The importance of effective team cohesion for better performance often goes underestimated. However, if your team isn’t cohesive, it’s probably not achieving the best results. It doesn’t matter if it’s composed of the most skilled professionals in the entire company.
Lack of cohesiveness is most likely the culprit for recurring conflicts and tensions between team members, affecting overall group performance. Those types of issues can be avoided by improving the cohesion of team members.
Cohesive teams excel at communicating, are mutually supportive, interact effectively, and are quick to solve conflicts. Therefore, they tend to be high-performing and consistently achieve great results, as everyone is committed to the team’s purpose and goals in unison.
This article will explore the definition of team cohesion and go in-depth on how to develop and improve it. It’s also discussed how and why you should measure team cohesion, and what factors can negatively affect it.
What is Team Cohesion? Definition & Meaning
Team cohesion is an important factor for team effectiveness and it generally refers to a team’s increased ability to work together and keep on a close agreement.
Cohesion occurs on account of a strong interpersonal connection among team members, which means they know, respect, and trust each other and their abilities.
It is this interpersonal bond that keeps them united as a whole and able to work collaboratively, resulting in a more successful team. Cohesion is, however, a complex and multidimensional term.
According to this analysis, the most common dimensions of team cohesion in literature are the following:
- Task – related to the shared goals and objectives of the team
- Social – related to the social relationships within the team
- Belongingness – related to the feeling of attraction between team members
- Group pride – related to the values and ideologies the team shares
- Morale – related to the individuals’ loyalty to the team and willingness to tolerate frustrations
When all of these aspects of team cohesion are fulfilled, it means a strong bond has been formed between teammates. Yet, the task and social dimensions are the most correlated with performance, as stated by the same paper.
In other words, having a common goal to work towards at and maintaining positive relationships between members is what matters most for high performance.
Why Is Team Cohesion Critically Important & List of Benefits
Teams are becoming increasingly important for organizations these days. In fact, as research that was done over the years by Harvard Business Review shows, both managers and employees have been spending more and more of their time in collaborative work.
The simple reason behind this is that a successful team can outperform any type of individual effort. However, to build a high-performing team, some key features need to be present.
Cohesion is one of those team dynamics that are essential for high-quality performance. Cohesive teams are overall more work efficient and achieve higher-quality results, which is why they are important for business success and profit.
Likewise, they also encompass several advantages for the employees working in them. Some benefits of team cohesion are:
- Improved morale
- Increased self-esteem
- Greater job satisfaction
- Positive work environment
- Better individual performance
- Heightened employee engagement
- Personal and team goal achievement
How To Develop and Improve Team Cohesion In 10 Steps
If your team is underperforming and usually struggles with interpersonal problems, it probably lacks unity.
The steps outlined below can send your team in the right direction for cohesion enhancement, which in turn will upgrade its efficacy and quality of performance.
1. Select Team Players
Start by seeking to integrate into your team individuals who have a preference for working alongside other people.
Value pro-team attitudes and behaviors when selecting your team members, as well as teamwork skills. Hiring team players who want and are used to working in teams will facilitate cohesion to form.
2. Provide Alignment
For a more cohesive team, look for aligning team goals with personal and company values. Having a common goal in mind while working together will foster unity and teamwork spirit within the team.
Besides that, providing team members with an ideology that personally resonates with their own will help improve both employee engagement and motivation. As a result, the team is more cohesive, performance quality increases, and goals are more likely achieved.
3. Value Emotional Intelligence
A crucial factor for team cohesion is emotional intelligence. When team members have a high level of EQ (emotional quotient), they can better understand and work alongside the nuances of interpersonal relationships.
They take into account their co-workers’ individual traits, strengths, and weaknesses when communicating and delegating tasks. Conflicts are also less likely to arise because team members are more empathetic and understanding of each other viewpoints and struggles.
4. Make Time
Team cohesion doesn’t immediately occur. On the contrary, it is developed over time as teammates interact and slowly get to know each other.
Therefore, if not enough time is made available for team-building activities to take place, it’s difficult for cohesion to emerge. Team members that don’t know each other well, will struggle in trusting and relying on each other, driving down cohesion.
5. Encourage Conflict Solving
Conflicts prevent teams from achieving their best possible results, as it can degrade a positive work environment and relationships. Therefore, it’s important to not let personal disagreements and clashes linger and immediately seek to find solutions together.
Accordingly, having methods and processes for quick conflict resolution are imperative in cohesive teams. Discussing divergent opinions, however, shouldn’t be avoided, as constructive conflicts have an integral role in keeping the group going forward.
6. Open Communication Among Team Members
Communicating clearly and efficiently with colleagues and managers is an important factor in cohesiveness.
To do that, teams should be provided with open communication channels, which enables them to conveniently keep in contact. Active, continuous, and effective communication practices keep everyone on the same page, upgrading team cohesion.
7. Engage in Team-Building Exercises
Inviting the team to participate in team-building activities can be a great way of getting the team members to better know each other and strengthening their bonds. If team members are familiar with each other’s strengths, weaknesses, and skills, trust is more easily built.
Trust among team members is at the foundational level of a cohesive team, as they know they can rely on each other’s work and support. They also feel comfortable expressing their ideas and concerns without the fear of being negatively judged or criticized.
8. Celebrate Wins Together
On what comes to success, it should be celebrated. When shared goals are achieved, surely every team member’s hard work contributed to it. So, it makes sense that everyone enjoys the accomplishment together.
This can be going out for lunch, throwing an office party, or any other type of get-together that rewards the teammates with a good dose of fun and relaxation. It will improve the feelings of satisfaction and fulfillment, strengthening interpersonal bonds, and consequently improve team cohesion.
9. Empower Employees
Micro-managing the team can prevent it from achieving strong cohesiveness. However, empowering team members, as in delegating them with authority and furthering their responsibilities, can result in a more independent and cohesive team. This also improves feelings of ownership of the team’s projects and activities, which results in increased job satisfaction.
10. Offer Employee Development Opportunities
It can be a good idea to provide the employees with regular training and education programs that stress the importance of a cohesive team in the workplace.
Employee development helps team members improve their teamwork skills and, consequently, their ability to work together as a cohesive whole.
Team Cohesion – How to Set Goals for Greater Business Efficiency
Appropriate goal setting is known to lead to higher performance, and high-performance teams are crucial for business success. Therefore, managers should seek to set goals for their team that are challenging, yet attainable.
According to this study, 90% of people perform better when given relevant and challenging goals. Also, breaking down ambitious goals into more small, achievable goals, while providing continuous feedback, keeps your team motivated and persistent.
Strong team cohesion has a snowball effect on the positive outcomes of clear and purposeful goal setting, fostering business efficiency.
How and Why to Measure Team Cohesion
Although it’s not impossible to measure team cohesion, it’s certainly not an easy process. Because cohesion is an umbrella term, it doesn’t have a set definition, which makes it much harder to accurately measure it.
Despite the metric issues, measuring team cohesion is important – it makes it possible to assess it. And by being able to assess it, you can more easily perceive how the team’s cohesiveness is developing over time, how teams inside the organization differentiate in cohesion, and what you can change to improve it.
Team cohesion can be formally measured through validated questionnaires that assess the individuals’ perceptions of team cohesion, like the Group Environment Questionnaire (GEQ).
A more informal assessment can be done by asking questions that focus on topics like the degree of closeness between members, the attractiveness of the group to the member, and the resistance to leaving, for example.
Team Cohesion in Sports
A strong cohesion has been linked to athletes’ performance and sports teams’ success. An essential role of the coach is to implement strategies that aim to improve the team’s cohesion.
While the shared goal in sports is usually winning the big tournaments, small improvements in practices can and should be celebrated, too.
Team Cohesion in the Public Services
A great example of team cohesion in public services is the military. The values they share and have pride in are what motivates them to go through the rough years of training and hard work.
And while in mission, “unit cohesion” refers to the bond between soldiers that unifies them and keeps them dedicated to the mission’s accomplishment, despite combat stress. They also excel at organization, communication, and efficiency.
What Can Negatively Affect Team Cohesion?
Some variables can be preventing your team from developing cohesion and plummeting down performance and quality of results.
The following are some of the factors that can negatively impact team cohesiveness that you should be on the lookout for:
Larger Size Teams
The larger the team, the more difficult it is to achieve cohesion. There are fewer face-to-face interactions, so it’s harder to know every single teammate well.
Besides, broader diverse thinking can complicate keeping the entirety of the team in close agreement.
Building team cohesion is a process that can’t be achieved overnight. It is built over time, as team members get to know each other and learn how to work together.
Building trust and forming bonds is a process that can’t be rushed.
Micromanaging a team can undermine its ability to become cohesive, as it causes a strict work environment that demotivates team members.
It also causes problems like poor decision-making, high employee turnover, and decreased productivity.
Groupthink is a common problem in cohesive teams and it occurs when team members strive for consensus, no matter the cost.
It can sometimes mean individuals do not express their true opinions or beliefs as to not disrupt the unanimity of the group.
Setting inappropriate goals can lead to frustration within the team. When goals are unrealistic or downright unattainable, motivation and morale within the team drop, and so does cohesiveness.
Frequently Asked Questions About Team Cohesion
What is Good Team Cohesion?
Good team cohesion occurs when team members develop a strong interpersonal connection between each other and with the identity of the group as a whole. The values they share drives them towards the achievement of a common goal.
Members of a cohesive team also know, respect, and have trust in each other’s abilities. Besides, individuals who are in a cohesive group feel a sense of belonging that improves self-esteem and job satisfaction.
What are the Characteristics of a Cohesive Team?
The key characteristics that make a team cohesive are:
- Strong sense of team identity
- Aligned goals and values
- Emotionally intelligent members
- Open and clear communication
- High level of trust
- Quick conflict resolution
How Does Team Cohesion Affect Performance?
Team cohesion, or more specifically, the task and social dimensions of cohesion, are positively correlated with performance. This means that having a common goal to work towards at and maintaining positive relationships between members is what matters most for increased performance.
To improve these two dimensions and, consequently, team cohesion in general, teams can engage in team-building activities.