What’s a good team?

Working up the Yellow Spur

Working up the Yellow Spur

 

Our definition of team is “a group of people who demonstrate cooperative and supportive behavior in a common effort to accomplish hard goals; and who are equals and friends who value a relationship built over time and expressed in mutual understanding, honesty, sympathy, empathy, and loyalty.” 

We summarize this to say a team is comprised of equals (called “peers”) who are “experienced” and are “friends.”   Unfortunately, no new groups nor most existing ones meet this requirement.  This essay will discuss the process of building a good “team” from a group of people.

We’ll start this discussion by reviewing several failed group situations to highlight the common problems we’ve all faced.  We’ll then review the process for building a team that will enhance our high peaks experience and safety.

When Groups Don’t Work

I have documented three examples of failed groups.  These stories are based on real events, but have been simplified to make the lessons clearer and to protect the identity of the guilty and innocent.  In each story, one or two members made group management mistakes that resulted in dangerous situations for group members. 

These stories were selected for the lessons they offer about:

  1. Selecting and testing a group
  2. Appropriate behavior by members of a group

While it is a bit unrealistic, these stories do not include any issues related to route finding or other technical mistakes, only group leadership or management mistakes.  This is done to focus our attention on the group dynamics.  In the real world, poor group management can compound mistakes related to technical or health issues.

The stories included:

  1. A new teacher-student group (experienced & inexperienced members) that failed to test or understand their relationship.
  2. A new teacher-student group in which the teacher (experienced member) failed to be responsible for the student (inexperienced member).
  3. A peer group (two experienced people) failed to work together and put themselves into danger.

After reviewing these stories, we’ll dive into the team building process that helps us to avoid these and other common mistakes.

 

(1) A new teacher-student group (experienced & inexperienced members) that failed to test or understand their relationship

(1) A new teacher-student group (experienced & inexperienced members) that failed to test or understand their relationship

(2)	A new teacher-student group in which the teacher (experienced member) failed to be responsible for the student (inexperienced member)

(2) A new teacher-student group in which the teacher (experienced member) failed to be responsible for the student (inexperienced member)

 

(3)	A peer group (two experienced people) failed to work together and put themselves into danger

(3) A peer group (two experienced people) failed to work together and put themselves into danger

 

 

(2) Building a Team

To maximize our safety and success, clearly we need a well functioning team.  However we also need to stay safe and have fun while we’re building our team.  To accomplish both, we need to follow a team building process that helps us stay safe while we build a team. In summary, there are 3 levels that function independently in the team building process.  However, it will be easier to describe them as sequential. 

The three levels are:

(Level 1)    Find Good People, which means to find people to be in our group, while keeping out or dropping poor partners

(Level 2)    Do Adventures Together, which means to find a path to develop the “group” into a “team.”  This path includes (1) establishing a decision-making / leadership structure appropriate for the group members, and (2) building relationships and (3) learning to work together in the context of high peaks adventures suitable for the group

(Level 3)    Maintain the Team. 

These levels are described in more detail in the table below:

teambuildingprocess

Levels 1 & 3 are self explanatory.  We need to find some people to start a group; and we need to keep a team working together once it is established.  But, Level 2 is a bit more complicated; it is designed to build up the multiple components of a team. 

Our definition of team is “a group of people who demonstrate cooperative and supportive behavior in a common effort to accomplish hard goals; and who are equals and friends who value a relationship built over time and expressed in mutual understanding, honesty, sympathy, empathy, and loyalty.”  We summarize this to say a team is comprised of equals (called “peers”) who are “experienced” and are “friends.”   Level 2 helps our group to safely gain experience together so we can become experienced peers, develop a friendship so we can trust each other with our lives, and learn to work together like a team synergistically.

Complicating this effort is the fact that a “group” can include people with a variety of experience levels and preexisting relationships.  As a result, the transition from  “group” to  “team” must be able to proceed safely via multiple paths, including:

  1. An inexperienced “peer group” that becomes friends and gains experience
  2. An experienced “peer group” that develops a friendship
  3. Friends who are inexperienced form a “peer group” that gains experience together
  4. Inexperienced “student(s)” and experienced “teacher(s)” form a teacher-student group that raises the experience level of the student(s) who become peers, and develops a friendship. 

 

Any of these paths will work to build a team, as long as they turn our group of people into equals who are friends and experienced mountain adventurers. In the next essay (Finding & Organizing People), we’ll review the process of finding people and establishing a group structure.

Go to “Fellowship of the High Peaks” index

Go to “Finding & Organizing People” essay

Go to “Learning to Work Together” essay

One Response to “What’s a good team?”

  1. Poor Teamwork on Mt Columbia « PeakMind Says:

    […] What’s a Good Team? […]

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