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Elements of team working

As with the other skills defined in this book, team working consists of a number of elements (listed above in Table 5.1); the behaviours relate to the process factors in Figure 5.1, such as co-ordination, communication, co-operation. Each of these elements is described below.

Supporting other team members

Through undertaking the team task and sharing experiences, team members form social bonds and strong attachments, creating an emotional background to team working. Benefits of team working can include improved emotional well-being of team members (West, 2004). Effective team working includes providing support to other team members by, for example, sharing workload when appropriate, accepting individual responsibility, maintaining good working relationships and establishing openness. Social support also relates to informational support, such as providing advice and information to assist team members to carry out their tasks, which improves team co-ordination.

Conflict resolution

Although conflict typically has negative connotations and can lead to poor team performance or even the break-up of the team, constructive conflict in teams can be

valuable, becoming a source of excellence, quality and creativity. West (2004) lists the skills for conflict resolution as:

  • • fostering useful debate, while eliminating dysfunctional conflict
  • • matching the conflict management strategy to the source and nature of the conflict
  • • using integrative (win-win) strategies rather than distributive (win-lose) strategies.

Conflict can arise due to the task (what to do?), team processes (whose job is it?) and interpersonal differences (Idon t like...). Clarity of roles and responsibilities reduces team process conflict, and retaining an objective, non-emotional focus minimises the potential for interpersonal and task conflicts (Lingard et al., 2002).

Managing interpersonal conflicts in a team setting also involves assertiveness. Assertiveness means protecting your own rights without violating the rights of others, and communicating with respect. Examples of assertive speech include:

  • • ‘So what you’re saying is..
  • • ‘I can see that this is important to you, and it is also important to me. Perhaps we can talk more respectfully and try to solve the problem.’
  • • ‘I think. I feel. I believe that.’
  • • ‘I would appreciate it if you.’

Factors underlying assertiveness include persistence (staying focused on the issue), being objective (focusing on the problem rather than the emotions surrounding it), accepting criticism as being feedback rather than an attack, validating the truth and remaining factual, and using humour as appropriate to reduce tension. However, group structure factors influence this kind of behaviour, as indicated in Figure 5.1. It has been frequently demonstrated that team members who perceive themselves to be of lower status in the team are less likely to be fully involved in discussion or to speak up to challenge others or ask for help (Edmondson, 2003; Reader et al., in press). Therefore assertiveness training is important to ensure that team members have the skills and confidence to speak out when appropriate. Chapter 4 also discusses assertiveness.

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