If anyone is taking a vote on the most misused business word, let me know. I want to place a vote. The word team is often used to describe any group of people working on a task. Team, however, actually means something very specific. A team is a collection of people with a shared, meaningful purpose and an emotional connection who work together toward a common goal. This isn’t the place to debate the definition or the value of teams, but this is the place to consider the importance of asking What is it like to work on a team in our organization? if you do consider your organization to be team-based.
The answers to this question will be greatly dependent on the team’s current situation. Teams, like individuals, departments, and organizations, have good days and bad days, and the answer to this question will be influenced by which kind of day it is. After listening to a litany of problems or a joyful description of successes, you’ll need to probe further. Your intent in asking this question is to uncover the totality of a team’s experience in your organization.
If people mention a lack of support, scarcity of resources, insufficient recognition, or endless meetings that seem to be a waste of time, pay attention. Teams don’t just happen. You can’t expect that by putting a group of smart people into a room together and calling them a team, they’ll become one. Teams need to be nurtured, and that’s the job of a leader. Based on the answers you get to this question, it might be time to review how you form, train, and launch your teams. Maybe you need to review the charters of your existing teams. How about planning some project reviews that not only look at a team’s progress toward their goals but that also include a review of how effectively the team is working together.
Somewhere, in a positive answer to this question, people might talk eagerly about the opportunities they’ve had to learn new things, develop new skills, and nurture new relationships. When you get these kinds of responses, you’ve learned that the team experience in your organization is shaping up to both the member’s and the organization’s benefit.