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Teambuilding For Practitioners And Leaders

Teambuilding For Practitioners And Leaders
Jennifer Lape, OTD, OTR/L
September 16, 2019

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What is Leadership?

  • “The process of influencing the activities of an organized group in its efforts toward goal-setting and goal achievement” (Huczynski & Buchanan, 2013).
  • “The art of influencing and directing people in such a way that will win their obedience, confidence, respect, and loyal cooperation in achieving common objectives” (U.S. Air Force).
  • “If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more, and become more, you are a leader” (John Quincy Adams).

First, I wanted to talk about this concept of leadership. I have included a few different definitions that emphasize different points about leadership. The first is the process of influencing the activities of an organized group in its efforts toward goal-setting and goal achievement. The emphasis here is that these are goal-directed activities. The second definition is the art of influencing and directing people in such a way that will win their obedience, confidence, respect, and loyal cooperation in achieving common goals. This supports the notion of that common goal, and it specifies the outcome of influencing others. The final definition is that if your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more, and become more, you are a leader. I chose this definition because it includes the element of inspiration or inspiring others.

Qualities of an Effective Leader

Next, I want to turn to talk about the qualities of an effective leader. 

  • Self-awareness
  • Self-regulation
  • Motivation
  • Empathy
  • Social skills (Goleman,1998)
  • The priority of serving & developing others (Greenleaf, Spears, & Covey, 2002)
  • Effective communicator
  • Focus on strengths
  • Effective time management; ability to set priorities (Drucker, 2004)
  • Adaptability

The first five on this slide I have chosen because these five qualities are components of emotional intelligence. These are skills that drive leadership performance. The first one is self-awareness. This would be an awareness of your motivations, strengths, weaknesses, and the impact that you have on others. Often, they say that the standards of the group are set by the leaders. They are learning by what you are modeling. So, if you change yourself or your own behavior, then the rest typically follow. The second skill is self-regulation. This includes the ability to control your moods and behaviors. You are able to think before acting, remain calm and objective (even in a difficult situation), have integrity, and you are open to change. The next skill is motivation. This means you have a passion and vision for your work. You are energetic and persistent, and optimistic and committed, regardless of the circumstances. You believe in success. The next skill is empathy. This is the ability to understand others' emotions. You can really see their point of view, and you are able to build and retain talent. Then the final skill that is associated with emotional intelligence is social skills. This is the ability to build rapport and network, to be persuasive with others, and be effective in leading change. As I said, these first five skills are all components of emotional intelligence and are qualities that an effective leader would have.

The next one is the priority of serving and developing others. This is also known as the concept of servant leadership. This is linked to job performance and team member satisfaction. The next skill, which is probably not surprising, is that an effective leader would have effective communication skills. This is really important because only about 7% of what we say is actually the words. The rest of those communication skills are things like the inflection in your voice, your body language, your ability to maintain eye contact at the appropriate time, and things of that nature. Another quality of an effective leader is the ability to focus on the strengths of the team members. Strengths of team members can be integrated to achieve team goals. One thing that is really important to remember is that in a team of people, you need diversity for that team to be successful. This means that everybody is not the same, and everyone has different strengths. It is most appropriate to look for excellence in each person in one area, not the average performance for everybody. Not everybody needs to have the same strengths for success. To be an effective leader, you also need effective time management and be able to set priorities. In today's world, there is this concept of multitasking, and everybody is trying to do more in less time. However, the research really supports, that to be effective, you need to move at a steady pace and focus on one thing at a time. I like to give an example of a juggler that is spinning plates. It is only a matter of time before one of those plates is going to fall, so multitasking really is not a good thing. Some people have trouble setting priorities because it is easier to do a little bit of everything and nothing really gets accomplished. Thus, time management skills and being able to prioritize are so important. The final quality of an effective leader is the ability to be adaptable or flexible. They say that the only thing that stays the same is change, especially when we think about healthcare environments today. There are a lot of things that are changing like reimbursement, policy, et cetera. It is so important to adapt as needed.

Leadership Model

Next, I want to talk about a leadership model that I frequently use in my practice as shown in Figure 1.

Figure 1. Leadership model.

This model is loosely based on John Adair's Action-Centred Leadership Model. The model is functional and holistic, and it illustrates the need to balance individual needs. The individual team members' needs are in the gray circle, and this needs to be balanced with the group needs. The task demands also play a role, and all of those are situated within the context or the environment. Adair also promotes the 50/50 role. He states that 50% of the motivation comes from the individual and 50% from the leader or the context. What this really translates into is that 50% of the team success comes from the team as a whole and 50% comes from the leader. It is a shared balance there.

Leaders Vs. Managers: Are They The Same?

  • Managers can be leaders
  • Not all Leaders are managers
  • These terms are not interchangeable
  • Formal vs. Informal leaders

The next concept that I want to address is the idea of leaders versus managers or directors. Are they the same? The term "managers" refers to formal positions of authority. You could also use the terms supervisors, directors, bosses, CEOs, and things of that nature. Some of you may be in a formal leadership position. A formal leader is usually respected as a leader due to their job title, power, authority, among other qualities that they may have. Managers can definitely be leaders, and ideally, you hope that they are. We hope that they have those skills to be an effective leader that we talked about. However, not all leaders are managers. I say this to really emphasize the point that even if you are not in a formal leadership position, you can still be a leader, even if it is not in a formal capacity. Informal leaders are usually respected due to their ability to lead through inspiration, persuasion, and their personal skills and commitment. So even though they do not hold that job title, that formal authority, they are still very much respected and can lead in many different ways. Some examples of this could be serving on a committee at your facility related to patient treatment or maybe a safety initiative. You could volunteer to mentor students or coordinate a student program at your facility. You might mentor new staff or clinicians. You might develop specialty skills in a clinical area of practice. You could get a certification in lymphedema management, dementia care, or hand therapy. You could work with a group of co-workers to plan an OT month event or an open house. You could volunteer to run a support group for family members of clients with dementia. These are all examples of informal leadership or things that you can do even if you do not hold a formal leadership position.

What is a Team?

Next, I want to turn to this concept of a team. This is the definition that I usually use. 

  • “A small number of people with complementary skills who are committed to a common purpose, set of performance goals, and approach for which they hold themselves mutually accountable” (Katzenbach & Smith, 2005).

Again, we are emphasizing that they are not all the same and that everybody does not have the same skills. This small number of people are committed to a common purpose, a set of performance goals, and an approach for which they hold themselves mutually accountable. I have underlined the key features.

Does a Team Differ From a Work Group?

I divided out the differences between a team and a work group in Figure 2.

Figure 2. Difference between a team and a work group.

I divided out the differences between a team and a work group. With a team, there is shared leadership. There can be someone that is in a formal leadership position, but then there can also be other leaders for various aspects of what is happening. With the work group, there is just a single strong leader. With a team, there is both individual and collective accountability. They are accountable to each other and to the team goals. In a work group, there is only individual accountability. In a team, there is a collaboration with two or more members working together; whereas with the work group, the members discuss things, make decisions, tasks are delegated, and then everybody goes their separate ways and works individually to accomplish those goals. The thought here is that the sum is better than the individual parts. Everybody working together on that team would equal increased performance. This concept of a team is so important for a number of reasons, especially thinking about healthcare. Our healthcare climate is dictating that we need to be doing client-centered care and have professional and interprofessional collaboration to meet those client needs. There is also this emphasis today on cost containment,  increased productivity, and evidence-based practice. This all needs to be completed with effective interventions and no duplication of services. These are all of the reasons why this teambuilding is so important. How do we look at our own teams to make this work?

Qualities of a Dysfunctional Team

  • Lack of trust
  • Avoidance of conflict
  • Lack of commitment
  • Lack of accountability
  • Lack of focus on team goals

(Lencioni, 2002)

We have to consider the qualities of a dysfunctional team and those include there's a lack of trust among team members, there's an avoidance of conflict, there's a lack of commitment, a lack of accountability, and a lack of focus on team goals. And so you can actually consider these five constructs so, trust, conflict, commitment, accountability, and then team goals, you can consider each of those on a continuum. So for example, if they were thinking about trust sort of one side of the continuum would be complete lack of trust for the team and then, you know, on the other side, you know, there's really great trust. And you can think about your team or teams, that you work on, sort of where does it fall on that continuum? Is there a complete lack of trust? Is it really good? Is it somewhere in the middle? And so, if you think of each of these constructs of trust, conflict, commitment, accountability, and team goals, you can sort of plot out where your team is or where the areas of concern are. And determining where the areas of concern lie can help you determine how to choose and structure your teambuilding activities. So later we're going to be talking about a variety of team building activities and some are better for one issue versus another. So really thinking about your team and what is the issue. It could be all of these things in a very disparate team, it could be more just one aspect in some teams, so that might help you figure out where you need to start.

What is Teambuilding?

  • A set of strategies designed to:
    • Improve interpersonal relations & social interactions of a group
    • Clarify the roles of team members in relation to the whole team
    • Improve achievement of results, meeting common goals, & accomplishing tasks
    • Address problems occurring in teams (Klein et al., 2009)

Teambuilding is a set of strategies that are designed to improve interpersonal relations and social interactions of a group. It can be used to clarify the roles of team members in relation to the team and to improve results while meeting common goals and establishing and accomplishing tasks. It can also be used to address the problems in teams. The emphasis with teambuilding is really on goal setting, at the individual and team levels, that focuses on common goals and interpersonal relationships. It is important to make sure that you are developing trust and resolving conflict effectively and clarifying roles. Having good communication among team members is vital so that everybody knows what everyone else is doing. Finally, it is thinking about problem-solving and being able to make decisions for the welfare of the team.

Teambuilding Literature

Next, I want to discuss some of the literature related to teambuilding. It is important that we look to see what is effective. 

Lack of Teambuilding  

  • Decreased morale/job satisfaction
  • Decreased productivity/lost revenue
  • Decreased client satisfaction/quality care
  • Increased conflict among team members/decreased collaboration (Chang, Ma, Chiu, Lin, & Lee, 2009; DiMeglio et al., 2005; Klein et al., 2009)
  • Decreased ability to recruit or retain staff, cost of turnover ~1/5 of an employee’s annual salary (Boushay & Glynn, 2012; Suadicani, Bonde, Olesen, & Gyntelberg, 2013)

The literature states that a lack of teamwork can lead to many unfortunate things. There can be decreased morale and job satisfaction. If there is not good teamwork, then you are probably not going to be happy in your job, and the morale of the team is going to be down. This can also lead to decreased productivity and lost revenue often due to decreased accuracy or quality of work. And, as you can imagine, this can lead to decreased client satisfaction and quality of care. The literature also supports that if different disciplines cannot work together for a common goal, this can really impact our clients. There are many studies that do support that. A lack of teamwork can lead to increased conflict or this tension amongst team members.

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jennifer lape

Jennifer Lape, OTD, OTR/L

Jennifer Lape, OTD, OTR/L received her Bachelor of Science in Psychology from the University of Pittsburgh, and both her Master of Occupational Therapy and post-professional Doctorate of Occupational Therapy from Chatham University in Pittsburgh, PA. Her doctoral project focused on the use of multisensory environments to manage negative behaviors in clients with dementia. She is currently an Assistant Professor of Occupational Therapy at Chatham University where she teaches the evidence-based practice courses in the post-professional occupational therapy program. In her 19+ years of clinical practice, she has worked in a variety of practice settings including pediatrics, acute care, home health, and skilled nursing, with the majority of her practice in geriatrics in the roles of clinician, clinical consultant, legal consultant, and manager of rehab services. She has authored peer-reviewed articles related to evidence-based practice with a variety of populations, as well as a text on research and evidence-based practice. She has presented at the state, national, and international levels, and her scholarship interests to date include: sensory processing and the use of multisensory environments to increase quality of life for clients with dementia, evidence-based practice, strategies to improve collaboration among multidisciplinary rehab teams, and the Kawa model.



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