Soft Skills

The International Language of Teamwork

Teamwork is just another necessary skill on the way to becoming a culturally competent individual. In this issue, you will explore how teamwork works and how it can help you grow and enable you to better serve your company and country, if not the world. According to Catherine Hick’s Team Management Wheel, we conclude that teamwork is valid across countries, cultures, and industry sectors. Her article encourages us to see through human drives and trigger ways that international teams can synergistically attain better results faster and more efficiently.

Karam Sami Al-Yateem, TWA Interim Soft Skills Editor
Husameddin S. Al-Madani, TWA Interim Soft Skills Editor

We all know how critical it is to be aware of cultural differences and customs when working within international teams. But this alone does not give you the key to effective teamwork. The real challenge is to develop a common framework that binds the team together and accelerates performance.

Harnessing universal energies

TMS Development International uses a model called the Team Management Wheel (Fig. 1) that depicts the range of individual and team role preferences required for high performance, from innovating and promoting to developing, producing, inspecting, and reporting.

Fig. 1—Team Management Wheel

Difficulties in communication or conflicts at work are much more likely to be the result of different working preferences than differences in culture.

Our research shows that people work better together when

  • They share a visual model of how to harness different energies.
  • They see the business value of building a balanced team and valuing different approaches to work.
  • They have guidelines that help them to work more productively with people who see the world of work quite differently.
  • They have a straightforward and common language to discuss business issues.

Team Roles

A Team Management Profile is a psychometric tool that gives accurate, validated feedback about individual work preferences, including a person’s approach to his job and his team, and the way he manages and works with others. Based on answers to a 60-item questionnaire, the profile report looks at how an individual relates to others, gathers and uses information, makes decisions, and organizes themselves and others.

People with similar preferences on these four work-preference measures also prefer similar types of work. For example, extroverted people with a preference for creative information-gathering, analytical decision-making, and a flexible organization correlated strongly with the Promoting work function. The strength and range of these preferences are combined to reveal each person’s major and related roles around the Team Management Wheel.

Valuing Difference

These roles provide a universal framework for teams to discuss complex work issues that transcends nationalities and cultures. In practice, this also means that team members understand and appreciate better their own strengths and those of others. The focus is on the valuable diversity of work preferences, not the difficulties of crossing cultural or language boundaries.

One example of this is where we worked with a major global asset management company that had approximately 90 people working together with a huge spread of role preferences. We split them into national groups (the home teams) and then groups based on the roles in the Team Management Wheel. People found that there were common bonds across nationalities that they had not known about before.

What this means in practice is that a German “Reporter-Adviser” and a French “Reporter-Adviser” are able to see that they share certain approaches to work that have nothing to do with their nationality. They may be closer in approach than say a German Reporter-Adviser and a German Thruster-Organizer.

An international humanitarian organization recently used the Profile with employees in Sri Lanka to strengthen skills in team dynamics, team leadership, and the facilitation of multistakeholder meetings. They reported that for the complex mix of international staff and local Sri Lankan colleagues it was illuminating for them to observe and to be able to talk about their very different work styles and approaches. At many levels, the roles provide a great opportunity for discussing these differences.

Linking Skills

Linking skills, the coordinating and integrating of individual efforts within the team, are also vital for team effectiveness. Pacing is another valuable element of discussion and development for diverse teams, using the communicating guidelines in the Profile. One example of this is where somebody who naturally has a preference for flexibility at work may need to work closely with a team member who has a more structured preference. In order to pace them, they would, for example, aim to meet deadlines promptly and keep them informed on the progress of their work.

Being able to understand and value the diverse preferences and roles of individual team members can bring a group together. But you also can go one step further by using diversity to your advantage to harness team energies, using linking skills and pacing, to release energy and increase productivity.

The Balanced Team

To be high-performing, research shows that a team needs to include all of these roles. If preferences for a certain type of work can be predicted accurately, this will provide useful information for building balanced teams and for maximizing individual strengths and preferences within existing team.
Reporter-Advisers gather data from various sources and assemble it for decision making and action. Corporate planners, information officers, or researchers provide their teams and organizations with information about market trnds, competitor activity, or new legislation. Explorer-Promoters are involved in securing the necessary resources and commitment through networking with others to turn ideas into reality. Promoting is usually the responsibility of marketing and sales departments but is also important for other teams who may need to sell their services to colleragues or stakeholders and maintain a high profile for their work. Thruster-Organizers take an idea to the next stage by establishing plans, schedules, and budgets to deliver a produce or service to the organization's deadlines and bottom-line outputs. Line and project managers work in this area to initiate activity and ensure that everyone is on tract to achieve the required results. Inspector-Controllers ensure that quality is maintained and that controls over finances are established. People working in finance and accounts often spend much of their time in this work function, as do quality-control engineers and others concerned with ensuring accuracy and precision.
Creator-Innovators spend much of their time innovating, and it is essential for all teams that fresh ideas and approaches are introduced. They may, for example, work in research and development. Thinking up new ideas and ways of doing things can often involve challenging the status quo to ask "what if?" and "why?" Assessor-Developers further develop an idea to show that it can work in reality. There may be many different ways of implementing a product or service, and practical consgtraints imposed by the nature of the organization or the market may need to be assessed. Developers may be involved in prototype testing or other development work. Concluder-Producers start work on producing a product or service, once plans are in place. This is an activity that may be performed on a regular basis and contributes directly to bottom-line success. Production managers are associated with this type of work, but anyone who is responsible for producing a tangible item or service will be involved in this area. Inspector-Maintainers ensure that the team or organization has an infrastructure of people and systems that supports all other activities and allows them to continue in the most efficvient manner. Support services such as administrative and personnel staff often provide maintaining functions at a corporate level.

Catherine Hick is Managing Director of TMS Development International, which provides human resources professionals with the knowledge, models, and tools that help individuals and teams release their energy and potential. Based in York, U.K., for more than 20 years, the company works with an international network of clients, agents, and distributors that use the Team Management Systems Profiling tools to help global organizations such as BP and Shell achieve success.



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