The dream team — how to build team reflections for future success.

It can be an elusive challenge to get the formula exactly right for great team working. We are constantly bombarded with opportunities to measure our team profile, align our objectives, construct our culture and assess our contribution through a range of interventions, programmes, processes and activities. However, despite our best efforts as leaders and as team members, there is sometimes the sense or feeling that something is not quite right, and if we could put our finger on it, then a path leading to unimaginable returns will reveal itself. But what is it and where can it be found?

In his book written with The Work Foundation, Michael West gives us a suggestion. Teams should regularly reflect on how effective they are from a task and process perspective but should also review the social and emotional functioning of a team. We are quite used to tracking team objectives and progress, and considering their continuing relevance in a changing world in order to refine and improve performance. But how often do we also discuss how much joy, humour, excitement or optimism exists in our team? Or how well trust and mutual support works? And do we review how much development or learning opportunity the team provides to its team members?

This does not devalue process, structure, strategy and tasks but enhances it. By focussing on improving social and emotional aspects of the team, it can realise additional potential, where both team performance, team, and individual well being are positive. Imagine a dream team: where team members are motivated and inspired, learn from each other, and trust and support each other with self belief and pride in the team and its identity. These are the breeding grounds for greater collaboration and innovation.

So how does reflection happen? Its essentially learning by reflecting on experience, and examining assumptions to build understanding and self awareness. This is nothing new. A number of frameworks, many developed in healthcare and educational practice could be applied to improving team work practice. Gibb’s reflection cycle (1988) might be a good place to start:

Using reflection on social and emotional aspects of team functioning as a starting point may take us all closer to achieving our dream teams, and to maximising our own sense of well being.

References

Finlay, L. (2008) ‘Reflecting on ‘Reflective practice’ PBPL paper 52'; Practice Based Professional Learning Centre, Open University, Milton Keynes.

Jay, J.K. & Johnson, K.L. (2002) ‘Capturing complexity: a typology of reflective practice for teacher education’ Teaching and Teacher Education 18 (2002) 73–85.

Johns, C. (2013) Becoming a reflective practitioner. (4th ed.). Oxford, UK: Blackwell Publishing.

Schon, D.A. (1987), Educating the reflective practitioner: toward a new design for teaching and learning in the professions, San Francisco, Jossey Bass.

West, M.A. and The Work Foundation (2012) ‘Effective Team Work: Practical Lessons from Organizational Research’ Oxford, Wiley Blackwell & British Psychological Society.

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