How to Build an Effective Workplace Team

A team is an important, dynamic unit working together to achieve success in accomplishing a goal. What determines how effectively a team will work together? Lots of things. To create an autonomous, hard-working, high-producing group of individuals is challenging, and there are many factors that will influence your team’s success. Here are 6 considerations to help you get started.

1-   Begin With the Right People

Know what you are looking for. When recruiting to your team, look for candidates who match your organizational culture. If you’re adding to an existing team, you might consider getting team members to help with the selection of a new recruit. While group cohesiveness has an effect on group performance, any group that works productively will suffer less turnover because they have enjoyed success. Look for people who will help to balance your team professionally.

2-   Be SMART About Goal-Setting

Without goals, teams are aimless. Prepare your team for success with a clear objective, and be sure to attach a value to the goal. Without seeing the value in the work they are doing, a team will lack the motivation to succeed. In goal-setting,make your goal SMART:

  • Specific: Your goal must be well-defined so that the team's direction is clear. Ask: Where do we want to end up? What steps will we need to take to get here?

  • Measurable: In order to measure their degree of success, a team needs precise objectives (amounts and dates). Be specific. If you describe your goal in general terms, such as "Increase sales" without indicating by how much or by when, it’s unlikely you’ll get the results you want.

  • Attainable: Be realistic. Aim too high (set a goal that your team has no hope of achieving) and you will only demoralize your team and eat away at their confidence. Make sure to state how and why you think a goal is attainable.

  • Relevant: Goals should be aligned with your vision of success, and relevant to the direction you want your team to take.

  • Time-Bound: Success will come that much quicker if you have a deadline.

Arrange to have your team revisit their goals regularly. The pursuit of achievement is ongoing, and reminders will help to keep things on track.Encourage open discussion about the team’s progress.

3-   Define Roles Clearly

Without goals, it’s impossible to establish meaningful, valuable roles for team members; in their absence, team member accountability becomes an issue, as do overlap and time-wasting.Clearly defined roles make it easier for each team member to set their own goals for accomplishing work effectively and for making a strong contribution to the larger goal. It is important that each team member accept the role and responsibilities of their own role, and those of their counterparts. You might consider explaining why each team member has been selected, so that their value to the team is clearly established. Clear roles help to:

  • Identify knowledge, skill and capability needed (helps you hire the right people)

  • Determine what resources and strategies are required for successand determines who will be sharing these (helps you get the proper tools to the right people)

  • Eliminate confusion, establish boundaries, and reduce overlap (so a member can focus time and energy on learning/ performing a specific task)

  • Identify any weakness that threatens efficiency and any need for training, support or reassignment

Perhaps the most important role on a team is the team leader. A quality leaderwho will value the ideas and opinions of its members and hold team members accountablewill influence engagement (and efficiency).

4-   Build an Atmosphere of Cooperation

Efficient teams co-operate. In this environment, team goals are of utmost importance and team members support each other in working toward these goals. A member will be measured by theircontribution to achievement. Have processes and protocols in place to promote co-operation. Consider the following:

  • Team charter: A charter defines how work will be done. It is created by the team, for the team. All members should be expected to contribute. The team charter addresses how work will be done. It deals with topics such as:

    • Purpose (A team that understands how a job will align with your organization’s key objectives and strategies is more likely to produce exceptional work. Reinforce corporate values, and business objectives.)

    • Duration and Time Commitment (Ask: How long will this take? What time is required?)

    • Scope (How big is too big?)

    • Stages of development (deliverables)

    • Resources

    • Planning

    • Reporting relationships

  • Communication: This is the most important factor in successful teamwork. The most effective teams exist where members are able to share information and expertise openly with their team, and with their organization as well. Personal expression must not be undervalued.

    • Make sure that your meetings are productive. Have everyone attend who needs to attend. Have everyone participate on some level. Appoint someone to run the meeting and keep everyone on schedule (and have a schedule, or at the very least, have an agenda!). Have someone take minutes as a record of what was accomplished or decided.

    • Consensus decision-making: This is a process of coming to agreement that is inclusive, participatory, and collaborative. Everybody invests in the outcome, and is more likely to commit to the decision made.

    • Creative problem-solving: When major problems arise, they can be solved more effectively by teams who work on finding a solution together. Ideas and opinions of all members are welcome.In a collaborative environment, individual team members can identify problems and initiate the process of finding a solution.Employees are given the freedom and authority they need to make necessary decisions.

    • Feedback: Open discourse is essential to progress and to growth as a team. Encourage team members to raise concerns and share ideas for improvement. Be willing to embrace comments, and to make changes, if necessary.

  • Conflict resolution: Conflict is part of learning to work well together. It is powerful, and can contribute to a team’s success or be its undoing. Deal with conflict quickly. Where a team is relatively uniform in experience, problems may be resolved more quickly than where a team’s members differ widely in experience and approach to problem-solving. If team members cannot resolve an issue, they should have prompt guidance. Encourage openness, and have a method of feedback so that concerns can be brought to your attention. Be responsive.

  • Team-building: Enable your team to perform their job well. The degree to which you need to invest in team building depends on the size of the team, and member turnover. The dynamics of a team will change with the coming and going of members, and in either circumstance, you want your team to adjust, and continue to be productive. Help them build strong team systems and processes so that work goes on uninterrupted.

5-   Define Expectations

Performance expectations are, basically, the ‘Rules of Engagement’ for team work. They govern professional issues. Be clear about what contributions are expected from individual team members, and consider presenting these expectations to each prospectivemember during their interview to help assure that you will be working on the same page. These expectations should be laid out in your organizational policies and procedures.

Team expectations should be concrete and directly related to the achievement of team goals. They define how a team will work to achieve their goals.

Expect team members to:

  • Contribute (do their work)

  • Communicate with each other

  • Cooperate (support each other)

  • Problem solve

  • Be respectful of other team members

  • Uphold organizational values

It is very important to the success of your team that you enforce expectations. Make sure that you treat everyone fairly (without favoritism), and that you welcome and accept observations from team members about performance issues. Poor performance must be effectively addressed for team members to feel supported, and so to manage potential conflict. Team membersmust be held accountable for achieving goals and meeting expectations for the team to be effective.

6-   Recognize Good Works

Effective team members perceive their service to the team as being valuable to their organization, and to their own careers as well.Reward the results of their efforts. To attract and retain motivated and effective workers, your organization must invest in a culture that promotes improvement, and has a means for capturing individual contributions. Recognize and reward individual successes and team successes as well. Learn what keeps your team members motivated. You might consider the following:

  • Profit-Sharing (Share the wealth!)

  • Skills development (training, conferences, webinars)

  • Opportunity (promotion)

  • Increased autonomy, empowerment

  • Increased flexibility (flexible work hours)

Never let good performance go without recognition, and follow-up. If you or your team sees good performance from an individual contributor, they should be sure the individual is both recognized and rewarded.

Effective teams benefit from front-end investment. Spend time structuring a work environment to foster success, and you will be more likely to see your team flourish. Recognize that you are part of the team (even if you are apart). Invest in your relationshipwith team members, and seek to build trust and loyalty by beingaccessible, supportive, and responsive. Reward good performance and deter poor performance. Review processes and procedures regularly. Take comments and criticisms, and allow yourself, and your team to grow towards success.

 

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