How to Take Control of Your Life: Surviving Teams and Workgroups


How to Take Control of Your Life: Surviving Teams and Workgroups

Team vs. Workgroup

Often you are put together with other people to perform a task or complete a project. Normally the leaders call this a “team” without any consideration of the structure of the group. Often people get stressed or flustered working with the team for a variety of reasons from personality conflicts to having no idea what is expected of them. Whatever the reason for lack of group performance it creates a stressful feeling of being out of control among all the members.

One of the first issues is the word team. There is a difference between teams and workgroups even though they are often referred to team simply because it has a nicer ring to it. A team is a group of people working together on a project. The leadership, work and responsibility are shared among the group. The group effectiveness is evaluated and determines the outcome. A key component of the team is that they are interdependent.

In a workgroup there is usually a manager. Individuals are independently working on tasks within the project. Effectiveness is judged on the basis of how well the individual does rather than the group as a whole. Each member is independent in her work. Much of the feeling of loss of control comes from not understanding the differences in the types of group. If you understand the responsibilities of you and your group the stress level drops.

Team vs. A Group of Individuals

You no doubt have heard the well worn adage “there is no I in team”. I do not believe that for a minute. You have as many I’s in the team as you have individuals. Each of us bring our personalities and preferences as well as our fears to the group. When you have a mix of introverts and extraverts, as you should, in a group there tends to be a feeling of loss of control by not understanding one another’s methods and needs. In a group it is usually the introvert who feels out of control as they tend not to be as comfortable presenting their ideas and are often not listened to well in a group setting. This is unfortunate as the introvert has often given a great deal of thought to an idea before presenting it. The extroverts need to listen for the ideas of others rather than just listening for their turn to reply. Introverts need to learn to explain their reasoning and briefly summarize their ideas near the end of the discussion as introverted ideas often forgotten quickly.

Personality Traits – Needs and Wants in a Team

In a well formed team you need to have diversity in culture, thinking styles, job function and representation of different behavioral types to bring the group to peak performance. Of this diversity I find that the most overlooked is the behavioral style. The model that I use most for evaluating groups, and indeed when helping form groups, is the DISC model of human behaviour. The extra short “Cole’s Notes” version is that peoples’ basic behavioural types can be divided into four quadrants. The first division is to whether a person is more outgoing or more introverted. This is further subdivided by whether a person is more people oriented or are they tasked oriented. We all are a combination of these traits but tend to have one or two more dominant than the others. If a person is outgoing and task oriented we refer to them as a D type for dominant. If a person is outgoing and people oriented we refer to them as an I type for impressionable or impressive. If the person is more introverted and people oriented we refer to them as the S type for supportive. The person who is more introverted and task oriented is called the C type for contentious.

Addressing the Different Types

The I and D types tend to speak much faster and have little patience for those who speak slower. The S and C’s talk slower and lower than the D’s & I’s and tend to be annoyed and intimidated by them. If you adapt your communication style to meet theirs you will get a much better response.

If you are dealing with a D type in a group you need to give them very specific direct outcomes and plans. Just the high level version, they will figure out the how and lead the team forward if necessary. If you are talking to the I, you need to make sure they are focused and will need help with the how as these are your idea people. If you are working with an S type you need to be slower talking and need to be acknowledged as valuable. Once that is done, tell them what needs to be done and they will ensure the group works as a team to make it happen. The C type needs details and asks a lot of questions. They will not feel comfortable until they have the answers and details; once they do they will work tirelessly to ensure the project is successful and done excellently. I teach entire courses on this so as you can appreciate this is a brief version. You should also be able to see how easily it can be for any of the types to feel out of control. Communicate with their needs in mind and the entire group will feel in control and perform accordingly.

In groups the individual tends to get lost. This is particularly true if your group or company professes that inaccurate and time worn “there is no I in team”. Remember you are still individuals. Be aware of and respect this and you will not only have higher performing groups but the members will feel significantly more in control of their lives. Address your group mates in a manner that they need and enjoy the benefits instantly.

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