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November 13, 2023 | 3 Mins Read

An Organizational Scientist’s Take on Team Building

November 13, 2023 | 3 Mins Read

An Organizational Scientist’s Take on Team Building


By Sarah Nicastro, Creator, Future of Field Service

On a recent podcast, I spoke to Dr. Josh Elmore, Principal Consultant at Court Street Consulting and Adjunct Professor at both Columbia University and the City University of New York, about how industrial and social organizational psychology affect leadership and team building efforts.

We talked about the history and evolution of organizational and industrial psychology, and how the focus had shifted from managing environments to understanding motivations and incentives among employees and team members along different tiers of interaction. When it comes to getting teams to move in one direction toward an organizational goal, this type of analysis can be helpful in terms of finding ways to achieve buy-in and avoiding burn out.

I asked Josh about the concept of team facilitation, which in his work as a consultant often involves getting leaders to regularly check in with team members and really listen to what they are saying about new policies, workflows, communication, and decision-making processes and roles. This is especially critical for teams that may be working remotely or in a hybrid environment.

Leaders also need to give team members space to talk about some of these issues that are not part of their daily work processes. 

“Oftentimes that space needs to be intentionally developed,” Josh said. “[H]aving some support and having the ability to get folks together and start coordinating your effort and building that continuous practice of just checking in and making sure that … you're all heading towards the same destination [is important], and also creating space to where people can think creatively and bring up challenges as they come along so it doesn't build up.”

Josh also outlined some best practices for what he calls team hygiene. Leaders need to make sure that teams are coordinated, that there is sufficient communication, that members are delivering on their agreed upon goals, and that no one feels like the effort is not evenly distributed. 

The Importance of Continuous Listening

He also described a model for change management built on continuous listening. That means team members have the ability to provide feedback while the change is ongoing. This builds a conversation and gradually helps everyone get on the same page. 

“However you frame your change management initiative, you're always going to have pushback,” Josh said. “Where are you going to have resistance? Where are you going to have folks that are on board and championing the change? And as you build out this apparatus, this scaffolding for the organization, which is out of your leadership in change, you can test ideas.”

In many organizations, there is seemingly constant change and evolution as companies innovate and reorganize around those innovations. Josh recommended that leaders reframe the environment as fluid and dynamic, so that everyone can come to terms with the non-stop evolution. 

“It doesn't necessarily make sense to frame things as stable if they're not,” he said. But instead of having that instability make the team nervous or anxious, it can be presented as an opportunity for growth and innovation. “Things are happening here, and it can be exciting. It could be a motivator as opposed to something you should be afraid of.“

As a lot of other experts I have spoken to emphasized, Josh said that regular communication is critical to this process. The more you involve team members and employees in the process, the more you (as a leader) are going to learn to improve how you introduce and deploy new procedures and technologies. 

“I think being in that process of evolution is not easy. And if it's not easy for you, it's not easy for everyone else,“ he said. “And so if you're a leader, how do you make it easier for everyone else, or at least make them feel bought into the process?“

You can listen to the entire podcast here.