Sports teams and work teams are alike in a lot of ways, especially when it comes to team dynamics, chemistry, and cohesion (interpersonal relationships). Sport psychology team building theories tend to center on two types of cohesion, task and social cohesion. Task cohesion is when team members pull together for a common goal (even if they are not close friends), while social cohesion is the degree in which team members like one another. Interestingly, while social cohesion would seem to be important, task cohesion tends to be a bigger factor when it comes to team success.
Work teams are no different than sports teams when it comes to interpersonal relationships, and in both examples when team members become too close there are negative consequences that can occur. For example, groupthink can happen when one team member is so outspoken and charismatic that the other team members feel less willing to speak up (in other words, team members tend to over-rely on one leader). When groupthink occurs motivation, focus, drive, and resiliency can be negatively impacted — which, of course, can prevent a team from reaching its full potential.
Maximizing team efforts, therefore, rely on a delicate balance between creating a climate that is warm and inviting for team members but not too cozy that collective efforts actually decline in response to not wanting to “rock the apple cart” by failing to confront problems on the team. Studies have shown that when team members get too close, it is more difficult for them to confront one another when it is clear that they should (i.e. if a team member isn’t putting forth enough effort, etc.).
Unfortunately, there is no textbook recipe for perfect team chemistry, but we do know that coaches (or managers) need to work hard to foster a certain degree of social cohesion while really working that much harder on developing task cohesion. Goal setting is a great way to improve task cohesion, and by having individual team members set goals leaders can help steer clear of another detriment to teams — social loafing (when individuals efforts decline due to a diffusion of responsibility and roles).
Looking for a unique Christmas gift? Check out our high performance products at AHPS!