Expecting Team Success

Why do some teams succeed while similar teams fail?

Does your team have realistic expectations of success? If so, they will probably succeed. Team efficacy refers to your team’s belief that they will be effective in reaching their goals and achieving good outcomes. These beliefs are built on past experience. If the team has been successful in similar projects they will expect to be successful again. Even in the face of unexpected obstacles, the team will put forth the necessary effort and the persistence to meet their goals. They have staying power when they encounter difficulties or setbacks. Leaders who believe their team will perform well instill efficacy in their team. Teams that have stronger team identity and who value their team membership tend to have higher team efficacy.

If your team has not had any experience in the specific task, they will guesstimate their likelihood of success on the basis of similarity to other, similar tasks they have undertaken. If the team has been not been successful in similar tasks, then they will be unlikely to predict success on the current task. This is problematic – most of the time, people put forth less time and effort if they do not expect to be successful. Under these conditions of less time and effort, the team will not be optimally effective, thus fulfilling their own expectations of failure. It is therefore important to analyze the potential reasons that the previous attempt was not successful and make specific plans on how to overcome the pitfalls of the past. Ideally, the team task can be broken down into smaller sub-tasks and success on each sub-task can be evaluated. As the team is successful at accomplishing the first few sub-tasks, they will modify their level of efficacy to expect better outcomes, leading to more effort, persistence, and better performance.

Sandra Carpenter, Ph.D, Director of Team Development, TEaM, Inc.