The State of Teams: A CCL Research Report

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At some point in your career, you’ve probably worked on a team. Group presentation? Check. Board or committee member? Check. But are teams alive and well in today’s organizations?

According to a recent Center for Creative Leadership survey, the answer is yes. More than one hundred CCL program alumni completed the survey, which was designed to better understand the challenges, needs, and functioning of teams today.

The findings were recently published by CCL’s Andre Martin and Vidula Bal in “The State of Teams: A Center for Creative Leadership Research Report.” You may be surprised at some of their findings:

Ninety-one percent of respondents agreed that “teams are central to organizational success.” Only 11 percent believed that “teams are on the decline.”

However, respondents indicated that most teams don’t function at their optimal level. Particular areas of concern include the coordination of activities, revolving team memberships and ineffective conflict resolution.

Eighty-seven percent said that teams are successful when they can collaborate with other teams.

Respondents agreed that team leaders have their work cut out for them. Leaders are expected to be multi-talented, organized, courageous, flexible, and able to communicate effectively. Often there are teams formed within teams, so coordination proves difficult. Team leaders have to work across boundaries, collaborating with people who often have competing goals.

Those surveyed cited three key challenges that team leaders face:

First, more than 90 percent of respondents serve on more than one team at a time. This suggests that team leaders may have members who cannot fully commit to a task.
Second, over 60 percent reported that team members are geographically dispersed. Leaders may struggle to effectively coordinate and communicate with increasingly virtual teams.
And the third challenge facing team leaders: Only 50% of respondents said they had sponsors in place to guide team success. This is a potential challenge for team leaders because they may have to navigate their organization all by themselves, without support from above.

In terms of development, the survey respondents showed most interest in opportunities that focus on team coaching, team membership and collaboration across teams. So, according to Andre Martin, even though teams are “not a cure-all for the challenges of today’s organizations, they will continue to be essential to organizational success.”