Building Effective Teams

by Eileen Nonemaker

Building Effective Teams

"The hammers must be swung in cadence,
when more than one is hammering the iron."

-Giordano Bruno, c. 1548-1600
Italian philosopher and astronomer

By definition, a team is number of people organized to function cooperatively as a group. This number can vary from large to small, and can be just two. By definition these people are organized to function cooperatively…but what makes the team cooperative and successful?

Building effective teams is one of the greatest challenges for business leaders today in dealing with a multi-generational workforce and an uncertain economic climate. Team members must be able to trust each other and collaborate despite differing political and cultural values. How does one recruit and organize dynamic teams that will consistently achieve organizational and personal goals?

Here Are Three Key Thoughts to Consider:

Know Your Team Members

Through interviews, performance appraisals and assessments clearly understand your people, their attitudes, decision making style and motivational factors. Attitude is the basis of all individual behavior and developing attitudes that govern positive behavior will improve results and productivity. How we think and make decisions can either hinder or ensure our success. Determining team members’ levels of commitment and their levels of competency is important. To maximize team dynamics, understand who can and will be trained and developed and who can or will not. Know what motivates each individual to aid in their goal setting process. It is also important to be sensitive to a team member’s unspoken feelings.

Establish Expectations and Communicate

Understanding the organizational, departmental and personal goals That govern the activities of the team, and effectively communicating them to the team, may seem like a basic thought, but in many cases, teams are not aware of how their specific piece fits into the corporate puzzle. As a result, the behavior of team members may not align with each other and may not align with achieving the goals of the organization. It is key to set specific goals and determine how they will be achieved, understanding the obstacles that may need to be overcome in the process. Target dates for completion must be established and agreed to, for team members to own their contribution to the process. At the same time, it is vital to set up ground rules, both simple directives and general guidelines. Gaining consensus on these ground rules can save future misunderstandings.

Evaluate, Evaluate, Evaluate and Adjust When Necessary

Just like our teachers in grade school handed out assignments with due dates and expected to see completed projects on the specified date, many business leaders set teams in motion in the same style. Short term goals or mini-deadlines with guidelines to determine success of the team is an important part of the process. Again, individual attitude and behaviors need to be assessed. Are these individuals competent and committed to the predetermined goals…and if not, what will you do about it? Can you shuffle responsibilities to someone more qualified or do you need to replace a team member? Historically sports teams will trade non-producers to someone else, but in my experience many times business leaders will hesitate to take corrective action with team members that are not producing in their given role. Ultimately this affects productivity, service levels, attitudes and morale. More importantly it affects the bottom line.

Building and maintaining effective teams is not necessarily easy. By understanding the organizational, departmental and personal goals that govern the activities of the team, utilizing the tools available, choosing the right team members and having a strong goal setting process you can certainly smooth out the ride.