“You would think that teams are everywhere; we use that word so freely in workplaces so we must be teams – but the reality is we mostly work as groups,” says Julie Rowlands, a leading consultant on HR and organisational development at Staples Rodway.
“Teams only form about 30 per cent of the time,” continues Rowlands. “In fact, in all my years of working with thousands of groups, very few become high performing teams.”
Rowlands has over 35 years’ experience in the HR industry, spanning almost every industry from energy and aviation to medical and commercial – she says one of the most common mistakes which occurs across every sector is when leaders assume teams will magically form as soon as people are thrown together.
“This couldn’t be further from the truth,” she warns. “Teams take work and commitment.”
The first thing businesses have to realise, she says, is that employees are not assets.
“Businesses often think that if they provide an annual Christmas party and engage in team building activities including the trust fall, or even more daring, abseiling off cliff faces, that they will turn a group of people into a motivated, loyal and dynamic team – think again!” she says.
“People are not resources, they are not assets; they are the organisation so businesses need to actively invest time and energy in creating a culture that enables teams and individuals to flourish.”
So how can HR create the right culture and environment for teams to flourish?
“Groups typically turn into teams because of a sense of purpose, strong constructive relationships, commitment, trust that has built over time and a shared responsibility for the success of the team,” says Rowlands.
“Leaders in today’s businesses must encourage collaboration, inspiring the team to perform, connecting the team to the purpose and connecting teams to each other,” she continues.
“Leaders have to be prepared to willingly give their time, positive energy, their commitment, trust, feedback and praise and respect to everyone within their team. Leaders have to be a weaver of people.”
Your organisation is full of teams working together effectively – right? Well, maybe not. According to one senior HR figure, it’s far more likely that your firm has been infiltrated by groups of people who appear to be getting along.