Team management

Team management is the ability of an individual or an organization to administer and coordinate a group of individuals to perform a task. Team management involves teamwork, communication, objective setting and performance appraisals. Moreover, team management is the capability to identify problems and resolve conflicts within a team. There are various methods and leadership styles a team manager can take to increase personnel productivity and build an effective team.[1]

Elements of a healthy and successful team

Cohesive leadership

In any functional team, cohesion amongst team leaders and decision makers is vital. Cohesive leadership means that team leaders are acting together as a unit and making decisions as a leadership team instead of each branching off into their own work and operating individually. This will ensure that the team will be steered in one direction instead of multiple due to team leaders not being concise and consistent with their instructions. Cohesive leadership will require team leaders to have strong communication skills. [2]

Effective communication

There must be an effective channel of communication from the top to the bottom of the chain of command and vice versa. An effective channel of communication will allow messages to be transferred accurately without delay to the intended recipient, this will speed up decision making processes and the operations of the team. Furthermore, effective communication will increase the flexibility of an organisation and cause it to be less susceptible to changes in the external environment; as a faster decision making process will allow organisations a longer time period to adapt to the changes and execute contingency plans.[2]

Common goal

When team members first come together they will all have different ideas, however the key to a successful team is the alignment of objectives within the team. It is essential that the team leader sets a common goal the entire team is willing to pursue. This way, all the team members will put in effort in order to attain the goal. If there is not a common goal, team members who disagree with the objective in hand will feel reluctant to utilise their full effort, leading to failure to achieve the goal. In other cases, team members might divert themselves to other tasks due to a lack of belief or interest in the goal.[3]

Defined team roles and responsibilities

Poorly defined roles is often the biggest obstacle to a successful Team.[4] If team members are unclear of what their role is, their contributions towards the team will be minimal, therefore it is the team leader's duty to outline the roles and responsibilities of each individual within the team and ensure that the team is working together as an integral unit.

In a successful team, a team leader will first evaluate the mission of the team to understand what is needed to accomplish the task. Then, they will identify the strengths and weaknesses of their team members and assign roles accordingly. Lastly, they must ensure that all team members know what each other's responsibilities are to avoid confusion and to create an effective channel of communication.[5]

Methods of team management

"Command and Control"

The method “Command and Control” as an approach to team management is based on the concept of military management. “Command and Control” was a commonly used system in the private sector during the 20th century.[6] In this method, the team leader instructs their team members to complete a task and if they refuse, they will yell or punish them until they no longer refuse and comply with the instructions. The team leader has absolute authority and utilises an autocratic leadership style. There are considerable drawbacks to this team management method. Firstly, the team morale will be lowered due to team members being constantly belittled by the team leader at the slightest mistake; punishments will also lead to a lack of confidence in team members resulting in poor performance. Second, in modern organisations roles are often specialised, therefore managers will require the expertise of the employee, elevating the value of the employee. Implementing the “Command and Control” team management method will lead to a high rate of employee turnover. In addition, in large organisations managers don't have the time to provide instructions to all employees and continuously monitor them, this will impede an organisations performance as managers are not spending time on their core responsibilities.[7]

"Engage and Create"

Due to the limitations and ineffectiveness of “Command and Control”, managers developed an alternative management strategy known as “Engage and Create”. In this method team members are encouraged to participate in discussions and contribute. Furthermore, they are advised to engage with other team members to build a stronger sense of teamwork and unity. This will lead to increased productivity and accountability of each team member, driving the team towards success.[6]

"Econ 101"

In the “Econ 101” method of team management, the team leader makes the baseline assumption that all team members are motivated by reward in the form of money, and that the best way to manage the team is to provide financial rewards for performance and issue punishments for failure. This method of team management uses material gains in the place of intrinsic motivation to drive team members. This is similar to Taylor's theory of Scientific Management where he claims the main form of motivation for employees is money.[8][9] The main drawback of this method is that it does not take into account other forms of motivation besides money such as personal satisfaction and ambition. Moreover, by using reward and punishment as a method of team management it can cause demotivation as everyone is motivated by different factors and there is no one way to satisfy all team members, the negative effect is further compounded by punishment leading to demoralisation and lost of confidence.[7]

Problems in team management

Absence of trust

In Patrick Lencioni's book The Five Dysfunctions of a Team, the absence of vulnerability-based trust – where team members are comfortable being vulnerable with each other, trust each other to help when asking for guidance, and are willing to admit their mistakes – within a team is detrimental to a team. Team leaders have to assist each other when they are vulnerable and also allow team members to see their vulnerable side, which is contradictory to the orthodox belief. If a team lacks vulnerability based trust, team members will not be willing to share ideas or acknowledge their faults due to the fear of being exposed as incompetent, leading to a lack of communication and the hindering of the team.[10][11][12]

Fear of conflict

Contrary to the general belief, conflict is a positive element in a team as it drives discussion. The fear of conflict is the fear of team members to argue with one another and the fear of disagreeing with the team leader. If team members hold back and are afraid of confronting the leader or their teammates, then the concept of a team is non-existent because there is only one person who contributes and no new ideas are generated from discussions.[10]

The fear of conflict in a team stems from an absence of trust, more specifically vulnerability based trust. If team members are afraid to be vulnerable in front of one another, disputes can be manipulative and a means to overthrow and shame the other team member. However, if team members trust each other and are comfortable being vulnerable in front of one another, then debates can be a pursuit of a better and more effective method to achieve a task.[10][11][12]

Lack of commitment

When team members don't provide input on a decision, it shows that they do not agree or approve of the decision, leading to a halt in team activity and progress. Furthermore, when team members don't express their opinions, views and potential ideas are lost, hurting the project and the company.[10][12]

Avoidance of accountability

The avoidance of accountability in a team is the failure of team members to be accountable for the consequences of their actions. When team members do not commit to a decision, they will be unwilling to take responsibility for the outcomes of the decision.[10]

In addition, if a lack of trust exists within the team then there will be an absence of peer to peer accountability; team members will not feel accountable towards their team members and hence will not put effort into their tasks. The team must trust and hold each other responsible so that the intention will always be for the benefit of the team and for the team to succeed.[10]

Team leaders who are afraid of confrontation might avoid holding team members accountable when in fact they have made a mistake. Team leaders must develop the confidence to hold team members accountable so that they will feel the sense of responsibility and entitlement to the team, and learn from their mistakes. If not, then errors will not be corrected and might lead to worse problems, causing a defective team.[10][12][13]

Inattention to results

If team leaders and team members do not hold each other accountable then they will not be concerned about the outcome of the team and whether they have achieved their goal, as they do not have a drive to obtain great results. Inattention to results causes a loss of purpose and brings into question the existence of the team.[10]

Resolving problems through team management

Building trust

An approach to resolving fundamental trust problems within teams is to build trust amongst team members. A team leader can build trust by persuading team members to ask questions and seek guidance from other team members, so that they are more familiar and comfortable in being vulnerable with one another, questions such as “May you teach me how to do this” or “You are better than me at this”. However, in order to achieve vulnerability based trust within the team the team leader must be vulnerable first, if the team leader is unwilling to be vulnerable, nobody else in the team will be willing to follow.[10]


Appraisals can be a way for team members to provide feedback to one another or for team members to provide advice to the leader. This will allow individual members of the team to reflect on their performance and aim to do better by amending their mistakes; furthermore appraisals create an environment where the chain of command is non-existent and team members can be honest towards one another. This is effective in a way that the team can provide progressive feedback towards other members and can advise the leader on how he or she can improve their leadership. After each member reads their appraisals, they will understand how they can strive to improve, benefitting the team in reaching its objectives. The commonly used forms of appraisals are performance appraisals, peer appraisals and 360 degree feedback.[14]

Team building activities

Team-building activities are a series of simple exercises involving teamwork and communication. The main objectives of team building activities are to increase the trust amongst team members and allow team members to better understand one another. When choosing or designing team building activities it is best to determine if your team needs an event or an experience. Generally an event is fun, quick and easily done by non-professionals. Team building experiences provide richer, more meaningful results. Experiences should be facilitated by a professional on an annual basis for teams that are growing, or changing.

Back to Back Drawing

Back to back drawing is a team building activity where two members of a team sit back to back. One member is given a picture while the other is given a blank piece of paper. The member with the picture has to describe to the other member what the picture includes and the other member has to sketch what is described. At the end of the game, both members compare the picture and the drawing to see how similar they are. This game aims to improve verbal communication between team members.

The Human Knot

The human knot is a team building activity where team members stand in a circle and grab hold of the hands of other participants that are not immediately next to them. The objective is to unravel the circle of entangled hands. This game, through the physical touch between team members, will allow them to feel more comfortable with each other. Furthermore, this game can improve the verbal and physical communication between team members and enable the team to identify which communication process is the most effective within the team.[15]

Leadership styles in team management


Autocratic leaders make their own decisions without consulting employees or other team members. They hold absolute authority over the team and team members are expected to obey and comply with the decision that is made by the leader. Autocratic leaders use one way communication, which is that they will instruct team members without expecting feedback in return. The benefit of this leadership style is that decisions can be made quickly, especially if the team is in crisis, considering the views of all team members will be time consuming and impractical. However, this can lead to over dependency on the team leader as all decisions are made by him or her and it can also lead to a low team morale as the input of team members are not valued.[16][17]


Democratic leaders will consult with employees before proceeding to make a decision. Democratic leaders will take on a two way communication approach where team members can provide input and voice out their opinions aside from the team leader issuing instructions. Team leaders who take on this leadership style will require excellent communication skills to express to the team members what is expected of them and to respond to and understand their concerns. The benefit of this leadership style is that team members will feel more valued, leading to an overall increase in productivity in the team. However, a drawback is that since employees have a greater involvement in decision making it might slow down the decision making process.[17][18]


Laissez faire is a leadership style where the team leader will allow the team members to carry out their duties on their own and at their own pace. There is little to no management and authority implemented by the team leader. This style of leadership is applicable to product design or advertising teams where flexibility and freedom provides a more suitable environment to stimulate creativity and is expected to generate positive results. The benefit of this leadership style is that team members who do not like to be controlled and closely monitored can prosper and fulfil their potential as this is the environment in which they function best. The limitation of laissez faire is that team members might make poor judgements due to a lack of supervision and they might not work as hard because of the absence of a superior.[17]


This type of leadership is the most common among the styles. The relationship between the leader and team member is one of compliance, the team members do what is asked of by the manager. A transactional leader uses rewards and punishments to gain compliance this from team members and thus this leadership style produces solid but average results.[19]

See also


  1. ^ Business Dictionary. Team Management. [Online]. [Accessed 15 October 2014]. Available from:http://www.businessdictionary.com/definition/team-management.html
  2. ^ a b IESE Business School. 2011. Patrick Lencioni: The Four Traits of Healthy Teams. [Online]. [Accessed 15 October 2014]. Available from: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1KxJop0A0vA
  3. ^ Abudi, G. 2011. 5 Elements of Successful Project Teams. [Online]. [Accessed 15 October 2014]. Available from: http://quickbase.intuit.com/blog/2011/08/05/5-elements-of-successful-project-teams/
  4. ^ Traxia Partners, Inc. Discovering Your Team Leadership Style. [Online]. [Accessed 15 October 2014]. Available from:http://www.triaxiapartners.com/corp/team/learning-solutions/discovering-your-team-leadership-style
  5. ^ Human Resource Development Quarterly. 2008. Defining Team Roles and Responsibilities. [Instructor Guide]. Pennsylvania: Human Resource Development Quarterly.
  6. ^ a b Plotczyk, P.; Murphy, S. Command and Control is OUT! Create and Engage is IN! [Online]. [Accessed 15 October 2014]. Available from:http://www.wsa-intl.com/278-this-month-s-articles/command--control-is-out-engage-create-is-in/
  7. ^ a b Spolsky, J. 2006. Three Management Methods (Introduction).[Online]. [Accessed 15 October 2014]. Available from: http://www.joelonsoftware.com/items/2006/08/07.html
  8. ^ Riley, J. 2012. Motivation Theory - Taylor.[Online]. [Accessed 15 October 2014]. Available from:http://www.tutor2u.net/business/people/motivation_theory_taylor.asp
  9. ^ Hoang, P. 2011. International Baccalaureate Business and Management. Edition 2.IBID Press.
  10. ^ a b c d e f g h i Lencioni, P. 2002. The Five Dysfunctions of a Team. John Wiley & Sons.
  11. ^ a b Slideshare. 2012. The Five Dysfunctions of a Team by Patrick Lencioni.[Online]. [Accessed 15 October 2014]. Available from:http://www.slideshare.net/peterdschwartz/the-five-dysfunctions-of-a-team-by-patrick-lencioni-slides
  12. ^ a b c d SamitiAlbania. 2011. Patrick Lencioni: Five Dysfunctions Of a Team.wmv. [Online]. [Accessed 15 October 2014]. Available from:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6sqvWEI1CVg
  13. ^ Haudan, J. Peer Accountability - A Powerful Performance Driver.[Online]. [Accessed 15 October 2014]. Available from: http://watercoolernewsletter.com/peer-accountability-a-powerful-performance-driver/#.VEAv0OfzQfF
  14. ^ Gray, C. Team vs Individual Performance Appraisals.[Online]. [Accessed 15 October 2014]. Available from: http://smallbusiness.chron.com/team-vs-individual-performance-appraisals-20040.html
  15. ^ University of Oregon. Human Knot. [Online]. [Accessed 15 October 2014]. Available from:http://leadership.uoregon.edu/resources/exercises_tips/team_builders/human_knot
  16. ^ Business Case Studies. People Theory. [Online]. [Accessed 15 October 2014]. Available from:http://businesscasestudies.co.uk/business-theory/people/methods-of-management.html#axzz3G3IJTqND
  17. ^ a b c Simpson, P.; Smith, A. 2011. Business and Management for the IB Diploma. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
  18. ^ Riley, J. 2012. Leadership - Models and Styles. [Online]. [Accessed 15 October 2014]. Available from: http://www.tutor2u.net/business/strategy/leadership-models-styles.html
  19. ^ smirl, paul. "The Keys to Transformational Leadership". wsb.wisc.edu.

Team Building Event or Experience? Grosz, K. http://canvascreekteambuilding.com/team-building-event-team-building-experience-decide/

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