Working in Teams

Teams are a critical aspect of business.  Throughout your studies you will be exposed to teams and teamwork concepts especially in courses related organizational behaviour.  In this text you will be exposed to leadership topics which will help you to understand how teams function (or not).  At this stage you should begin to consider how to make your class team based projects as successful as possible.

Class Team Projects

In your academic career you’ll participate in a number of team projects. To get insider advice on how to succeed on team projects in college, let’s look at some suggestions offered by students who have gone through this experience. [1]

  • Draw up a team charter. At the beginning of the project, draw up a team charter that includes: the goals of the group; ways to ensure that each team member’s ideas are considered; timing and frequency of meeting. A more informal way to arrive at a team charter is to simply set some ground rules to which everyone agrees. Your instructor may also require you to sign an existing team contract or charter similar to the one below.
  • Contribute your ideas. Share your ideas with your group. The worst that could happen is that they won’t be used (which is what would happen if you kept quiet).
  • Never miss a meeting or deadline. Pick a weekly meeting time and write it into your schedule as if it were a class. Never skip it.
  • Be considerate of each other. Be patient, listen to everyone, involve everyone in decision making, avoid infighting, build trust.
  • Create a process for resolving conflict. Do so before conflict arises. Set up rules to help the group decide how conflict will be handled.
  • Use the strengths of each team member. All students bring different strengths. Utilize the unique value of each person.
  • Don’t do all the work yourself. Work with your team to get the work done. The project output is often less important than the experience.

What Does It Take to Lead a Team?

To borrow from Shakespeare, “Some people are born leaders, some achieve leadership, and some have leadership thrust upon them.” At some point in a successful career, you will likely be asked to lead a team. What will you have to do to succeed as a leader?

Like so many of the questions that we ask in this book, this question doesn’t have any simple answers. We can provide one broad answer: a leader must help members develop the attitudes and behavior that contribute to team success: interdependence, collective responsibility, shared commitment, and so forth.

Team leaders must be able to influence their team members. Notice that we say influence: except in unusual circumstances, giving commands and controlling everything directly doesn’t work very well. [2]  As one team of researchers puts it, team leaders are more effective when they work with members rather than on them. [3] Hand-in-hand with the ability to influence is the ability to gain and keep the trust of team members. People aren’t likely to be influenced by a leader whom they perceive as dishonest or selfishly motivated.

Assuming you were asked to lead a team, there are certain leadership skills and behaviours that would help you influence your team members and build trust. Let’s look briefly at some of them:

  • Demonstrate integrity. Do what you say you’ll do and act in accordance with your stated values. Be honest in communicating and follow through on promises.
  • Be clear and consistent. Let members know that you’re certain about what you want and remember that being clear and consistent reinforces your credibility.
  • Generate positive energy. Be optimistic and compliment team members. Recognize their progress and success.
  • Acknowledge common points of view. Even if you’re about to propose some kind of change, recognize the value of the views that members already hold in common.
  • Manage agreement and disagreement. When members agree with you, confirm your shared point of view. When they disagree, acknowledge both sides of the issue and support your own with strong, clearly-presented evidence.
  • Encourage and coach. Buoy up members when they run into new and uncertain situations and when success depends on their performing at a high level.
  • Share information. Give members the information they need and let them know that you’re knowledgeable about team tasks and individual talents. Check with team members regularly to find out what they’re doing and how the job is progressing.

For many courses, we will be using teams to learn in and outside of our formal class time. A team contract is important to ensure all members have input on how the team will work together. This contract can also be referenced if a team member is not working to the expectations. The following activity is encouraged to help you and your team think through and agree on how you will operate. As a team discuss each of the items listed below – its a menu or a template for a basic team charter (contract). Try it – just fill in the blanks…

  1. Feenstra, K. (n.d.). Study Skills: Teamwork Skills for Group Projects. Retrieved from:
  2. Whetten, D. A., & Cameron, K. S. (1991). Developing Management Skills (7th ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Education.
  3. Feenstra, K. (n.d.). Study Skills: Teamwork Skills for Group Projects. Retrieved from:


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