Working with Others

Site: RRU Open Educational Resources
Course: OER-TMSWC: TeamsWork Moodle Course - Master Course
Book: Working with Others
Printed by: Guest user
Date: Monday, 21 September 2020, 6:30 AM


This unit is designed to give you the opportunity to discuss and explore your group dynamics. You will gain an understanding and awareness surrounding diversity in teams, while identifying team goals, roles and responsibilities within your team.  


This unit is packed full of key material that will support you on your team building journey. Through research, such as Randall Hansen’s Team Study, team’s have been utilized by academic institutes for many years with mixed results. One of the biggest problems is the placement of students on teams with little or no guidance on 'how to' function and subsequently perform in a team. We want you to maximize the benefits of team assignments and we will provide you with some deeper understanding and awareness surrounding team formation, process and diversity (cultural, social etc.)

In this unit we also identify your team goals for accomplishing work, establishing roles and responsibilities of individual members. You will capitalize on individuals’ strengths and interests when deciding roles. At the end of this unit you will have established a team agreement with clear expectations of behaviour and conduct, roles and responsibilities.

Team Performance Curve

The Team Performance Curve traces the development of a team from the beginning stage of Working Group through the ultimate goal of becoming a High-Performance Team. Moving along the curve and becoming more effective and better-performing involves taking risks, dealing with problems and concerns, patience, time, and commitment.

Royal Roads strives to create a learning environment where team members learn about and experience the differences between working groups, pseudo-teams, potential teams, and even real teams. Practically, most student teams function somewhere between working groups and potential teams, and with conscious effort can also experience the performance and effectiveness of a real team.  

Team Performance Curve

Image retrieved from Changing Winds

Working group: in a working group, “members interact primarily to share information, best practices, or perspectives and to make decisions to help each individual perform (p. 91).”

Pseudo-team: in a pseudo-team, members have not shaped a common purpose or goals. They almost always experience conflict and produce suboptimal work because their “interactions detract from each member’s individual performance without delivering any joint benefit (p. 91).” Members on a pseudo-team receive limited benefit from coaching because members have not committed to letting go of personal needs and goals in favour of shared needs and goals (cooperation).

Potential team: in a potential team, members are actively cooperating and trying to improve its performance and effectiveness, but also needs greater clarity about purpose and “more discipline in hammering out a common working approach (p. 91).” Coaching benefits potential teams by helping them clarify their purpose and providing tactics and tools for working together.

Real team: in a real team, members are “equally committed to a common purpose, goals, and working approach for which they hold themselves mutually accountable (p. 92).” Real teams seek coaching as needed, based on their own assessment of their performance and effectiveness.

High performance team: a high performance team is a real team that has members who are deeply committed to one another’s growth and success. Because of this commitment, high performance teams significantly outperform all reasonable expectations.


The wisdom of teams: Creating the high-performance organization, Jon R. Katzenbach and Douglas K. Smith

The 3 Cs: Collaboration, Cooperation, Coordination

The 3 Cs

Image retrieved from Lib Journal

We are going to explore various theories and team development rationale that will help you to better understand why Royal Road's has adopted Team Based Learning as a pillar of their learning and teaching model. The '3 C's: Cooperation, Coordination and Collaboration' looks at stages teams can evolve through.

Cooperation: individuals exchange relevant information and resources in support of each other’s goals rather than a shared goal. When cooperation occurs, something new may be achieved, but it typically comes from the individual, not a collective team effort.

Coordination: resources and information are shared so each party can accomplish their part in support of a mutual objective. However, in coordination, nothing new is created.

Coordination requires members to sacrifice some personal needs and goals for the team’s needs and goals. At this phase of development, teams have the potential to overcome the limits of individual members and produce work that express shared effort and insight. This aligns with the potential team on the team performance curve.

Collaboration: working together to create something new in support of a shared vision. The most important process is to get people to work on the same goals. Collaboration is not an individual effort. Something new is created and the glue is the “shared vision.”

Collaborative teams align with real teams on the team performance curve. Collaborative teams synergistically combine the skills, knowledge, and insights of all its members to achieve its goals. Often, the projects of collaborative teams are beyond the capacity of any individual team member, and as such are truly innovative. At this stage of development, it is likely the team can function independent of support from faculty and staff, and is likely to be able to ask for help where and when needed. True collaboration takes significant effort from everyone on the team.

Active Learning

Royal Roads & Social Constructivism

Royal Road's Educational learning and teaching model is grounded in a social constructivist learning model, with key components such as team learning, experiential and practical real world learning, and student-centered curriculum. Team Based Learning is a component, that requires you to learn from interacting and collaborating with team members, faculty, staff and community.

What is Social Constructivism Learning?

Social constructivism emphasis is on the collaborative nature of learning and the importance of cultural and social context. Lev Vygotsky (1934) developed Social Constructivism Theory and emphasized the role of language and culture in cognitive development and in how we perceive the world and develop frameworks through which we experience, communication and understand reality.

Vygotsky believed that theorists such as Piaget overlooked the essential social nature of language and subsequently failed to see that learning is a collaborative process. Vygotsky states that all cognitive functions originate in, and are explained as products of social interactions. Learning is more than the assimilation of new knowledge by learners; it is the process that learners are integrated into a knowledge community.

In the 1980’s Vygotsky and Dewey’s research and Piaget's work in developmental psychology blended into the broad approach of constructivism. The basic tenet of constructivism is that students learn by doing rather than observing. Students bring prior knowledge into a learning situation in which they must critique and re-evaluate their understanding of it. This process of interpretation, articulation, and re-evaluation is repeated until they can demonstrate their comprehension of the subject.

Zone of Proximal Development

Vygotsky believed that learning takes place within the Zone of Proximal Development. In this place, students can, with help from others who are more advanced, master concepts or ideas they could not understand on their own. This relates to teams at RRU, as you are constantly learning from others, and at times you are able to learn and gain deeper understanding from those that may have more experience or understanding.

The Zone of Proximal Development

Image retrieved from Cuppa Cocoa

The model has two developmental ideas:

  1. The level of actual development- the point the learner has already reached and can problem-solve independently.
  2. The level of potential development- the point the learner is capable of reaching under the guidance of teachers or in collaboration with peers or team.

The Zone of Proximal Development is the level where learning takes place. It comprises cognitive structures that are still in the process of maturing, but which can only mature under the guidance of or in collaboration with others.


Education Theory, Open Education Resources of UCD Teaching and Learning

Education Theory: Zone of Proximal, Open Education Resources of UCD Teaching and Learning, May, 2017of UCD Teaching and Learning, University College Dublin

Kolb's Learning Loop

Kolb's Experiential Learning Cycle

Image retrieved from NW Link

Hopefully now you can start to understand some deeper theory and rationale of why team work supports adult development and education. Experiential Learning (developed by David Kolb) is another theory that emphasizes the central role that experience plays in the learning process.

There are four stages:

Concrete Experience: Doing something where the individual or teams are assigned a task. Key to learning is active involvement. In Kolb’s model one cannot learn by simply watching or reading about it, to learn effectively there must be doing.

Reflective Observation: The second stage is pausing and taking a step back from the doing to reflect on what has been done and experienced. Lots of questions are asked and open communication is important.

Abstract Conceptualization: The third stage is the process of making sense of what has happened and interpreting events and understanding the relationships between them. At this stage the learner(s) make comparisons between what they have done, reflect upon and what they already know. They present models, look deeper at theories and facts.

Active Experimentation: The final stage of the learning cycle is the ‘how’ of the learning. The learner considers how they are going to put what they learnt into practice. The learner takes the new understanding and learning and decides what actions should be taken to refine and revise. It is important that the learning is made relevant and meaningful to the lives of the learners.

Learn more about David Kolb's Theory on Experiential Learning

Team Development

Now it's time to explore how your team can build and develop a high functioning team

Mind Tools, an online skills building website, explains that rapport isn’t just a tool for building relationships; it’s often the foundation of success. When you have built rapport with someone, you’re better placed to influence, learn and teach, particularly as the trust that you’ve built up means other people are more likely to accept ideas, to share information and to create opportunities together. Whether you are being interviewed for a job, selling something or improving team relationships knowing how to build rapport can help you perform successfully.

Rapport forms meaningful, close, harmonious relationships amongst people. It is connection that you get when you meet someone you like and trust and whose point of view you understand. Rapport can also be built and developed by finding common ground, finding a connection or bond and being empathetic.

Researchers Linda Tickle-Degnen and Robert Rosenthal state that when you have rapport with someone you share:

  • Mutual Attentiveness: you are both focused on, and interested in, what the other person is saying or doing
  • Positivity: you show care and concern for one another
  • Coordination: you feel ‘in sync’ with one another and share a common understanding. you adjust your energy levels, tone and body language to create a positive interaction

Mind Tools Tip: Rapport is similar to trust. You can build trust and rapport simultaneously, but rapport focuses more on establishing a bond or connection, where trust relies more on establishing a reputation for reliability, consistency and keeping your promises.


MindTools, Building Rapport.

Strategies for Building Rapport

Here are some strategies for building rapport:

  • Good communication: be culturally appropriate, smile, engage in active listening and questioning
  • Find common ground: show genuine interest, ask open-ended questions, be genuine, share laughter
  • Create shared experience: collaborate to solve and define problems, devise solutions and design strategies
  • Be empathetic: understand different perspectives and recognize emotions- ask open ended questions, give space for them to talk and listen actively
  • Naturally mirror and match: watch body language (gesture, expressions, postures), use similar language (volume, tone and tempo)

Re-establishing rapport takes time if it has been lost. First, address why rapport was lost. Be honest and humble with what happened and apologize if needed. Next, focus on ways of repairing broken trust , be transparent and genuine with next steps and actively demonstrate.

Strategies for Building Trust

“A team without trust isn't really a team: it's just a group of individuals, working together, often making disappointing progress. They may not share information, they might battle over rights and responsibilities, and they may not cooperate with one another. It doesn't matter how capable or talented your people are, they may never reach their full potential if trust isn't present... However, when trust is in place, each individual in the team becomes stronger, because he or she is part of an effective, cohesive group. When people trust one another, the group can achieve truly meaningful goals.” Mind Tools

Trust builds psychological safety, when safety is present team members feel they can open up, take risks and be vulnerable. Without trust there is less collaboration, creativity and productivity. Trust is needed for knowledge sharing, which is essential for successful learning and assignment completion.

Strategies for Building Trust:

  • Lead by example: show that you trust others
  • Open communication: create team agreements and team building exercises
  • Know each other personally: inquire and be curious, but not invasive
  • No blame: people make honest mistakes and disappointments happen, think of mistakes constructively
  • Discourage cliques: cliques can make people feel isolated, open discussions about how the team feels about cliques

Read building trust virtually

Watch Brene Brown’s renowned Ted Talks about trust, connection and vulnerability.

Cultural Dimensions that Affect Teamwork

Royal Road’s University classrooms are becoming culturally diverse, giving rise to new challenges and rewards for your learning in teams. Students from different cultures differ in their orientation to communication styles, time, power distance, collectivism and individualism, and task vs. relationship focus. These differences can result in conflict, and can also support success if facilitated well. In other words, when conflicts arise in teamwork, the emphasis is on creating shared understanding and team norms. Instead of a "your way or my way" mentality for adaption, RRU faculty and students must jointly invent “our way”.

There are underlying cultural differences that contribute to the challenges in coming to a shared meaning on culturally diverse teams. With an awareness of these cultural dimensions, students can better navigate cultural differences on teams. Scholars highlight several diversity variables that impact teams, including:

  • direct vs. indirect communication
  • polychromic vs. monochronic
  • large vs. small power distance
  • individualistic vs. collectivist orientation
  • confrontation vs. harmonious conflict style
  • task vs. relationship orientation.

Not sure what these terms mean? Read on, for a deeper dive and explanation!

Direct vs Indirect Communication

High context cultures are those in which the rule of communication are primarily transmitted through the use of contextual elements (i.e. body language, a person’s status, and tone of voice) are not explicitly stated. In contrast, low-context cultures communicate primarily through language and rules that are explicitly spelled out.

High context cultures value indirect styles of communication.

  • For example, speakers rely less on spoken words to convey meaning and intention because it is assumed the receiver can interpret the message based on their shared knowledge about the situation.

Low context cultures value direct styles of communication.

  • For example, speakers use explicit language to express meaning and intention.

How does this relate to team work?

Misunderstanding can easily occur in teamwork when students with direct styles of communication, while intending to be clear and effective, offend those who are used to indirect styles of communication. The indirect communicators who want to be polite and preserve harmony of the group can frustrate the direct communicators.

Polychronic vs Monochromic Time Orientation

People from different cultures view and use time differently.

Polychronic time orientation refers to the cultures where people tend to view time as a fluid concept go with the “flow” of the time. Time-based schedule is followed loosely, and changes or interruptions are viewed as a normal part of the routine. For example: In polychromic cultures, it is more acceptable for a meeting to continue until everyone feels the discussion has come to a natural conclusion.

Monochronic time orientation refers to the cultures that set their tasks to a clock. Punctuality and single focus in a given timeframe is the norm for monochronic cultures. Exact time allocated for certain task is to be followed. For example in monochronic cultures people will be more inclined to end a meeting “on time: and attend to the next task on the schedule.

Large vs Small Power Distance

Power distance describes people’s perception toward power distribution, hierarchy and status in a group. A large power distance indicates that hierarchy is important and people communicate and behave according to their roles and status. A small power distance flattens the hierarchy. Egalitarian principles are highly values in cultures with small power distances.

How will this show up in your team?

In a team learning environment, you will have your own interpretation of how to behave according to roles, as well as expectations about how leadership should be experienced.

Students from a low power distance culture may expect a less “formal” feel to their team interaction. Exchanging jokes and questioning each other are the norm. For students who come from a high power distance culture, these behaviours may create discomfort as they perceive the team members not taking things seriously. They may also become isolated on peer teams without orientation to the structure and direction provided by form leadership, such as faculty or an assigned team leader.

Individualistic vs Collectivistic Orientation

Individualistic cultures value the autonomy and independence of an individual whereas collectivistic cultures value interdependence and group identity.

When conducting teamwork, members’ collectivistic or individualistic orientation can come into play when prioritizing and negotiating roles, responsibilities, and rewards. In an individualistic environment, students from cultures that value a higher degree of interdependence have limited social networks from which to draw support for learning and success. The lack of support can also negatively impact loyalty to team processes and outcomes.

Confrontation Conflict Style vs Harmony Conflict Style

While working in teams, there may be conflict that you will need to resolve. Since different cultures manage conflict in different ways, understanding this fact will promote conflict resolution.

Some cultures prefer to tackle conflict head on and speak openly about the issues in order to resolve them. Other cultures favor an approach that maintains the harmony within the team even at the risk of leaving the conflict issue insufficiently addressed. When these two styles co-exist within a team, there should be agreement and sensitivity in balancing the needs of “grabbing the bull by the horns” and “keeping the peace”.

Task vs. Relationship Orientation

Cultures also differ in ways of managing relationships. Some cultures place a stronger emphasis on harmonious relationships over task completion. Teamwork is ripe with opportunities for cultural conflict when it comes to competing priorities of relationships and tasks.

Team members may limit constructive criticism for fear of damaging team relationships. Task-orientated members may just want to "get down to business" while the relationship orientated members want to invest time building trust in the process. Relationship-oriented members may be perceived as delaying the process of the teamwork by focusing on the social process.

RRU Team Expectations

Student Conduct Policy

Royal Roads University recognizes that students have rights and responsibilities within our learning community.

Every student is bound by the general guidelines laid out in the Policy on Student Rights and Responsibilities. Guidelines 3.0 and 4.0 are relevant to student teams.

  • 3.0 Students have the right to a University community characterized by mutual respect and equal opportunity. Students have the right to study in a safe environment where their physical and psychological well-being is protected.
  • 4.0 Students have the responsibility to treat all members of the University community with respect, in learning environments and in all other interactions. Students have the responsibility not to engage in behaviour that a reasonable person should reasonably know is unsafe or inappropriate and not to intimidate, interfere with, threaten or otherwise obstruct any University activity, nor to hinder members of the University community in the pursuit of their legitimate activities. Violence of any kind, including sexual violence, is strictly prohibited.

Essentially, students agree to treat their fellow students (and others in the community) with respect. In practice, on student teams, respect is generally understood to mean:

  • Actively participating in the team;
  • Negotiating and following team agreements;
  • Compromising for the sake of team consensus;
  • Accepting reasonable variations in skill, knowledge, and motivations in others; and
  • Accommodating diverse individual needs.

Royal Roads, students are expected to prioritize teamwork. This is because work on team projects affects other students. Faced with the difficult choice of prioritizing an individual assignment rather than a team assignment, students are expected to prioritize their teamwork.

Team Agreements

Building team agreements is one of the most important things you can do in your team. It opens conversation and dialogue surrounding key elements and potential issues of working together with varying viewpoints and working styles.

RRU has established succinct Team Agreements documents that guides and supports your team foundation. Explore the ‘Working with Others’ unit first, then go back to the Team Agreements document and complete collaboratively.

Key Discussion Points:

  • Team values and behaviours
  • Team purpose and goals
  • Team strength
  • Roles and responsibilities
  • Conflict management
  • Planning and scheduling meetings
  • Reaching agreements


Undergraduate Team Agreement

Post Graduate Team Agreement

Team Assignment Process

Conversations are how work teams get work done. Conversations between team members themselves build relationships to help get things done. There are many conversations to have; the key to getting your team to meet its potential is having the right conversations at the right time (Sherman, 2015, p. 21).

Let us support you in navigating through the team process stages: launching, organising, integrating and finalising. We have coached many students through their team assignment process and highlighted key areas that will be important for you and your team.

Royal Roads has developed Team Assignment Plan (TAP) that you will be required to utilise in your team assignments. Your team coach will guide you through this tool, however take a look at this example to help guide your team.

Additional Resources:


The first stage is launching, this is when a new team is formed or when new team members have been added to a current team.

  • Launching and organizing are the developmental stages that all teams must go through.
  • The launch stage is often given insufficient time and attention as teams are forming.
  • Discuss team’s purpose/goals, decide values and expectations of behaviors, discuss schedule and online mode of communication, and review areas of possible conflict and (example: work ethic and quality).
  • Surface introductions or discussing the wrong items commonly occur in this phase, leading to the team foundation lacking stability and resilience, two key success factors of teams.


The second stage, organizing, focuses on team organization, specifically how the team will organize and plan work completion. A few actions and activities (Insert Organizing PDF) will support you team in working efficiently. The TAPS (insert Team Assignment Plan) is a highly effective way to organize your team assignment plans.

  • Discuss roles and responsibilities: what key roles will support your structure?
  • Define how, when, and where that your team will meet? What technology will you use and why?
  • Schedule and Timeline (PDF Excel timeline) just look closer here
  • What will your decision making process be? Consensus? Democracy?


During the integration phase the team brings their delegated work, writing and research together. This phase lasts the longest, as the team is consistently coordinating, informing and collaborating with each other.

There will need to be consistent check-ins, to ensure that each role is being fulfilled and supported. Re-visit your TAPS document to ensure roles and expectations have been completed.

The process of integrating the material should have been defined and decided when segmenting the work. In this phase the team will:

  • Confirm who is bringing the work together (i.e. everyone, designated team member, leader/editor).
  • Meeting and use open communication to address gaps or misunderstandings, and how individual components will fit together.
  • Re-visit assignment description, instructions and rubric to check alignment with team work

A high level of adaptability is required during the integration process. Feedback, communication, and critical thinking are keys to ensuring the "collective voice" is captured.


The finalizing stage should be the easy part if your structure has been solid. This is putting the final touches on your product. The English Writing Centre and Writing Centre can provide feedback and support on writing, but ensure you schedule and provide time for this!

  • The team member who has the final view should ensure the collective voice has been captured.
  • A final check for grammar, writing, APA, and word count has been done.
  • Consider delegating one person to do the final compilation and having one person to do editing on certain portions – APA, grammar for example.

Leadership and Followership

Student teams are self-managed and have no formally designated leader. Instead, leadership is shared among members. As a result, members must "lead one another to the achievement of group goals (Pearce & Conger, 2007, p .1)." This is different than the more commonly held concept of a leader who directs and influences others. Instead, on successful teams, members step forward into leadership as needs and circumstances dictate, and step back as these needs and circumstances change. In this understanding, shared leadership is analogous to collaboration.

Regardless of our understanding, leadership is at its heart a particular kind of relationship between members of a team. Where there is leadership there is also followership. This is the central relationship. A leader knows when to step forward, and a follower knows when to step back. In either role, “an effective team member is a critical, independent thinker who actively participates in the [team] (Daft, 2015, p. 200).” In a real team, members share leadership and followership as needed, providing focus and direction when it wanders, encouraging multiple and competing ideas, and supporting others to be their best through honest and constructive feedback regardless of their designated roles.

Additional Resources:

Ivey Business Journal - Followership: The Other Side of Leadership

Fast Company - 5 Ways Being a Good Follower Makes you a Better Leader

Roles and Responsibilities

Roles are the positions we occupy, and our responsibilities are the specific duties and tasks we are expected to complete according to our role. There are any number of roles members can assume on a team project. Their responsibilities will vary with their roles. So, teams should spend some time thinking about how they want to organize their work and then define the roles they want to establish before detailing specific responsibilities.

Project Coordinator
  • Coordinates schedule and all tasks needed to complete the team project
  • Leads meetings with guidance from the team agenda
  • Facilitates conversation and provides everyone a chance to speak and give input
Logistics Coordinator
  • Schedules meetings
  • Collects team members input and focus for the meeting
  • Creates an agenda for meeting
  • Books breakout rooms
  • Keeps notes and minutes of meetings
  • Reviews previous minutes and next steps
  • Stores notes in common place for every member to view (Google Docs)
Head Researcher
  • Guides and identifies information needed for scope of assignment
  • Ensures expectations of assignment is being met with research
Researcher(s) *Everyone is expected to do research in assignments*
  • Each person has a research topic
  • Finds information, analyzes, and organizes information clearly for draft form of assignment
  • Takes analyzed and organized information from researchers
  • Craft detailed draft of report
  • Reviews assignment criteria/expectations with written draft
  • Seeks feedback (content and structure) from team and editors following draft
  • Gives 48 hours for team to provide feedback before integrating and updating the draft – then given to editor
Main Editor
  • Edit grammar consistency in voice and verb tense
  • APA Formatting
  • Edited report shared with team to review to review (24 hours to return)
  • Makes any changes and reviews final copy to be submitted to Moodle.
Second Editor
  • Supports the main editor during iterations of review
Idea Generator
  • Facilitates and asks questions during meetings to guide and generate ideas
  • Records ideas and/or mind maps ideas
  • Provides ideas for team to review and discuss deeper
  • Encourages team members to share and participate in conversation
  • Checks in with team members to lend support or inquire about their process
  • Brings coffee J
Conflict Manager
  • Pauses heated conversations
  • Mediates and ensures that everyone’s voice is heard and respectful language is used (no blame)
  • Takes objective notes of situation (if needed to share with team coach)
  • Facilitates and supports a win-win solution
Sober Second Thought
  • Reviews work and ideas from a different perspective
  • Reflects on ideas and next steps, possibly providing barriers they may encounter