Developing effective Filipino work teamsBy Cristina A. Alafriz, Joy Teng-Calleja
Philippine Daily Inquirer
Many of us have at one point been part of a work team. If lucky, we’ve been part of at least one team where extraordinary results were achieved through individual contribution and collective effort.
Is it possible to replicate that experience with a different set of people, a new environment and totally new objectives?
There are more than a hundred Western models of team effectiveness that tell us how to replicate a great team experience. Despite the recognition that national culture shapes corporate culture and management practices, there is little known research in the area of team effectiveness in Philippine organizations.
As such, the Ateneo Center for Organization Research and Development (CORD) embarked on a study to explore the Filipino workers’ understanding of team effectiveness and its antecedent factors.
The study, done in two phases, involved organizations from various sectors. Phase one included interviews and focus group discussions with six high-performing work teams to understand their dynamics, and identify key factors that led to their success. Phase two involved a team effectiveness survey among 418 employees, representing 85 work teams, to validate the factors determined in the first phase.
Results showed that for the typical Filipino worker—apart from clear goals and a collaborative attitude—effective Filipino teams are unique in their emphasis on relationships and mutual concern.
First, the team meets or surpasses their goals, but only when individual team members understand the interconnectivity of their tasks, and are able to accomplish these together.
Second, members uphold a positive attitude toward work. High regard is placed on flexibility—finding creative ways to get a tough job done and willingness to engage in a collective response to colleague’s problem.
Third, dignified work relationships are maintained: Where there is trust, respect and open communication even amid work-related differences and challenges.
While on the surface these are similar to Western models, the underlying force is the collectivist culture and relational aspect. Filipinos put importance on inter-relationships and genuine concern for each other.
There are four key ingredients that lead to the effectiveness of Filipino teams.
Effective Filipino teams have highly competent members, receive more leadership support, have more efficient systems and processes, and have good social relations.
An effective team is not just about having all the positions filled—high-performing teams result from the right combination of competent people.
Organizations should hire people who complement technical capabilities and personal characteristics already present in the team, and can work productively and harmoniously with others.
Learning and development programs also need to be put in place to further strengthen desired competencies and attitudes.
High-performing teams don’t function within a vacuum—they are provided with consistent and strong leadership support. Effective teams are often observed in environments where leaders take an active role in supporting both the team and its members.
When leaders are seen as exercising good judgment, coaching employees and providing required resources, teams are more motivated and engaged. Members appreciate it when they are consulted on matters concerning them.
And, while effective teams often work independently, leaders are expected to regularly monitor team’s directions, performance and work systems, and intervene or provide recognition when necessary.
Effective teams don’t necessarily work harder—they work smarter.
A clear and shared understanding of team purpose, a robust strategy and execution plan and an effective system for prioritization and delegation of tasks are the fundamentals in creating efficient work systems and processes.
With tools like regular planning sessions, coordination meetings and brainstorming discussions, teams are able to improve the way they work and the quality of their output.
When teams work well together, it often feels like play. The fourth essential is good social relations: People enjoy working together, helping each other, listening to and learning from each other, and treating each other with respect.
Social relations are built over time, and can be nourished through structured and unstructured ways such as targeted learning programs, team-building workshops, and shared experiences.
As individuals learn more about their team members beyond work, “malasakit,” or genuine concern and empathy for one other, is created.
As a result, effective Filipino teams genuinely like each other and feel like they belong to a family.
In the end, it’s all about balance!
The findings validate the importance of understanding cultural nuances in managing work teams.
In the context of the highly relational and collectivist Philippine culture, a key for leaders (as well as team members) to create a great team is balance: Focus on task achievement, sensitivity to people’s individual needs, and the team’s collective need for dignified social relationships.
(For further information on this study, Ateneo CORD will be hosting “Trendwatcher Series 21: Developing Effective Filipino Work Teams” on June 20, 1:30 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. at the Ateneo Rockwell. To know more about the upcoming event, visit its website at www.ateneocord.org.ph or call 4266065.)
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