Building a Team First Requires Interdependency, Not Trust

Team Building

Building a team inside your organization is an art, not a science. There is not just one solution, recipe, or prescription. Instead, it depends on the kind of organization, the culture within the company, the relationship among the individuals, and how they are being rewarded. If you have a culture that is focused on individual rewards and individual performance, it’s very difficult to produce an environment for teamwork because it’s a competitive environment. For a team to work, it has to be interdependent—the members have to be interdependent. The action of one member affects the action of another and affects the result of the whole. The outcome has to be measured in terms of the action of the unit, not the action of the individual.

Not all teams are created equal. A team in tennis is different than a team in soccer. In tennis, you have individual performers that win by their own individual actions. In soccer, it’s a group of people that need each other. One passes the ball to the other, then to another and so on; success depends on movement within the team. It’s a completely different dynamic. The same principle is true within an organization—the dynamics inside each company are different.

Once you recognize the interdependencies within your organization and there is clarity on these interdependencies, then you can engage in a process that is particularly relevant to your company’s culture and that fosters rewards for teamwork. If the culture of your company rewards individual performers and not team performers, that’s an obstacle to teamwork. The processes must be clearly defined so that there are interdependencies.

Interdependency only happens when what one employee does, contributes to what another employee does, and that contributes to an end result. For example, in a Volvo manufacturing plant, all of the employees work together to build one car. That’s clear-cut interdependency. One will do this, and another will do this, and if one screws up, it will screw up the outcome of the whole team. That creates team pressure.

On the other hand, think about sales people. They work on their own. The more they sell, the better they do. They don’t depend on anyone else; they have their own territory. A sales team is not a team. It’s a group of individuals who may appear to be a cohesive group, but they are not a team. Just because they are all wearing the same T-shirt—the team colors—doesn’t mean they are working as a whole.

Once you have built interdependency inside your workforce, you must tackle how to build trust among team members. Managers often create processes and activities to try to build trust, but without first having a team that relies on each other, trust is impossible. Creating a team starts with creating a system that needs everyone to achieve success.

Click here to read our blog “Building Trust Within A Team Requires Understanding”

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