Teams are often useful in situations where the task cannot be completed individually or if the task requires working interdependently. However, a successful team requires thought and planning. Too often, a group of individuals is simply thrown together, given a mandate, "marching orders" and then told, "Now go make us proud!"
To create an effective work team, defined outcomes, common goals and correct skills are keys to success. Here are ten methods to create a successful work team.
1. Create a common, shared (team) goal.
There must be a central focus that the team is moving towards and it must also include a strong task orientation that translates into each person knowing how to move towards that goal.
2. Have measurable outcomes.
Team execution is usually more effective if you can measure what the team produces. Standards of excellence should be established so that the team understands what the target is and ongoing measurement (milestones) towards the desired outcome should also be implemented.
3. Promote interdependency.
Each person needs to know what he or she is going to contribute and also how what they contribute fits into the "big picture". Discourage personal (individual) competition in favor of the team's agenda and purpose.
4. Help the team to understand and appreciate differences.
Teamwork is an individual skill and each individual brings unique talent, value, communication needs, strengths and limitations to the team. Building an effective, unified team requires each person first understands their own "style" and is then able to recognize and appreciate the "styles" of others.
5. Make sure team members have the right skills.
Technical (hard) skills as well as interpersonal, problem solving (soft) skills are equally important to the team's success. Don't neglect one for the other. Discover where the needs are and then provide the right training to meet those skill needs.
6. Train and then follow up on training.
Long-term retention of newly learned training skills requires ongoing coaching and assistance from immediate supervisors and coaches. Frequent inquiries into how recently trained team members are progressing and feedback will help them continue practicing what they have learned.
7. Spell out lines of communication.
It's important to know how to communicate with one another as well as the "flow" of communication.
8. Continually stress the team's purpose.
It may seem simplistic, but frequently reminding team members of the "what" and the "why" is critical to ensuring the vision and mission stay fresh and that the team remains focused on the desired outcome. Revisit the team's mission as well as the desired outcome often.
9. Provide detailed agendas for team meetings.
Meetings are not always the most effective or efficient use of the team's time, but if a meeting is necessary, make sure it is structured so that the time is well spent. Outcome agendas are particularly effective. More than simply a list of items to be discussed, these will spell out exactly what outcomes will occur during and following the meeting.
10. Be a model.
People will respond according to the actions - not the words of their leaders. If you want effective teamwork, model it first and foremost. Performance advisor and author, Darcy Hitchcock, puts it this way: "employees are professional 'boss watchers'. That is, what managers say means nothing unless their actions model what they say." Leading is the act of influencing others to act, which is difficult if you have one set of standards for yourself and another for everybody else.
Monty J. Sharp is a Master Certified Work Team Coach, Certified Professional Behavioral Analyst and Human Performance Specialist. He is also co-founder of Vision to Venture, LLC, an executive coaching, consulting and training company dedicated to providing an interpersonal and solutions based approach to high performance Executives, managers, individuals and work teams. On the web at www.VisionToVenture.com