Evaluate ways of establishing a supportive team climate

Module 2 – Home


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Supportive Team Climates



Modular Learning Outcomes


Upon successful completion of this module, the student will be able to satisfy the following outcomes:


•Case ◦Discuss and evaluate ways of establishing a supportive team climate.


•SLP ◦Identify and analyze your own team climate and how the choice of collaborative tools influences effectiveness.


•Discussion ◦Develop tips for virtual teams with your virtual team members.




Module Overview


This module is concerned with the social context of effective teams. The task here is to encourage people to work together. The underlying question is “What does it take to build a strong sense of connection between and among team members?”


To do this, we will be considering three different team-building processes:

•Establishing Interdependence

•Management and Team Competencies/Conditions

•Selecting the Appropriate Collaboration Tools




Fostering a sense of interdependence is critical to team functioning. Each member must feel that he or she is accountable to all other team members and that the other team members can rely on him or her. There are three factors that must be managed during this process.


Team members must feel a sense of connection on two levels. The first is task connection. This involves a commitment on the part of each member to the goals of the team. The second is interpersonal connection, which leads to information sharing, loyalty, and trust.

2.Barriers to Connection

Perhaps the greatest challenge in building connection is establishing clear and open communication. This can be especially difficult in virtual teams because the lack of face-to-face contact limits many avenues of communication. Typically, interactions in virtual teams lack nonverbal communication and involve less rich channels. In addition, the isolation and anonymity of members can lead to less inhibited and more assertive interactions than might be expected in a co-located team. Finally, cultural differences/diversity can further inhibit clear information exchange.

3.Purpose and Goal Clarity

Purpose and goal clarity are the essential ingredients in building both task and interpersonal connection. Shared vision is more important than detailed implementation plans, and trust must be built early. Trust is the “social glue” that holds teams together and may develop more slowly in virtual teams than in co-located ones.


Management and Team Competencies/Conditions


A supportive team climate does not emerge naturally. It requires that management and team members commit to certain conditions and develop specific competencies that will encourage and support connection and interdependence. These include:

1.Creative Tension

In order for teams to take advantage of differing perspectives, opinions, and approaches, the team climate should be characterized by what is called “creative tension.” This involves an environment where differing points of view are accepted and members feel comfortable and safe in contributing their ideas. Input from all members is encouraged and honesty is a norm that is supported—even when that honesty means that others’ views are questioned. On the other hand, unwarranted criticism is not a characteristic of creative tension.


Supportive climates for teamwork are those that present the task in a challenging manner. This may involve an urgent deadline, a perplexing problem to solve, or just a change from the routine way of approaching the task.


This involves the ability to pull together and work collaboratively on a difficult task. It involves a certain “surrendering” of the ego in order to set aside one’s own personal interests in favor of those of the group. It is a competency that is essential to interdependence and effective team functioning.


Management must be willing to grant the team freedom from micromanagement, excessive surveillance, or other forms of intrusive evaluation. Freedom also involves the autonomy to determine how work is scheduled and accomplished.


Management and team members can greatly increase team effectiveness by encouraging and empowering the group to take initiative. It should resist the temptation to rely on the status quo, but instead urge the team to discover new methods and solutions.


The willingness of individual team members and the organization to commit sufficient resources is essential. Resources can include time, effort, information, technology, funds, and manpower.


Selecting the Appropriate Collaboration Tools


One of the fastest growing fields in information technology is the development of collaboration tools. This is a good thing for teams of all sorts but is especially critical to virtual teams whose very existence depends on these tools.


Virtual teams may use a number of collaboration tools such as:

•Conference Calls

•Video Conferences


•Application Sharing Tools


•Other tools


In considering how to build supportive team climates, the choice of the correct collaboration tools can make or break a team’s effectiveness. We will be reviewing the types of resources that are available and examining the factors that managers and teams must consider in order to choose and implement the most appropriate tools for the task.


Communication Challenges in Virtual Teams


Dispersion is the most obvious challenge virtual teams face. Since they are not co-located, team members must overcome obstacles raised by differing time zones, differing levels of technical availability and proficiency, and differing cultures.


The very speed of communication that technology makes possible creates difficulties that also must be managed. With greater use of rapid communication technologies, there may be less time to carefully encode and process information. Information overload is possible when it is easy to replicate and distribute large amounts of data. Finally, when the technology is asynchronous (see below), there can be delays in feedback.


Many of the methods of communication used by virtual teams lack in “richness.” Media Richness Theory is a framework that categorizes communications methods according to the amount of information if is capable of conveying. For example, a phone call correctly conveys the sender’s words, but cannot transmit non-verbal messages such as gestures or facial expressions. This makes it inferior to video conferencing, which is able to communicate body language, at least to some extent. Importantly, Media Richness Theory makes us realize that the more unstructured and uncertain a task is, the more we need a rich type of media that is capable of handling ambiguous messages. This is a particularly important consideration virtual teams. In working with virtual teams, we must be continually aware of how our messages are understood or interpreted. Often, we think we are being clear about our comments or instructions, when the receiver of the message is confused or even insulted. Read the following short article about Media Richness Theory:


Cordialism. (2011) Media Richness Theory. Retrieved from https://cordialism.wordpress.com/2011/11/25/media-richness-theory/


Synchronous vs. Asynchronous Modes of Communication


One of the main decisions that teams need to make in choosing the appropriate resources for collaboration is whether to use synchronous or asynchronous tools. This deals with the issues of time and place. Teams can be either co-located or dispersed (place), and even if co-located, members may not all be available at the same time. The chart below illustrates some of the methods and products that are appropriate for different conditions of time and space. (from http://www.seanet.com/~daveg/technolo.htm)


Same Place


Different Place



Same Time


Face-to-Face Meetings, Open Space Technology (PCs, Electronic Whiteboards, Projectors)


Virtual Meetings, Distance Learning, Help Desks, Telework, Group Authoring, Video Conferencing, Open Space Technology (Live Meeting, NetMeeting, Interwise, WebEx, Instant Messaging, Windows Messaging, PCs, Electronic Whiteboards, Projectors, Cameras, Telephones, Audio Bridges, Moodle)

Different Time

Team Rooms

Electronic Mail, Group Time Management, Distance Learning, Wikis, Podcasts, Computer Conferencing (Outlook, Voice Mail, Telephones, Groove, Moodle)




Module 2 – Background


Supportive Team Climates


Start by reading the information and articles on the home page for this module. On this home page, task and interpersonal connection were cited as being essential to building high-performance teams. In the following article, read another viewpoint on how to build connection. Try to determine which of the activities the author describes build task commitment (goal clarity), and interpersonal commitment (loyalty, trust, and information sharing). Consider how you could accomplish these activities in a virtual team.


Ferrazzi K. (2014) Managing Yourself. Harvard Business Review 92(12):120-123. (Available in Business Source Complete)

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