The word team appears a lot in my writing and, I believe, with good reason.  Most of us work in a team, whether or not that’s what it’s called – and that also applies in our non-work life, too.  Charles Handy likens teams to tribes in some of his books, bringing together theories of teams and theories of culture.

Meredith Belbin researched teams and produced a list of eight types of team member: Chairperson, Finisher, Implementer, Monitor Evaluator, Plant, Resource Investigator, Team Worker and Shaper.  Later research added a further type: Specialist.

There are plenty of resources (in print and online) to find out more – strengths and weaknesses of each type, how to identify what types you are (for few of us fall neatly into one type) and how to use that knowledge.

Handy reduced this list down to four: Administrator, Captain, Driver and Expert – easier to remember and apply (which I like).  Every team needs representation of all four.  A group of clones (everyone basically the same type) is a committee, not a team, and exists primarily to reach compromise.  A team has a task to accomplish, to win, and needs the correct mix to succeed.

As well as recognising member types (and you’re free to use either Belbin’s full inventory or Handy’s simpler model) it’s also necessary to recognise that teams go through an evolution:

Forming: when the team members, people, first come together for a common purpose.

Storming: where the various members start to distil into their roles, challenging what may be wrong preconceptions of role, and getting to know the other members.

Norming: where members settle into their roles, building lines of communication and trust.

Performing: where the work is done and the objective accomplished.

Adjourning: where the task is done and the team is disbanded.  It’s tempting to keep a successful team together for another task but care is needed to ensure it’s a task suitable for that same mix of members.  Often, it’s better to start with a clean sheet, pick a new team according to need and be pleasantly surprised to find a previously successful team being reformed – it means they’ll probably get to stage four (performing) quicker.

As with most of my posts, this is only the briefest introduction to whet your appetite to learn more.

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