Key learning outcomes:
- Learn that when building a new team, the aim is to maximise productivity as quickly as possible.
- Identify the team’s goals and common purpose early in the process and ensure the team members are committed to them.
- Understand how complementary skills and experience benefit a team.
- Acknowledge the need for a team to define and allocate tasks and establish a schedule.
It has been proven that an effective team will always outperform a group of individuals who simply working together. In an effective team the members work together to achieve a combined result that is always be greater than the sum of what they could have achieved as individuals. This article will take you through a team-building process that will help your team achieve high levels of productivity quickly. The process provides a framework that you can use as a facilitator or as a member of a team. We have provided a worksheet to download that can be used in conjunction with this article.
Characteristics of a high-performing team
Before beginning the process of building an effective team, it is important to understand what makes a high-performing team stand out. We have a number of articles in the “People management” section of the website which give you information on how effective teams function, and we suggest you take some time to look through these. In the meantime, the key characteristics of a well-established team are:
- Common commitment to specific goals and purpose
- Agreed standards of behaviour
- Complementary skills
- Shared work and mutual accountability.
We will cover each of these areas in detail below and use a real-life example as guidance for building your team.[wlm_ismember]
What is the team’s purpose?
It is essential for all team members to be clear about and committed to the group’s purpose and goals. Effective teams spend time early in the formation period discussing and defining their goals. Use the worksheet provided to define the purpose and key goals for your team. Your goals need to be “SMART goals”; this means they need to be specific, measureable, achievable, relevant and time-bound. To illustrate we will use an example of a small group that has come together to work on a specific research project at the beginning of August.
The standards of behaviour
The best teams spend time agreeing on how work will be done in the team. This helps to ensure that there are no misunderstandings and that the team can start working effectively as soon as possible. The team standards are agreed on and each team member is then accountable to them. When discussing your team standards, some of the things to think about are:
- What will happen if someone is unable to complete their allocated work?
- How will the team members communicate?
- How often will the team meet?
- How will any disagreements be dealt with?
We provide you with more detailed information in our “Setting team standards” learning article in this section of the website. Use the worksheet provided to complete your team standards. We provide you with some key headings to get you started, and the following example will give you a base to work from:
What are the strengths and weaknesses of the team?
In any team, having the right people is key to success. In some cases you may be able to recruit the team from scratch, or you are in a group that has come together for a specific project or you are part of team that is already working together. Ideally, the team members’ skills and experience should complement each other, otherwise the output is simply the sum of the work performed by each individual.
In any team, the more that the team members know about each other, the more effective they will be. Using the worksheet provided, ask each team member to identify their strengths and weaknesses. We will illustrate this by using our research team example:
When looking at the combined strengths and weaknesses, the team has complementary skills and the strengths of one person compensates for the weaknesses of another. For example, neither Bob nor June is strong in time management; however, Sally is strong in this area, which alleviates any potential issues that poor time management could cause.
It is important to complete this stage as thoroughly as possible so your team is not missing some essential skills required to operate effectively and achieve the goals. If you find that there is a weakness in the team that no one can compensate for, it is essential to put a contingency plan in place to address this issue. For example, if no group members in the example above have desktop publishing skills, the research project’s report might need to be outsourced.
One of the keys to an effective team is to share the workload; there should be a degree of mutual accountability. In most teams there will be someone who tends to adopt a leadership role; however, it is important to remember that a team will operate more productively if the leader also carries out an equal share of the workload. To complete this stage of the process, you will need to work together as a team to define the tasks and activities that will be required to achieve the goals by the deadline. Each key task area should be allocated to one team member as their area of responsibility. This does not necessarily mean that this person carries out all of the work, but that they are responsible for ensuring that the deadline is met. An example of how to add this information to the worksheet is shown below for our research team.
By using the above process you can fast track your team to higher performance levels. It should be noted that in ongoing team situations, there is benefit in reviewing the process on a regular basis as team members may change or priorities may alter over time. A quarterly review will allow the team to ensure standards are holding fast, evaluate any new or unexpected strengths and weaknesses in the team and review and set new goals and responsibilities. We have a large number of learning articles in this section of the website that will help you build more effective teams in your business.[/wlm_ismember]
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