What is Team Cohesion?
Team cohesion is the strength and extent of interpersonal connection existing among the members of a group. It is this interpersonal bond that causes members to participate readily and remain motivated to accomplish the set goals. Cohesive teams have an attitude of “we-ness”.
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Breaking Down Team Cohesion
Team cohesion is a multi-faceted process that can be broken down into four main aspects: multidimensionality, instrumental basis, dynamic, and emotional nature.
Multidimensionality is related to all the different factors that make the group members function as one. The dynamic nature means that the team goals and objectives change over time. Its instrumental foundation is concerned with how members are committed to one purpose while the emotional dimension refers to some of the perks that members get by remaining cohesive.
Teams that remain united are more likely to succeed in the projects that they set out to do, whether it’s a sports team, a military unit, a fraternity group, and a group in the business sector.
Strategies to Develop Team Cohesion
Studies on team cohesion have shown that cohesiveness leads to increased productivity. But how can a company manager or small business owner encourage team cohesion among his employees?
Hire with Care
There are two ways through which leaders can form teams. They can either recruit members from their current pool of employees or hire new people from outside the firm. Regardless of the approach used, leaders should consider how well potential candidates can work in group settings. An individual may have a high level of technical skills but lack the ability to work cohesively with others. Hiring such employees increases the likelihood of arguments and conflicts – a factor that can compromise the team goals.
Value Everyone’s Contribution
Once a leader has chosen the right members for his team, the next step is to ensure that everyone participates. Teams experience greater success by drawing from the expertise of each team member. While some employees make good technical experts, others are skilled in administrative and financial functions.
For any group to reach its full potential, every member should actively participate. The leader, on the other hand, should value the contribution of each member.
Empower Team Members
Delegating authority to some of the team members also helps to increase cohesion. Group members are more likely to work cohesively when they feel that they have ownership of the issues and activities being proposed.
Resolve Conflicts within the Group
Constructive conflicts that develop among team members are an indication of a healthy group. It would be unusual if the group never encountered a couple of challenges along the way. Ideally, no team member should have to agree to a proposed idea just because he’s trying to avoid upsetting the team harmony.
Nonetheless, irrelevant and petty disputes should be resolved immediately. If the group members cannot find a feasible solution among themselves, they can involve a manager. Alternatively, they can look for an impartial third-party who can listen to both sides of the story and come up with the right resolution.
What Influences Team Cohesion?
Similarity of Attitudes and Values
One of the aspects that keep members of a group united is if they share similar values and attitudes. Employees and human beings, in general, always prefer the company of those who hold similar opinions, beliefs, and codes of conduct because they provide some form of social validation. For instance, if person A shares the same opinion as person B, then person A will get the feeling that he’s right even if he’s not.
However, it’s important to note that similarity of interest or opinion is not the only factor that drives team cohesion. In some instances, the primary task that needs to be accomplished keeps the group members united. For example, when a military unit is sent on a mission, accomplishing the task at hand becomes the cohesive factor. Whether or not the soldiers have similar attitudes and values does not matter much.
Size of the Group
Small groups tend to be more cohesive that large groups for the following reasons:
- With small groups, the members enjoy greater face-to-face contact. It means that there’s a high degree of interaction and communication, which helps the members remain united. But with large groups, the possibility of interacting decreases.
- As the size of a group increases, it becomes more challenging to agree on different issues. It’s more difficult to get 30 members to agree on a common goal than it is to convince a group of just 10 members.
- Another disadvantage of having a very large group is the possibility of smaller cliques developing within the group. This can lead to the dilution of the overall goal, hence increasing the extent of power politics.
It stands to reason that the more time members of a group spend together, the stronger the bond between them. By interacting more often, the members are able to learn about each other’s strengths, weaknesses, and skills. This way, the team leader can delegate tasks based on members’ abilities, enabling tasks to be accomplished more efficiently.
Previous Successes and Shared Goals
When a team accomplishes a particular project, all members share in this victory and excitement as each contributed to the success. Being successful, even in small activities, increases the cohesion of team members.
Threat and Competition
A group will become more united when they encounter challenges. Members will be willing to put their differences aside and work toward solving the issue at hand. For instance, if a hostile organization wants to take control of a particular company, the board of directors will present a united front to prevent the acquisition from happening. Similarly, management threats and competition are likely to unite an otherwise disarrayed team.
Team cohesion refers to the degree of closeness that individuals feel within a team. The forces that bring group members together can either be positive or negative. The main factors that determine team cohesion are the similarity between members’ interests, group size, shared successes, and the threat of external competitors. There are different ways of improving team cohesion such as empowering group members, resolving disputes, and valuing every contribution made.
Overall, team cohesion has been found to provide several benefits. For one, team members who work cohesively are likely to achieve their goals faster and more efficiently. Two, individuals in cohesive teams experience greater satisfaction. Also, these members remain optimistic and suffer less social problems than those working in non-cohesive groups.
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