Team Development has long been recognised as a vital component of a successful organisation. Business people the world over talk about working as a team, building the team, feeling part of a team, but a surprisingly small proportion really understand how to create the experience of team work, or how to develop an effective team.
Belonging to a team means feeling part of something larger than yourself. This has a great deal to do with understanding both your own role within the team and the overall mission and objectives of the whole team and the organisation.
A team-oriented environment is essential in terms of contributing to the overall success of an organisation, and has a unifying effect which helps staff to accomplish company objectives.
There are a number of barriers to successful team development however. Factors such as inappropriate or lack of leadership, vague objectives, weak interpersonal relationships and poor communication often prevent teams from performing.
our clients have reported increased motivation and commitment amongst staff following our team building workshops
Here are some of the characteristics of effective teams:
Trust and Communication
Effective teams operate in an environment in which two way trust and open, honest communication is the norm. Such an approach enables team members to be clear about tasks, priorities and deadlines, and also to feel comfortable about bringing diverse opinions to the table and addressing conflicts. Listening is a key aspect of the successful team’s communication process.
One client with whom we worked on a team development workshop reported afterwards that the exercise had been essential in terms of providing a relaxed and fun environment in which staff could interact and learn more about each others’ personalities. Building levels of trust and communication is key to establishing such an environment.
Performance feedback is two way and continuous in successful teams, and enables team members to understand how their work contributes to the overall team objective, as well as providing a channel through which constructive criticism and appraisal can be directed.
Strong and sensitive leadership
Successful teams require strong leaders, who can motivate others by inspiring confidence, explaining decisions and communicating objectives effectively. Such leaders are also sensitive however, and recognise the value in dedicating a certain amount of time to developing relationships based on the differences between team members. Indeed, the most creative leaders will use these differences constructively for the team’s advantage. Another feature of winning leaders is the recognition that teams require constant maintenance.
Learning from mistakes
Effective teams see mistakes as learning opportunities, rather than reasons for criticism. They are strict on repeated errors however, while also encouraging appropriate levels of risk and originality.
Strong teams recognise the contribution each member makes to the overall work of the team, and understand that each member is as important as another, in terms of being an expert in a particular area.
No blame culture
Teams that work well together accept joint responsibility for mistakes and do not waste time blaming one another or making personal justifications. Instead, they celebrate achievements together, as well as recognising individual performance.
One client for whom we recently carried out a team building activity said that the experience had encouraged staff to question their own behaviour in team situations, and reflect more often on their own actions, a situation very much a result of having implemented a no blame culture.
the experience had encouraged staff to question their own behaviour in team situations
The team as a living organism
Teams are not machines, but living organisms, with values, emotions and behaviours unique to each member. Effective teams regularly examine the process of being a team, and assess the inter-personal relationships as well as how the team relates in its entirety. Strong teams understand the benefits reaped by implementing processes which can accommodate changes in group dynamics.
Members of effective teams want to participate in the team and see the worth of the team’s mission. They also understand that their contribution is valuable both to the team and their individual careers, and are challenged and excited by the opportunity to work as part of a team.
Many of our clients have reported increased motivation and commitment amongst staff following one of our team building workshops, as well as an appreciation of the opportunity to be brought together as a team and operate as a whole instead of the sum of its parts.
Teams which succeed are often those that are not afraid to change, and are made up of members who value creative thinking, unique solutions and new ideas. In such an environment, people are rewarded for taking risks to make improvements, and encouraged to actively stimulate new ways of thinking, by exposing themselves to new experiences.
The effort involved in building and maintaining effective teams should not be under-estimated. It can be a sensitive, time consuming process, particularly in business, where tensions often run high. Flexible, developed teams are key to exemplary performance however, and often form the backbone of an organisation, which will experience greatly improved productivity and reduced costs as a result.