Resilience - Building successful teams
A team is more than just a group of people who happen to work together. It is a group of people working towards common goals and objectives, and sharing responsibility for the outcomes. Team building is the process of selecting and grouping team members effectively and developing good working relationships and practices. This process enables the team to develop and work towards reaching their goals.
Increasingly, a team may be comprised of people from different functions, departments and disciplines who have been brought together for a specific project.
Teams play a crucial role in the success of an organisation, and the development of good working relationships is vital to team performance. Organisations that take the time and trouble to invest in the development of positive interaction and cooperation in teams will reap the benefits of improved morale, more effective performance and the successful completion of projects.
This factsheet details the main steps in the development of effective workplace teams.
What to do
1) Consider whether you really need a team.
Don’t assume that a team is necessarily the best way of achieving the objectives you have in mind. Think carefully about the tasks which need to be completed and the skills required before forming a team. Teamwork may not always be the best approach and so ask yourself whether the task can be more effectively carried out by a single person with the relevant skills and knowledge.
2) Define objectives and the skills needed to reach them.
Think carefully about the nature of the tasks or projects to be carried out by the team and the mix of knowledge and skills needed.
3) Take team roles into account.
The work of Belbin provides some useful insights into the patterns of behaviour exhibited by team members and the way they interact with one another. You may wish to take these into account when putting a team together or seeking to shape an existing team. Belbin suggests that teams need a balance of members with differing roles if they are to work together effectively.
4) Plan a team building strategy
Invest time at the outset in getting the framework right so that the team will develop and grow. The following aspects should be considered:
Build a climate of trust where mistakes are seen as learning experiences.
Ensure a free flow of information to enable team members to integrate their work with the objectives
Offer training where possible in communication and / or negotiation
Ensure that the team has the time needed to coordinate activities, develop thoughts and ideas, monitor progress, as well as for regular meetings. Teams also need the required resources in order for them to achieve their aims
Objectives need to be clearly understood by all team members
It is vital for team members to be aware of exactly what is expected from them and what tasks have to be carried out
Ensure that each member of the team is aware of how they are doing and if and where improvements can be made. Feedback should firstly focus on the positives and on ways of addressing any issues
5) Get the team together
At the initial meeting you should aim to start building the team as a team, rather than a collection of individuals. Discuss and agree the outcomes the team is to achieve, rather than attempting to address the detailed issues involved in the project or task. Bear in mind that most teams pass through several stages of growth before starting to produce their best work. Ensure that everyone knows what their personal contribution to the team’s success will be, its place in the project schedule and its importance to the project’s success.
6) Explore and establish operating ground rules
Agree processes for decision-making and reporting for the life span of the team. Establish when and how often meetings will take place and how they will be managed. Encourage a climate of open and honest communication, so that, as far as possible, team members will be able to express opinions without fear of recrimination.
7) Identify individuals’ strengths
Carry out an audit of individuals’ strength and place people in the right position based on their skills and competencies. Consider also how contributinos and responsibilities overlap and how synergy can be released. It is important for team members to reach a common understanding of each others’ strengths, so that they can work together efficiently. This helps to integrate the skills of team members, strengthen team cohesion and improve the performance of the team as a whole.
8) See yourself as a team member
Your role as team leader is to be a member of the team. Make it clear to all that everyone in the team has an important role to play. Act as a role model and maintain effective communication with all members, especially through active listening. Be aware of the formal and informal roles within the team and endeavour to keep conflict to a minimum.
9) Check progress towards objectives
Check regularly to ensure that everyone still has a clear focus on what they are working towards, both individually and as a team. Identify milestones and hold team members accountable for progress towards them. As the team develops, pride in shared success and lessons learned from any obstacles should also help to develop a sense of shared purpose, strengthen commitment and contribute to improved performance in the long run.
10) Time meetings with care
Meet regularly and ensure that each meeting has a purpose. You will wish provide an opportunity for everyone to check in on how you are doing as a team, to review progress, reflect on how the team is working and, if any problems are identified, plan and implement appropriate action to deal with them.
11) Dissolve the team
When the team has accomplished its tasks, acknowledge this. Carry out a final review to see if objectives have been achieved and evaluate the team’s performance, so that individuals may learn, improve and benefit from experiences. If all of the objectives have been met the team can be dissolved.
Managers should avoid:
Expecting a new team to perform effectively from the word go
Dominating the work of the team, whether intentionally, unintentionally or even unconsciously
Exercising excessive control which may stifle creativity
Overlooking the impact of formal and informal team roles
Allowing the team to lose focus on the tasks to be completed
Letting a team become too exclusive, in case it loses touch with the rest of the organisation
Allowing individuals to take credit for the achievements of the team