Cohesiveness: How We Use Maths To Improve Teamwork

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We are using the BOMDAS formula to strengthen our relationships in teams.

It is an acronym that depicts the order of operation:

Brackets| Of | Multiplication | Division |Addition | Subtraction

We are dealing with Brackets. Brackets speak to inclusion; belonging.

Belonging is essential if the team is to achieve high levels of success – in our homes, in our workplaces, and in any group. Groups experience different levels of bonding, unity or team spirit – what I call cohesiveness.

Yet, cohesiveness plays such a critical role in the life they experience.

History is replete with records of sports teams that triumphed primarily on the basis of their cohesiveness while the loser’s column is filled with those who were caught up in on and off the field strife and disunity.

Why is cohesiveness – bonding, unity, team spirit – so important? The oft used –Together Each Achieves More applies. Group work is more effective that independent individual effort.

It is useful to examine what is a team and why they add value.

My preferred definition is:

A team is a small number of people with complementary skills who are committed to a common purpose, set of performance goals and approaches for which they hold themselves mutually accountable.

What can we learn from this definition?

A. People with complementary skills.

Team work incorporating Team Cohesiveness does NOT mean that everybody has to be same. Successful teams need people to bring different talents, perspectives and ideas to the table.

One sign of a successful team is the fact that it helps its members to achieve self-fulfillment. Team leaders must empower team members.

B. People who are committed to a common purpose.

The glue that holds the team together is the commitment to the common purpose. Without the commitment to the common purpose the team loses its compass.

Without the commitment to the common purpose, members do not have any point of reference that can hold them together. It is like using rubber bands to tie a team of wild horses together.

Commitment has two distinct and critically important components:

1. There must be a clearly identified purpose that is understood in the same way by all the members of the team.

2. The second component is that all the members of a functional team commit to the same understanding of the common purpose.

One indelible sign of a dysfunctional team is the fact that some members are wavering in their commitment to the common purpose.

C. People who are committed to a set of performance goals and approaches.

  •  Successful teams know where they are going. They also know how they are going to get there. In addition, they know if they are on track.
  • Successful teams are clear on the strategies and the activities that will lead them to the achievement of the common purpose.
  • Successful teams have guidelines and yardsticks that indicate to them whether they are on course or not.
  • ​Successful teams do not lose bearing and lose momentum because they have set performance goals that keep them on track.

In successful teams members:

  •  Know and commit to the performance goals. They understand that the guidelines and yardsticks are tied to the attainment of the common purpose.
  • Understand and buy into an agreed approach that is tied to performance goals that lead to attainment of the common purpose.
  • Do NOT come up with their own approaches and guidelines as they deem fit. This issue of the importance of commitment to the team and its values is not widely understood and accepted. That is why there is so much conflict and lack of cohesiveness in households, in work groups, in organizations, in communities and the wider society.

D. Team members must be mutually accountable.

Without accountability things fall apart. Great teams accept the need for discipline and team members are open to receiving feedback.

LEADERSHIP has a critical role in addressing these issues.  The upcomingSHRM accredited 3-D Leader Certification deals directly with those challenges among others. It deals frontally with successfully leading difficult, dominant and diverse team members.

Trevor E S Smith is a Behaviour Modification Coach with the Success with People Academy which is recognized by the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) to offer Professional Development Credits (PDCs) for the SHRM-CPSM or SHRM-SCPSM Certifications.

Home of the ICF accredited “Certified Behavioural Coach Award.”

Joint venture partner Extended DISC/FinxS

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How To Use A Math Formula To Improve Teamwork

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At school I learned the life-saving BOMDAS formula without which solving Algebra problems would be impossible.

The order of operation should be:

Brackets | Of  | Multiplication  | Division  | Addition |  Subtraction

Here is an example:

Solve: 7 + (6 + 3) x 5 – 4 ÷ 2

Step 1 [Brackets]:  7+ 9 x 5 – 4 ÷ 2

Step 2 [Multiplication & Division]: 7 + 45 – 2

Step 3 [Addition]: 52 – 2

Step 4 [Subtraction]: 50

Answer = 50

I want to explore with you its application in the realm of teamwork and healthy relationships. Applying the BOMDAS rules creatively could help address some of the challenges that produce a lack of cooperation in groups at a time when effective teamwork is critical for success.

Brackets

The brackets represent both inclusion and exclusion. It indicates that the things within the brackets have something in common that sets them apart from things outside. It also dictates that the things within the brackets should be given similar treatment.

Let’s now take the leap from the abstract to the real live challenge of working cohesively with others.

The first concept is “Belonging”.

One common problem in dysfunctional teams is the failure of members to identify with the team. They don’t see themselves as being part of the whole that is bonded by common objectives and shared goals.

The brackets say – there is a bond that ties us together. The on the ground reality is that many speak of their teams in terms of they instead of we.

Other tell-tale signs that the brackets are meaningless include the fact that team successes are not celebrated as personal successes. It is like a disgruntled player coming home to report that they won the match. After investigation you realize that it is actually his team that won. From the bench he does not see himself as belonging in the team and so he refers to his team as they.

Today’s crisis of low employee engagement has some of its roots in the fact that some team members feel like bystanders rather than being actively engaged in the field of play.

Do a bit of investigative work over the next days and listen carefully to the dialogue of colleagues – your team and other groups. See how often you can detect pride in the accomplishments of the group to which the individual belongs.

In cohesive and functional teams the pride comes from just being a part of the team. Members champion the cause of the team as a whole and each member individually. Team member Jenny’s graduation is ours. In a real sense it might be because we helped so much with her research projects and proof reading her submissions!

That is the spirit that fuels high performing teams and tightly connected groups.

Meanwhile, back in dysfunctional land, Desmond has been like a zombie since he was passed over for the Team Leader role. He might not openly tear down what Martha puts forward but his lack of interest cannot be missed. It is also noticeable that people who were close to Desmond and who felt that he should have got the promotion are also not engaged.  The separation is not only mental as they have now started to eat as a clique in a corner of the lunch room.

This team is on a downward spiral and the impact will soon be evident in their key performance indicators (KPIs).

Unfortunately, it is Martha’s responsibility as Team Leader to solve the problem. She may not have appointed herself but now it is her job to get the best from her team.

She needs to have a heart-to-heart talk with Desmond. She can share that she has observed that he is not the dynamic, vibrant person of three months ago and she would like to discuss the change. She needs to steer clear of even a hint of accusation with respect to his lack of support.

One strategy that might work well for Martha is for her to find some solution – a role, maybe – that helps Desmond to save face and feel better about himself. Could she identify a discrete part of her responsibility and invite him to take charge of it without weakening her authority?

That could produce the benefits of getting Desmond engaged once more while giving her the opportunity to focus on other areas. Of course, if Desmond messes up that would provide grounds for another conversation.

Leading teams is a challenging endeavor that requires a cross-section of well-developed competences. Formal ongoing professional development is essential.

Trevor E S Smith is a Behaviour Modification Coach with the Success with People Academy which is recognized by the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) to offer Professional Development Credits (PDCs) for the SHRM-CPSM or SHRM-SCPSM Certifications.

Home of the ICF accredited “Certified Behavioural Coach Award.”

Joint venture partner Extended DISC/FinxS Caribbean …world leading behavioral assessment solutions.