Gorden, William & Erica Nagel, Scott Myers and Carole Barbato. (1996) The Team Trainer, Winning Tools and Tactics for Successful Workouts. New York: McGraw Hill
The central idea of William Gorden, Gorden, Erica Nagel, Scott Myers and Carole Barbato's 1996 human resources and management workbook and text entitled The Team Trainer, Winning Tools and Tactics for Successful Workouts is that workplace unity is not something that simply 'happens' without systematic effort and controlled 'fun' on the part of leaders and team members. Firstly, effective teams to complete projects are integral to the functioning of today's modern workforce, and no man or woman is an island, however skilled and qualified at his or her profession. However, it is essential even amongst the most qualified employees that human managers engage in the use of specifically guided team-building and team-based tactics to ensure that workplace teams are functional and productive. In short, workplace teams must be true teams, rather than groups of disparate individuals functioning to meet deadlines for an organization.
One analogy that came to my mind during the reading of this text was that much like a successful, individual physical workout, effective building tools and skill-building exercises must be deployed so that individuals in a given workplace can function and meet deadlines. In a successful team, every unit of the team fulfills an essential and unique function in the context of the team, without many overlapping or conflicting responsibilities, goals, and task. In the words of one of the chapters of the book, team members must be aware when and where the ball is in their court, and not expend their energies attempting to 'hit' the balls of others, or to let their own balls drop, while they are searching for points in the matches to either side of them. And, much like a hypothetical sports team, as opposed to an individual event, after individuals have built their own skills, on their own in training sessions, then they can and must come together and work as one, singular unit.
One of the reasons this book is so effective in human resource management and for a manager in an organizational context such as my own is that it outlines the dos and don'ts of team-based quality improvement in such a joyful and enthusiastic fashion, but still keeps an eye upon the bottom line of productivity goals and deadlines. I have often found that enthusiasm is key when motivating my employees. The book also provides guidelines for team-sharing exercises in leadership in an effective and practical fashion for managers such as myself, while still allowing for the fact that not every team member can be a leader at all junctures of the skills-building or workplace task-setting and task-completing processes. The book furthermore accepts that teams under supervision of leaders in the workplace will encounter inevitable frustrations as the teams engage in their initial stages of formulation. The book does not provide a vision of sunny and rosy success, without complications and personal roadblocks on the part of individual members, something all mangers can relate to in their personal experience, no doubt.
In coming together as one, clashes as teams meld and as individuals jockey for leadership is inevitable. Rather, as noted in Chapter 24, a good team member and a good team leader must be never without his or her tool kit of personal problem solving exercises and devices. Ignoring failure or frustration simply leads to more failure and frustration, as any manager can attest to when attempting to facilitate personal growth and change in a team context.
Thus, the main point the book makes is that multifaceted teams made up of a diversity of personalities and professionals are necessary to the workplace -- but no employee can expect to be a leader on all organizational teams, nor play the same team role, on every work team the employee finds him or herself a part of. Stressing that employees must learn to listen and learn to work well with others by playing different team positions is a critical dimension of the text. But rather than merely cautioning the need for listening, the authors stress how individuals must be motivated to want to learn, listen, and perform to their highest capacity. Thus, the book also stresses the need for team leaders and members to have fun in workout skill sessions and drills.
The book's validity resonates with much of any human resource manager's experiences, including my own. Every member of every workplace team, of course, wants to be a leader of his or her peers. But the reality is, that every conglomeration of employees shows itself to be unique, and although every employee may assure all higher staff members that he or she is both a leader and a team player, quite often not all employees are equally skilled in both roles. How does one make an employee a leader and an effective listener at the same time? The book provides helpful suggestions, stressing the need to make every task a learning opportunity and a bonding experience, as well as simply a production goal to meet for all team members. Productivity is enhanced by employee growth on an inter and intrapersonal level. Moreover, the workplace ideal, the book suggests, is to strive for a balance of equality of being a leader and a follower within all employees on a team, especially given the even greater flexibility demanded of today's workforce, greater, one could add, than when this text was actually written.
Brainstorming and listening are two of the most critical skills for all employees, managers and entry-level position holders both, in any organization that requires and demands creativity. The use of effective brainstorming, the authors suggest, is one of the key skills for any team leader or member to learn over the course of his or her career in the workforce. Brainstorming is an effective, initial ice breaking activity that encourages both expression and learning from one another. Also, the act of brainstorming involves a risk, as it means that all members of a group must generate ideas uncritically, and without judgment and write them down. It is a critical skill in that it demands creative thought and imagination -- even a bit of inspiration, one might add, during the early stages of group formulation. Also, to direct a brainstorming session demands immediate leadership of the designated team director, as the team leader must define the central problem around which the purpose of the team will center upon. The occasional bit of silliness, however, created by the 'free for all' brainstorming exercises used at the beginning of team training, functions as an introductory function vital to the team building process as well.
Listening is another key skill involved in teamwork and team building, as the team evolves from a mere group to a team that is actively engaged in the listening process, and is willing to listen to challenging and even disconcerting ideas to effectively to maximize team results. Interestingly, in light of its stress upon effective listening, the book does not take a dim view of groupthink, or collective decision making, as it assumes that the purpose of the team is to come to a cohesive and collective democratic decision under the eye of a leader.
Rather, the primary focus of the book is how to help individual employees function better in organizational contexts such as a team and that by making better group decisions a better organizational framework is created. The role of a true leader is to maintain motivation and commitment within the team and to encourage listening in such a fashion that makes it easier for individuals to interact with one another, rather than to either 'be themselves' or to retreat with their vital skills into a corner, feeling bullied or ignored by more vocal or dynamic team members. The book's use of evidence is not primarily statistical or anecdotal but prescriptive.
The book takes the form of a series of fully developed interactive exercises for teams, along with experimental activities. It also contains charts to measure one's own progress, combined with checklists for managers as well as the requisite real-world and hypothetical examples. By stressing skills and attributes such as brainstorming and listening exercises, the book provides helpful knowledge in such often daunting but seemingly simple activities that the workplace often presents a human resource professional or team leader of any stripe -- such as how to begin to start that 'first meeting' or to mark the blank page of a problem-solving session with a series of ideas that have been formulated by all team members as equally as possible, both good and bad. It also provides suggestions how to come to agreement on difficult issues, to deal with the clash, boom, bang of conflict and disagreement, and to channel such disagreement into effective solutions.
Thus, rather than the data-oriented view of the need to draw respectability to the human resources department in an organization,…