Executive Development Blog

There’s No “I” in team. Or is There?

Posted by UNC Executive Development on Aug 3, 2017 10:16:00 AM


Imagine you have a critical but complex business problem. You put together a cross-functional team — Harry from finance, Jane from marketing, Sydney from R&D, Patrick from HR and Catherine from sales – to address it.

You give the group three months to develop recommendations and report back to you.

i in team.jpgThey have a common goal, but the team could be derailed – or be less effective – if members fail to put team priorities ahead of their personal goals.

Harry is gunning for a big promotion in his department. Catherine is worried about whether her regional sales team is going to make its goal this quarter. Sydney is on the team only because her boss “volunteered” her for it, largely because no one else in the department wanted any part of the project.

To help the team coalesce around the challenge you gave them, you pay for the team to go to a mountain conference center for a weekend retreat where they’ll do a ropes course together and battle teams from other companies in a paintball tournament.

Will the bonding experience help the team be effective?

Maybe not, according to research by Matthew Pearsall, an organizational behavior professor at UNC Kenan-Flagler, and Vijaya Venkataramani of the University of Maryland, College Park.

The pair studied how well 56 student teams performed together based on the degree to which they identified with their teams and the extent that they were oriented toward learning about each other. They also explored how teams can accomplish team goals without getting derailed by individual priorities.

Click here to read the entire article and learn about Matthew and Vijaya’s findings.