"Talent wins games, but teamwork and intelligence win championships." – Michael Jordan
One of the most legendary basketball players, and one who could simply walk into almost any
basketball team, professes working in a team though he could very easily simply give credit to
individual heroics to win games.
It is an understated but critical ability – not only being able to function well within a team, but also to create a safe space where every team member feels valued and is able to contribute. A study indicates that 75% of cross-functional teams are ‘dysfunctional’. Cross-functional teams are probably worse off on collaboration because individuals from each function would have their own agenda to drive, but even within the same function, teams don’t always work well together.
Social cohesion refers to the ability of a team to gel well together and work smoothly towards a shared objective. It is a key ingredient of a high-performing and inspiring work culture. The increase in productivity and improvement in business results due to highly engaged teams that work together is beyond dispute. A Gallup study highlights that highly engaged companies result in 21% greater profitability than the industry average.
Empowered workers who feel motivated to bring their whole, authentic selves to work every single day are vital to building a socially cohesive team. People should not need to fake being who they are, just to fit in. The team must be able to provide each other with the psychological safety of being able to voice opinions and have ideas accepted. In this regard, inclusion is too important to be left only to leaders. Unless team members actively embrace each other’s differences and not only accept them but actually thrive on them, a leadership focus on inclusion will not have much impact.
There can be cultural nuances to interaction, but trust transcends everything else. If you cannot trust the person next to you to have your back in a crisis, the team will collapse. Errors are bound to happen, but does the team fall into a blame game or instead trying to diagnose and strengthen for the future?
Some questions to ask to diagnose the cohesion in your team are:
1. Is everyone willing to voice opinions and ideas readily?
2. Do team meetings result in concrete outcomes?
3. Are people excited about taking on more responsibilities?
4. Do people feel comfortable enough to talk to each other about mistakes?
5. Do people sacrifice their personal interests if it benefits the team?
If the answer to even one of these questions is a ‘No’ or a ‘Maybe/sometimes’, there surely is work to be done on cohesion.
Perhaps what is ironical is that the more the individual team members allow each other to see their vulnerability, the stronger is the team. Being more authentic will help you in trusting your colleagues, managing interpersonal conflicts, and accomplish goals together.
While leaders work on building the overall supporting infrastructure, it would be great for individuals to ‘carpe diem’ and create the synergy that makes for enjoyable and productive work.
Sumit has led teams in top firms such as Deloitte, Aon, Accenture, and GE for over 16
years, across multiple countries and industries before starting on his own.
He specializes in organization design, well-being, HR transformation, and performance
management and is an expert in storytelling and training facilitation. Currently, he is
advising clients on how to help employees navigate the murky waters during and post
the Covid-19 outbreak. Earlier, he has led research around the Future of Work and the Changing Nature of Work & the Workplace. In addition, he has also authored articles around workplace well-being and cultural transformation.