LEADERSHIP INSIGHTS

Creating Cohesion

"Teamwork makes the dream work." - John C. Maxwell

Paul McKinley
Thu 07 Oct
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Creating Cohesion

Whether in response to a humanitarian crisis or in the pursuit of organisational excellence, we can all agree that great things happen when we work together. However, how can we best transform a group of individuals (often from diverse or differing backgrounds) into a collective driving force which is capable of achieving positive change and innovation? Whilst success at a team, organisational, and indeed societal level is dependent on a range of factors, there is one essential ingredient which all groups require in order to reach their full potential and thrive: cohesion.

Cohesion relates to working as a united whole, in a manner which maximises performance and wellbeing, whilst simultaneously minimising disparity and discrimination.  From increased morale and commitment to greater workplace satisfaction and productivity, the benefits of championing a cohesive working culture are undeniable.  As such, we feel it’s time we come together to discuss how we can all play a role in creating a more cohesive environment for our working teams.

Cohesion: A Five Function Approach

In 2002, business management scholar Patrick Lecioni developed the influential “Five dysfunctions of a team model”; a hierarchical framework which proposed that an absence of trust, fear of conflict, lack of commitment, avoidance of accountability, and inattention to results all lead to the erosion of the positive group dynamics required to achieve organsational objectives. Taking into consideration Lecioni’s findings, business scholars have suggested that the key to workplace cohesion may well lie in the exploration of these core elements from a perspective of function as opposed to dysfunction. In other words, fostering trust, advocating constructive conflict, enhancing commitment, and promoting accountability may well hold the key to unlocking cohesion and ultimately achieving better results within our places of work.

Trust

Within the world of business, our perceptions of trust are largely influenced by five factors: (1) integrity ─ being guided by strong ethical principles and displaying honesty, (2) competence ─ being able to demonstrate knowledge and ability, (3) consistency ─ being reliable, (4) loyalty ─ being willing to defend and protect the interests of others, and (5) openness ─ being transparent and forthcoming with those around us.  As an extension of these factors, it has recently been proposed that for true cohesion to be achieved, we must also be willing to embrace vulnerability. Vulnerability based trust centres on the notion that members of a working team should feel comfortable in admitting mistakes, acknowledging shortcomings, and asking for help without fear of provocation or consequence.  By creating a climate whereby others our fully accepting and supportive of those who display vulnerability, we become better equipped to cultivate reciprocal feelings of trust required to create a more cohesive professional dynamic.

Conflict

Aside from death and taxes, conflict is arguably life’s third certainty, and in the world of business, is often unavoidable when pursuing our long-term goals and objectives. That being said, conflict is a term which is often misunderstood and littered with unfortunate negative connotations.  Before going any further, we should of course recognise that conflict can be unhealthy (especially forms of conflict which seek to place blame on others or exert one’s authority), however, if we are able to frame conflict through a more constructive lens (i.e. embrace conflict as an exercise in which to better understand differing ideas and worldviews) we can ensure it remains a professional rather than a potentially provocative process. To ensure conflict doesn’t needlessly impede on levels of cohesion, it’s important we are able to build upon our foundation of trust and mutual respect and open ourselves up to cognitively divergent ideas. Additionally, we must not be afraid to encourage feedback, challenge our existing perceptions and world views, and even (when appropriate) promote a healthy degree of competition. Through directing our focus on the achievement of the company’s overarching mission and vision, we can ensure conflict remains a constructive and cohesive process.

Commitment

Commitment exceeds consensus: it’s about much more than simply getting others to “go with the flow” or adhere to a process. For businesses to remain a highly cohesive unit, it’s imperative we are able to champion a culture built on a foundation of affective commitment; a form of commitment which reflects the extent to which team members identify with the organisation and its values. To maintain high levels of affective commitment, those in positions of leadership must work to achieve a continued sense of congruence between the values of the company and the people within it. Moreover, through advocating continued social support and promoting pratices designed enhance satisfaction and intrinsic motivation within one’s role (e.g. reward, recognition, or opportunities for more stimulating forms of work), we can ensure our employees feel collectively committed in the pursuit of the company’s mission and vision.

Accountability

For businesses to thrive, we need people who are willing to be fully accountable for their actions. This concept of accountability not only extends toward ensuring an employee is accountable for their own but also in holding others accountable for theirs.  Through identifying clearly delineated roles, we reduce the risk of role ambiguity, which can often be a cause of conflict within our places of work. Furthermore, we are able to feel empowered that we each have an important role to play in helping our organisations and its people reach its full potential. To drive forward a culture of accountability throughout our own organisations, it’s important leaders and managers work in unison with their teams to establish clear and quantifiable goals. Moreover, it’s important we are able to monitor both individual effort and how it plays a key role in cultivating collective excellence. 


Results

Whilst the benefits of a highly cohesive team far exceed the achievement of objectives, we fully appreciate business is ultimately about results. Resultantly, we need to ensure we are able to effectively measure, and more importantly celebrate success. The achievement of goals and objectives plays a key role in promoting enhanced cohesion, whilst also creating a broaden and build effect which will fuel future motivation and collective effort. With that in mind, ensure your cohesive culture seeks to celebrate success at every given opportunity.

Sources

Butler Jr, J. K., & Cantrell, R. S. (1984). A behavioral decision theory approach to modeling dyadic trust in superiors and subordinates. Psychological reports, 55(1), 19-28.

DISC Profile (2021). The five behaviours models for teams. Available at: https://www.discprofile.com/fac-sup/fac-tips/model

Krajcsák, Z., & Gyökér, I. (2013). How to increase workplace commitment?. Periodica Polytechnica Social and Management Sciences, 21(1), 39-44.

Lencioni, P. (2012). The five dysfunctions of a team. Pfeiffer, a Wiley Imprint, San Francisco.

Love, L. R. (2018). Group cohesion: The effect of diversity. Global Journal of Managment and Marketing.

Robertson, A. & Dvorak, N. (2019). 5 ways to promote accountability. Available at: https://www.gallup.com/workplace/257945/ways-create-company-culture-accountability.aspx.

Rowe, O. (2021). How leaders can create ‘vulnerability-based trust’. Available at: https://www.fm-magazine.com/news/2021/may/how-leaders-can-create-vulnerability-based-trust.html

Ruga, K. (2014). Construct Validity Analysis of the Organizational Cohesion Scale.

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