There is no denying that managerial and organisational effectiveness is the key to succeed. With the increasing awareness of the paths to achieve organisational effectiveness, the role of effective work team becomes more and more important nowadays. “Work teams have long been considered an effective device for enhancing organisational efficiency and team work ranks near the top of the list of factors that lead to management success.(Bennett, 1999 p.36)”
In order to build an effective work team, managers are playing a crucial role in effective team building. It is the premise of this essay that the effectiveness of a team depends heavily on the communication skills, which include self-awareness, assertion, listening and process management skills exercised by the team members and managers. This essay will examine firstly, how team building leads to managerial and organisational effectiveness and the main obstacle that have to be considered in the four stages of team development, followed by how self-awareness, assertion, listening and process management skills applied by team members and managers contribute to conflict avoidance and management.
Team building plays an important role in the success of organizations while conflict is a crucial issue that can be found in the four stages of team development that have to be paid much attention in order to build an effective team. Team refers to two or more individuals who work together toward a common objective and its behaviour is interdependent (Carlopio et al., 2001). Effective teams contribute to managerial and organisational effectiveness by increasing quality, productivity, motivation, innovation, and cost efficiency. “Government relations are about team building and no organizations can be successful without it.” (Crosby, 1998)
Teams help to boost organizations effectiveness in several ways according to Carlopio et al (2001). Firstly, it increases quality and innovation. With a better use of diverse talents, knowledge and experience that teams have, it can generate a greater number of ideas and pieces of information than individuals acting alone, thus decision making and problem solving are more informed and at a higher quality. In addition, a high performance team results in a higher productivity over individuals performing alone. Motivation is a crucial factor of achieving organisational effectiveness where in a team; people are generally more energised and active when they are around other people. (McFadzean, 2002)
In addition, teams can avoid personal biases and blind spots that influence effective problem analysis and implementation that individual cannot easily notice this problem. Basically, there are four stages of team development: forming, storming, conforming and performing accordingly. In general, conflict between team members is the main obstacle towards effective team building in the four stages of team development. An effective team is essential in an organisation given that it adds to managerial and organisational effectiveness; moreover, team members and effective managers have to make use of the communication skills to deal with or avoid conflict to ensure that an effective team is forming to attain the objective of organisational effectiveness.
Self-awareness is an important predictor of successful team membership and team leadership in team development. It is crucial for team members and manager who facilitate the forming of team to gain greater awareness of themselves and their relationships with others in order to avoid and manage conflict or disagreement (Carlopio et al., 2001). Basically, there are four main areas of self-awareness: personal values, cognitive style, orientation toward change and interpersonal orientation and these make up the core of the self-concept. During team development, especially in the storming phase, it is common that conflict, disagreement happen between team members.
To deal with these problems, self-awareness is taking a critical part. “Individuals are motivated to behave in ways that are consistent with existing self-perceptions.” (Leonard et al., 1995) To avoid conflict and disagreement between team members, individuals have to understand their own value systems, how they gather and evaluate information, their attitude towards change and their underlying tendencies to behave in certain ways rather than actual behaviour. The purpose of doing these is that, they help team members understand their strengths and weaknesses, the assumptions that we make and thus, it helps to avoid stereotyping others.
In addition, “developing self-awareness is also important in helping individuals to develop understanding of the differences in others, how individuals differ in their values priorities and values maturity, cognitive style, orientation towards change and interpersonal orientation.” (Carlopio et al., 2001) While self-awareness helps individuals to understand their own characters as well as the others’ as well as avoid stereotyping others, individuals will possibly step back and willing to think over others’ opinions when disagreement occurs, thus, interpersonal conflict can be avoided. Apart from team members themselves, manager can act as a facilitator by using appropriate communication skills to help team develop and maintain its effectiveness (McFadzean, 2002).
For example, team members may have different opinion on the product quality and conflict or disagreement occur, a manager can intervene by holding a meeting and talk to the participants, focusing on their attitudes, values, beliefs and perceptions regarding their behaviour, emotion, self-awareness and relationships with other team members, or, these can be written in a report as a feedback to the team. (Schwarz, 1994) Besides, conflicts or disagreements can be happened between team members and managers, thus, managers also need to be aware of their own values, perceptions, behaviour and attitudes towards change to help solve the problem.
Once a manager becomes conscious of his/her own value system, perception, cognitive style and locus of control, they will understand their strengths and weaknesses, hence stereotyping and bias can be avoided. For example, managers will be attentive to the emotion and the way they talk to the participant over a problem, this allows the individual to hear negative feedback without a defensive posture and more willing to accept other opinions. Self-awareness facilitates team members and managers to deal with or avoid conflict and disagreement during team building process, with a thorough understanding of your own inner state as well as others’, individuals are more eager to listen to and accept a different opinion.
Listening skill is a fundamental component of interpersonal communication, which is a critical skill that team members and managers should be aware of in order to manage and avoid conflicts or disagreements. Brandt et al. (2001) states that “To reduce conflict, listen actively and pay close attention to content, feelings, and congruence between the speaker’s verbal and non-verbal communication.”(p.32)
Basically, the process of listening involves hearing, understanding, interpreting, evaluating, remembering and responding; Calopio et al. (2001) states that “individuals receiving information with their ears and eyes, giving meaning to that information, and deciding what you think and feel about that information.”(p.240) There are three main areas of listening skill and it include attending, following, and reflecting.
Attending is a skill of creating a climate of attention and respect as well as showing to the speaker that you are with them; it can be done by non-verbal behaviour for example posture of involvement, appropriate body motion and eye contact. (Hargie et al, 1994) Attending behaviours attempt to tell the speakers that the listeners are there for them that they really want to listen and to understand what is being said.
Similar to attending skill, following skill involve non-verbal behaviour, according to Bolton (2002), there are four following skills for effective listening: door opener, minimal encourages, infrequent questions and attentive silence. Door opener is a non-coercive invitation to talk; minimal encourages are brief indicators to the other person that you are listening and these can be an extremely short encouraging words such as ‘really?’, ‘I see’ or ‘go on’, the aim is to encourage the speaker to keep speaking; infrequent questions means that listeners have to question effectively by asking open question and asked infrequently, this helps the listener better understand the speaker without directing the whole conversation; the aim of attentive silence is to give the speaker space to think about the issues at hand and what they might want to say.
For example, when there is disagreement between team members, manager as a listener can talk to the participants face-to-face and has to be aware of their non-verbal behaviour. They can make an open question to the participants, give minimal encourages such as nodding their head to encourage the participants to speak more about their opinion over the problem and remain silence to give them greater space to think.
In addition, managers have to be aware of their non-verbal behaviour, they better lean forward, arms and legs unfolded and make direct eye contact with the participants, eye contact can lead the other party feel that you are real and can be trust on (Miller, 1994), the aims of these non-verbal behaviour is to show that they are with them and willing to listen to their thoughts and feelings, (Nelson, 1995) in return, the participants is likely to feel confident to share their inner state to the manager and feel that the manager can be trusted. Hence, the participants will be more eager to accept the opinion of the manager over the conflict.