the team, or firing the individual are not always possible. Moreover, she now realizes that a better solution may be reorganizing team structure or responsibilities.
Its easy to dismiss conflict as a personality issue, however that detracts from being able to understand what the actual issues are, says Nicholson, director of special projects for The Wasie Foundation South Florida, who has a doctorate in conflict analysis and resolution. Sometimes, the real issue creating problems is the processes, the way resources are allocated or the way people understand or misunderstand their role on the team.
Rather than single out problem individuals, companies often come at solutions with broad stroke fixes.
The most common are teambuilding exercises. For most of us, teambuilding conjures up images of spirited tugs of war, relay races and physical challenges. Now, companies are getting more creative using charity work, gardening and even glass blowing as bonding exercises.
Emerson Process Management in Sunrise sent its office teams to cooking school to build camaraderie among co-workers. In front of mixing bowls and Bunsen burners, Magali Jarrin and her co-workers were charged with whipping up an entire meal, with each group cooking up a course such as appetizer, entrée, salad or dessert.
We got to know our colleagues on a different level. When you get to know each other better outside the office, it reinforces communication, says Jarrin, Organizational Development Director at Emerson Process Management.