Communication, Cohesiveness, & Team Building

Have you been part of team that had great plans but couldn’t get on track? In this article we’ll look at team building through the connected prisms of communication and cohesiveness, two key factors in making any team building effort successful.

Starting with the cohesiveness factor, we know that leaders within the armed forces, in every nation and throughout history, work hard to build cohesion within their military organizations. Boot camps, for example, use the principle of replacing a recruit’s existing value set with a new one that reflects the values of the military unit. It’s a cornerstone of that type of team building.

No doubt you’ve also seen the desire for cohesiveness become an issue in companies and other organizations. It can be anything from birthday parties for members of a department to a top-down, organization-wide initiative to increase morale.

And as you can imagine, cohesion and team building cannot take place without communication.

Members of a group can only develop a sense of belonging when someone communicates to them that they are a valued part. In the case of formal communication, that may mean something like an initiation ceremony. Or, it may be informal, as in the sense of allowing new members to participate in group activities.

In team building, those who become members of a group must reciprocate, of course. They must signal to other members that they value the membership they received. Expressions of gratitude may be involved, and sometimes that may even be criminal or distasteful, as is sometimes the case with fraternities. Consider the cases of street and outlaw motorcycle gangs that may demand the commission of a crime as a condition of membership.

Leaders intent on team building must be acutely aware of their communicating role, and consistently evoke or invoke the shared values that hold the group together. Speaking of shared visions and experiences are two ways of accomplishing this. In some unfortunate cases, it may involve scapegoating individuals or groups that are unlike them in some way.

Then, we have to consider how the group communicates its cohesiveness to people who do not belong to the group. Members of Little League baseball teams wear team jackets, for example, and members of fraternal orders and service clubs wear vests or badges.

In talking about cohesiveness, the experts also, and invariably, mention the downside of this togetherness. They refer to groupthink, for example, which sees organizations make bad decisions because they put unanimity ahead of a good debate about the pros and cons of an issue. Members of the group think it’s more important to avoid disagreements than to reach the right decision.

Groupthink also involves limited input from outside the group, meaning that important facts or opinions may not get to the group before it makes its decision. Most often, the outside information that does get in supports existing beliefs.

In summary, good communication, is always a cornerstone of any team building effort. And, we can see the connections, from communication to cohesiveness, and from cohesiveness to team building.