Seven Behaviors to Advance Teamwork

Journal Club: Weberg, D., & Weberg, K. (2014). Seven behaviors to advance teamwork: findings from a study of innovation leadership in a simulation center. Nursing administration quarterly, 38(3), 230-237. [abstract]

This article discusses leadership as a team dynamic and presents 7 characteristics of innovation leadership that support the work of teams. The belief that traditional notions of individual-based leadership behaviors are now no longer adequate to achieve innovation in health care organizations. The idea is for everyone in an organization to lead, at the same time in meaningful teamwork, and in dynamic ways.

To better understand how group interactions can facilitate innovation, build the future of health care, and describe how “everyone can be a leader,” there is a need to shift from individual centric leadership notions and embrace leadership as a team dynamic.

The 7 innovation characteristics are:

  1. Boundary spanning,
  2. Risk taking,
  3. Visioning,
  4. Leveraging opportunity,
  5. Adaptation,
  6. Coordination of information flow,
  7. And facilitation.

Leadership As A Team Dynamic

“As information, globalization, and technology continue to grow and impact organizations, the traditional conceptualization of the leader as an individual is no longer adequate. Command-and-control methodologies, prevalent in traditional leadership theories, restrict information and create a culture of reliance on the leader for all answers. The literature describes how innovation leadership provides evidence that organizations that support team leadership behaviors have significantly better success in improving innovation and organizational outcomes than those supporting only the traditional hierarchal power structures. Team-based programs that focus on communication, coordination, and cooperation have been shown to improve patient fall rates, team work in times of crisis, and enhance a culture of safety in health care organizations.”

Moving Away from Command and Control Leadership

To innovate, evolve and achieve innovative outcomes, organisations should:

  • move away from command and control centric models of leadership,
  • support the development of diverse teams and promote collaboration among these teams.

The leadership model involves one of shared accountability and networked decision making. Innovation is influenced by more team-centric leadership behaviors, such as engaging the organizational network and proactively seeking out innovations. Weberg & Weberg state that examples of the traditional models of leadership can be seen in physician-centric models of care, poor performing unit-based teams, and requirements for executive approvals for small tests of change.

Developing Diverse and Collaborative Teams

“Creating diverse teams with members who have differing influence and viewpoints allows for disruptive convergence of information that may lead to innovation. Research has demonstrated support for
team diversity as a nonlinear characteristics of high-performing teams. Teams with too much diversity in opinion and direction and lacking leadership behaviors tended to become stuck in argument. In contrast, high performing teams were able to oscillate between diverse discussions with ease, demonstrating the right amount of heterogeneity. Sustaining diverse teams requires organizational support and structure that promote relationship-based communication and collaboration among the teams.The creation of a relationship-oriented culture in which information and ideas are exchanged through interconnectedness and open communication leads to higher-performing teams and can directly impact the care of patients.”

Seven Characteristics Of Innovation Leadership

Weberg & Weberg state “it is important to consider the team-based approach to leadership, in which a mixture of leadership characteristics is displayed by different people, regardless of their role, at various times. The implementation of an innovation is not a single planned event but rather the synthesis of multiple interactions and changes that occur as the innovation is introduced into the system.

1. Boundary Spanning

Boundary spanning is the process of team members in a system making connections to
otherwise unconnected groups. In traditional leadership, boundary spanning is reserved for
top levels of the organizational hierarchy. In innovative organizations, boundary spanning is encouraged and facilitated at all levels of the organization. Boundary spanning can also disrupt linear thinking by creating networks and experiences that challenge inadequate assumptions.

2. Risk Taking

Risk-taking behaviors are reflective of a team’s ability to process new information and determine a lack of fit between the information and the organizational structure and culture. Many risk-taking behaviors focus on trial-and-error efforts to test different technologies and implementation strategies in order to determine the best fit with the organization.

3. Visioning

Creating a vision of the future requires collaboration between networks of agents. Instead of an executive leader spending significant amounts of time creating a compelling vision of the future in a silo, teams including frontline managers, directors, and subject matter experts can be connected and interviewed to create the shared vision of the future

4. Leveraging opportunity

Leveraging opportunity occurs when conflict and divergence are identified, and an organization utilizes this awareness to problem-solve and identify opportunities for improvement and innovation. When a vision is shared among a team rather than kept within a formal leader, the opportunities for identifying divergence multiplies and the effort to leverage these opportunities become more diverse, inclusive and focused.

5. Adaption

To quickly and effectively respond to the changing environment in health care, a leader must be able to effectively adapt his or her roles, messages, and strategies. As information is shared, and interpretation and behavior adaptation occur in response, so does the relationship between teams and team members. Therefore, teams that display adaptation to these pressures have improved ability to innovate, adapt, and move on.

6. Coordination of Information Flow

Leaders who can effectively gather and share resources are better positioned to overcome stagnate organizational structures. The transfer of information within an organization requires the collaboration and participation of various agents, therefore, supporting the need for teams built on connections and relationships within a system. An innovation leader is able to open information flow into the system and help the team begin to process and make sense of it.

7. Facilitation

Team-based leadership relies on the notion that all people demonstrate various leadership characteristics at different times, regardless of their formal role. Facilitation is accomplished through building relationships, gaining understanding, and connecting the day-to-day work of the organization with the larger organizational mission/vision.”

Conclusion 

Health care leaders may stand to benefit significantly from understanding and facilitating the 7 characteristics of innovation leadership. The term “leader” according to Weberg & Weberg refers to all individuals in the organization who administrate, enable, and adapt novel solutions to complex situations.

Reference

Weberg, D., & Weberg, K. (2014). Seven behaviors to advance teamwork: findings from a study of innovation leadership in a simulation center. Nursing administration quarterly, 38(3), 230-237. [abstract]

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