What Are The Top Ways To Improve Team Dynamics On A Project?

If you’re working on a project, you’re most likely working with a team and you know that sometimes there can be conflict within teams. Team dynamics are influenced by both the differences and the similarities that people bring to the team. So how do you improve team dynamics to maximize high performance? 

Fundamentally, teams change the way people on the team relate to each other, to the organization, and to management. When people are put on teams, they are empowered – they are set free and it’s difficult to “cage up” teams, so you can see how teams can become entities unto themselves. The elements of a good team include: 

  • They are goal-driven
  • They share objectives
  • They operate in a climate of trust and openness
  • They have a sense of belonging to the team
  • They value diversity
  • They are encouraged to be creative and to take risks
  • They meet the goals of the project. 

With these elements in place along with appropriate project timelines and funding, teams can be outstanding performers. However, sometimes teams run into roadblocks and have an inability to identify the need for change. In the words of Dee Hock, “The problem is never how to get new, innovative thoughts into your mind, but how to get the old ones out.” To demonstrate this, fold your hands in a prayer position. Notice which thumb is on top. Now try the prayer position with your other thumb on top. How does this feel? If you’re like most people, this feels unusual, perhaps even uncomfortable. Now imagine trying to implement a change across your organization. 

Your team is being asked to implement change, but in order to do so, the team needs to be convinced first that this change is necessary before they can energetically work on the project. The team dynamics will be influenced by the different modes of thinking brought to the team by the members of the team. The secret to improving team dynamics is in helping the team switch from intuitive (or traditional) thinking to counterintuitive (or long-term) thinking. The best way to do this is to understand each team member’s behavioural style in order to understand what makes them “tick.” And the way to understand their style is through an inventory of personal style such as the Myers Briggs Inventory or a “True Colours” inventory. By having this inventory ahead of time, you, as the project leader/manager, will understand how to best engage your team member. For instance, in the True Colours inventory, those who score predominantly red are known as adventurers, those with green are planners, the brown colour is predominantly a builder and the blue colour is that of a relater. Let me demonstrate this. 

Red team members – these are problem solvers and they need opportunities to perform, but they also need praise for their achievements and recognition for their performance. How do you motivate reds? Give them more challenges, another opportunity to be in the middle of the problem, so they can demonstrate their skill. 

Green team members – these are people who need structure and they need to know the purpose of their work. Involve them in decision making and praise their insights. They work best when they are given boundaries within which to work. 

Brown team members – these individuals are practical, conservative and their strength is to know what they want and what needs to be done. However, they can steamroll others to get there. Handle browns by giving them consistent feedback, and let them organize things. Reward them with public recognition. 

Blue team members – they are the “emotional” people. They don’t like conflict and appear to be loners to others. The best way to work with blue team members is through one-on-one personal contact and they like small talk first to indicate that you are interested in them first. 

Ultimately, your team needs each type of behavioural style to be successful – the reds, greens, browns and blues. Build your team by spending time with each of them one-on-one so that you can get them to trust you and you learn about each member and their behavior style. Knowing their behavior will help you relate to them more effectively. This will create a positive team dynamic and enable your project to be successful.