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Team Development and Learning


A tight knit team is a group of competent individuals who care deeply about each other and are fiercely committed to their mission. The members are highly motivated to combing their energy and expertise to achieve a common objective. From our observation and studies on team development, we have found three primary conditions that have to be met in order to attain higher levels of team performance and member satisfaction.

  1. Resources and Commitment
  2. Ownership and Heart
  3. Learning

These three conditions are the heart and soul of team development and yet these conditions are not blueprints. Each developing team is unique, and its needs and details of teamwork have to be worked out separately. Let’s look closer at condition number three - Learning.


In order to harvest the enormous power of teamwork, one’s knowledge, skills and abilities have to be sharpened. This is required to support the values describe in “Condition No. 2 – Ownership.” (This is because values with skills will result in good intentions. But without the skills and behavior the values alone can not produce results. Likewise, nifty skills and techniques without the heart and soul of values will likely be perceived as manipulative and just another management ploy to trick people into giving more to the organization at the expense of its members.

How does a team learn best about teamwork? How to take back responsibility? What exactly is there to learn from experiences in teamwork? We have found that the principles of teamwork can best be explored by adult learning modules where people try out their team development skills on actual tasks and activities. We usually select tasks that are uncommon so that participants have a level experience field. Once a task is completed, we carefully lead the learners back through their experience and encourage them to discuss the positives and negatives of the team’s effort. We look for common threads of thought and weave together, with their experiences, the key concepts of principles of sound team development. Learners are then asked to plan and transfer their experiences back to the work place and develop plans to turn their learning into productive ideas or strategies. This approach to learning is fun and exciting. It usually leaves a lasting impact and memorable reference points for the future. Groups really acquire the language and the concepts of teamwork.

The insights about teamwork are broad and deep. The following is basically an unaltered flip chart session of lessons and insights from a team located in the Midwest that produces heavy equipment.

  1. We typically underestimate the importance of the role of the leader.
  2. Cross training really enhances the strength of the team.
  3. Careful management and control of the team’s resources is crucial.
  4. You can’t wait for perfect conditions before you start a task.
  5. You really haven’t failed until the team stops trying.
  6. We have to view mistakes as opportunities to learn and grow for the long run.
  7. The team has to ensure that all of its members are informed and enrolled.
  8. Your ideas won’t be heard unless you speak up
  9. Feedback is essential for process improvement.
  10. Open minds are essential for synergy to occur.
  11. Our biggest barriers and fears are all perceptions that can be overcome.
  12. Leaders have to lead and guide the processes; they can’t be expected to produce the technical breakthroughs.
  13. High performance teams must develop even their weakest or newest members.
  14. We should not limit others by presupposing their limitations.
  15. It is important to celebrate the success along the journey to the ultimate result.
  16. Patience fosters empowerment.
  17. You can’t “push” a rope and you can’t “push” people in the direction you want.
  18. We need to share knowledge and develop people through effective coaching.
  19. When you find yourself in a hole, quit digging!
  20. With a little trust you can move remarkably fast through a situation.
  21. Stretch goals yield stretch results.
  22. It is OK for adults to request and accept help.
  23. Mature adults are willing to admit that they have fears.
  24. The pitfall of holding back on a good idea is bigger than the pitfall of spending some time to hear the ideas.
  25. If you can visualize the process and the goal, we are in a better position to achieve it.
  26. No one of us is as smart as all of us.
  27. Our limitations are driven primarily by our fears.
  28. We can’t afford the cost of uncaring criticism.
  29. True leaders will encourage input from everyone.
  30. Showing emotion is OK.
  31. Teamwork “ain’t” easy, and it “isn’t” automatic. You have to work at it.
  32. Teamwork means that you have to understand the paradoxes and manage them well.
  33. You have to bring people together if you are to build enthusiasm and spirit.
  34. Collaboration means a lot more than agreeing to stay out of each other’s way.

The actual list was longer and took nearly two hours to share and report. Frankly, we have not seen any other type of team development process where so many insights occur in a relatively brief period of time. Since we have had the opportunity to work with this group over an extended period of time, we can report that this team was noticeably closer according to reports from other members of the organization as well. After all, what is good for the goose is good for the gander. And if we see the members of the organization as the goose who lays the golden eggs then we need to make a real investment in terms of time and money to keep the goose healthy and well.

About the Author

If you would like more information on Team Development or to learn more about our Team Building programs, please contact a Regional Manager from CMOE toll free at 888-262-2499 or (801)569-3444 x.3023.


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