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Teamwork – a Mixed Motive Situation

“It is amazing how much you can accomplish when it doesn’t matter who gets the credit.”
Anonymous

A successful team completes its task, maintains good social relations, and promotes its members’ personal and professional development.  Completing the task isn’t the hardest part of teamwork, although it often feels that way. Many teams feel that their conflict is about the task.  But conflict, as described by Daniel Levi in our text Learning in Groups and Teams, “exists between doing what is best for the individual to succeed (by being better than others) and doing what is best for the team.” So, there IS an I in Team.  It is the I that can make or break the team experience.  It is the I that makes working in a team is a mixed motive situation.

Our first project in the Mayberry team was, for me, very successful, both from the team perspective and from a personal growth perspective.  Interestingly, I feel a large part of this success is the result of creating the team charter.  I have to admit, I thought this was a trivial exercise and, to some degree, we created the charter in a boiler-plate manner – answer the questions the way we think they should be answered rather than how we really feel.  This is quite evident in our team goals:

  • To learn how to work in a team more effectively and efficiently.
  • Apply theories of groups and teams into practice and figure out how a team should be built
  • Discover how each member interacts for performance, and what personal roles should be in a group.
  • For all team members to receive the highest marks on each graded assignment.
  • The goals will be measured in a team paper, a team presentation, and a team project and also how team members interact with each other in PBWORKS.

The only goal outside the ‘boiler plate for teams’ was the grade goal. The interesting thing is, to evaluate our performance we had to review these goals.  We met all of them in some way, especially the grade.  Had we not written these goals in the charter, we would have no way to appropriately assess our process other than our grade.

This was the first time I’ve worked in a team (school or work) that I ever felt work and product were evenly distributed with equal concern for the quality of the experience and the outcome.  I attribute this to our distribution and understanding of roles for the project at the onset.  My role on this project was leader.It is in this role as leader that the only difficulty of project production occurred.  As the project was coming to a close, and the deadline was looming, communication was less clear.  I felt I wasn’t sure of the outcome and chose to micromanage to gain control.  This is the I in Team coming out, as I assumed it should be as leader.  In reality, I had no reason to believe my teammates would not do what they agreed to do, but I panicked; mostly because experience told me to panic and to do something to control the situation.  This resulted in redundancy in work and frustration and confusion from other team mates.

When my daughter was in high school, she would handle the need in me to micromanage her school life by simple looking me in the eye and stating “I’ve got it under control.” My teammates didn’t have the experience with me to know this simple statement is all it takes.  As stated by Levi, “The distrust created by mixed goals” (the I goals and Team goals) “leads to reduced communication within a team.  Communication requires trust; without trust there is no reason to communicate with others.”

In our project debrief, we talked about this situation and determined we all have procrastination tendencies.  We also talked about the need to communicate more rather than less in this environment.  This discussion allows us to understand our group process moving forward more fully and is really quite liberating.  Our charter states that we will resolve conflict and problem solve by communicating enough with each other to minimize conflict. However, when we have conflict, we should listen to others and consider advantages and disadvantages of each idea.  We may need to persuade teammates with different opinions. There should be communication not for arguing, but for solving problems.  On a regular basis the current leader/facilitator will check in with team members to gauge any issues that have arisen.

For our first project together, we have had what I would diagnose as healthy conflict.  We have done an exceptional job of working together to satisfy both the movtives – I and Team. As discussed in a previous post, we chose the name ‘Not in Mayberry’ to represent our knowledge that what has been comfortable and true in the past may not be where the future is, and that we should seek the uncomfortable, the new, the risky so that we can grow as a group and as individuals from the experiences of our team.

My personal risk was to trust a team enough that both I and Team goals could be met.  I’m glad I took the risk.  I’ve learned something new about my style of leadership in a team situation.  I can trust and feel encouraged by the open communication and feedback process requested and provided by my teammates – they have my back.  I believe we all helped each other achieve the I in everybody’s Team.  I compliment the team on a job well done.

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3 Responses to “Teamwork – a Mixed Motive Situation”

  1. I am so glad too that you were able to trust your team mates to work just as hard as you to produce some wonderful results. It is hard to trust oneself and even harder to trust others but you have been able to surmount this obstacle. It was clear to me to watch your team on Tuesday that you all had worked together very well. Congratulations on a job well done!

  2. I this heard on TV the other day – “There is no I in TEAM. But there is an M and an E and that spells ME!”

    Everyone needs to bring their ME to a group task. Otherwise, why include that person on the team to begin with? I think a lot about juggling my ME needs with those of the group. I tend to be rather blase about time management because I have found that no matter what the project or task, it will always take all the time I give it. If I get the same results, why not commit less time to it? How do I take this part of ME into a group/team? How do I do that and honor other folks commitment to our team and their time management needs? I’m still learning…

    Most of my groups/teams in the past have had some superstar who just carries the bulk of the work. Of course, we all trust the superstar… I’ve never been in a group where the emphasis of our work is our process more than our product, no superstars allowed. My guess is that I need to be the superstar (ME) of my commitments to my teammates.

  3. I agree that we did a great job in the first assignment. Writing a team paper is one of the hardest tasks in a team becuase writing is a process done by individuals. However, our team had a good lead. However, I still wonder how a lead mamage each team member because they have different abilities to contribute to the team task. In order to create the best result, I think that each member doesn’t havt to participate equally but I am not sure how a lead take care of the situation.


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