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  • Writer's pictureDr. Cristina DiPietropolo

Understanding Teaming

Businesses are run by teams of people working together, but if we're being honest with one another, not every team in an organization works together seamlessly. In business, things change at a moment's notice—and that's where teaming comes in. The definition of teaming can be confusing for some, but overall teaming means getting into the mindset where creating a functional team environment is your greatest focus. As a leader, it's the ability to create a space where individuals from differing backgrounds can come together, no matter who is on the team or how long they have worked together and create an effective and collaborative team environment.[1] In this article, we will explore the importance of "building the right culture in an era of fast-paced teaming" [2] and what teaming can offer your organization.

Teaming vs. Teamwork

With traditional teams, teamwork is front and center. Traditional teams in the world work, grow, and learn together as a seamless unit. They are stable, bounded entities, where people get to know each other, including each member’s strengths and weaknesses.[3] This is the definition of teamwork—an instance where a team can come together with the same goal in mind. Teaming creator Amy Edmonton defines this as a fixed group of people working together towards a common goal, such as your favorite basketball,[2] baseball, football, or soccer team.

On the other hand, teaming means creating a dynamic focus on adopting a clear mindset with active practices that keep the team moving towards its goal, even if the team changes. They often do not know each other’s names and have never worked together in that specific configuration before, and they have to quickly find ways to work seamlessly.[3] In today's rapidly evolving global fast-paced operations, we have to work with a variety of different people on a regular basis to accomplish organizational objectives.

How to Turn a Team of Strangers into a True Team

Think about engineers, teachers, physicians, and everyone else who is specialized in their field. People think differently from one another, so turning strangers into a true team means taking the time to create a teaming mentality and avoiding what is referred to by Amy Edmonson as a "professional culture clash."[2] A teaming mentality is something that can be passed to new members and adopted by anyone who interacts with the team. This collective mentality is not dependent on personal relationships. Instead, it is a series of expectations that new team members can adopt when they join.

How to Create an Environment Where People Are Willing to Jump in and Take the Interpersonal Risks of Teaming

Creating an environment where teaming is possible can come with challenges. Leaders must be able to create a space where people feel confident trusting in a team they aren't personally familiar with, which means the leader must be open about goals, objectives, and focus on clear communication.

Common Approaches Include:

  • Having a clear team focus to avoid ambiguity.

  • Maintaining situational humility and acknowledging that you don't have all the answers as a leader.[4]

  • Fostering curiosity that "drives people to find out what others know, what they bring to the table, and what they can add."[1] You don't know, what you don't know, and teaming can foster this type of organizational culture.

  • Encouraging interpersonal risk-taking and creating a culture where people feel safe to speak up and offer positive and negative insights.[4]

  • Creating clear written breakdowns of goals, strategies, and protocols that anyone can access and reference when there is a change in organizations, departments, or industries.

  • Engaging in deliberative decision-making based on "fearless, creative input and open discussion"[4] from your team.

The Importance of Psychological Safety

Before fostering an environment where teaming is possible, you must create a sense of psychological safety. Teaming cannot happen in an environment where no one trusts their peers or company. Team members must understand the importance of each and everyone’s contribution, and feel confident enough to speak up and give recommendations. Situational humility and curiosity will help foster this type of environment. Without this, your team will not improve, and you will never have that collective mindset necessary to overcome significant challenges your organization will face.

The Danger of the Message of Scarcity

Teaming is often a necessity for teams that are not necessarily stable. These teams might send employees to work on other projects or randomly take on new members. These environments can be met with a feeling of scarcity regarding resources, attention from leadership, or even available working hours.

When we have this sense of scarcity, employees feel competitive and will aim to acquire these things for themselves, not the team. Ultimately, this undermines the goal of creating a team that works seamlessly together. It is the responsibility of business leaders to ensure that employees feel like valued team members, even without those established personal bonds.

Final Thoughts!

As a leader, how quickly can you foster team building when there is no playbook or road map for the challenge your organization is facing? How do you foster a teaming environment where people put aside their egos to tackle the objective before them and reach out to others for insights? What do you do when something unexpected happens, creating an unusual situation that neither you nor your employees have encountered before?[3]

It's about creating a work environment where people feel safe to fail, take risks, and collectively think outside the box to dream up creative solutions to complex problems as a team! As a leader, you must recognize the importance of teaming and the ability to identify "essential collaborators and quickly getting up to speed on what they know so you can work together to get things done."[1]

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Dr. Cristina Rosario DiPietropolo is the Founder and Chief Executive Officer at Leader Essentials Group, an executive consulting firm specialized in collaborating, developing, and executing strategies with their clients. Extensive experience across multiple industries and highly skilled in the areas of strategic planning, organizational behavior, human resource management, change management, leadership, and digital marketing. Over ten years of teaching experience as a Visiting Professor of Management, with a special focus on leadership in entrepreneurship, organizational behavior, and international management.

_________________________________________________________________________ 1 Edmondson, A.C. “How to turn a group of strangers into a team.” TED. (2018). 2 Edmondson, A. C. (2013). The Three Pillars of a Teaming Culture. Harvard Business Review. Retrieved March 17, 2022, from 3 Edmondson, A. C. (2018). What is Teaming?. Retrieved from (3997) What is Teaming? Amy Edmondson | Harvard University - YouTube. 4 Edmondson, A. C. (2019). The Fearless Organization Creating Psychological Safety in the workplace for learning, Innovation, and growth. John Wiley & Sons.

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