We often write about working with committees or teams. Although the names may seem similar, I do not view these terms to be interchangeable. There is a significant difference between the two groups.
Have you heard the saying, “If you want to kill a new idea, send it to a committee”? This reflects the difficulty committees experience when trying to make decisions. The problem is not with bringing a group together, it is with the behaviors and attitudes of the members. If you want your group to function as a team, take these things into consideration.
My basic distinction between the two is committees are often groups of individuals, and they often lack cohesiveness. Members focus on their wants and what is good for them, not what is best for the entire group. Their actions are often at cross-purposes with the goals of the team, but the individuals are fine with that as long as they are succeeding. Team members work together to resolve the problems which they face and to make things better for everyone.
Committee members may become punitive if they don’t get their way. They may seek to have others removed from the team or take retaliation if they do not like what others are doing. These emotional responses destroy any semblance of teamwork. On successful teams, members recognize and value the contributions of other members and listen to their ideas, even if they do not agree.
While team members are committed to the group and its success, committee members often focus on personal gains. On an athletic team, stars will emerge and their contributions will shine, yet they realize everyone contributes to their success.
Everyone is running the same play. working together to achieve the common goals that everyone establishes. Imagine if during a football game the quarterback decides to throw a screen pass while the running back decides to take the ball and carry it to the middle of the line. Two linemen decide to pull in opposite directions while the others are blocking straight ahead. The result would be a disaster. Unfortunately, this is like the behaviors of members of a committee, each wanting to do their own thing to the detriment of the group.
Team members work together to achieve the mission of the team. That mission is determined by the consensus of the team, and everyone wins when it is accomplished. Committees focus on “What’s in it for me?”, and seek their personal goals even if they hurt the group.
Members support the decisions of a team and work to sell them to others. Committee members may leave a meeting complaining about what “they” did to “us”.
On a team, members focus on identifying and solving the problems they face. Committee members believe the most important thing is for their position to win. Team members strive to add value to their organization, not gain personal glory.
When we work with groups, our goal is to build cooperative problem-solving teams. These may be new groups or existing committees seeking to optimize their performance. The most important factor that determines whether these groups will succeed is the commitment of the members. When members share a commitment to achieving the mission of the team and are willing to put for the effort necessary to be successful, they are much more likely to be effective than those displaying the characteristics of a committee we have described.
Do the groups in which you participate seem more like teams or committees? If you want to move from the frustration that can accompany being on a committee to the success of being part of a team, contact Columbus Area Labor-Management Committee.