Once upon a time, management experts measured productivity in terms of how a single individual performed. Nowadays, teams are the metric whereby enterprises gauge how successful their efforts in the marketplace are.
If you want to maintain your keen competitive edge, you'll need to collaborate across disciplines, cultures, and countries. The best way to do that without losing unit cohesiveness is by building a solid team.
A high-achieving team brings together committed individuals and operates as more than merely the sum of its parts. It draws on the combined strengths of individual members and compensates for personal limitations.
Teams only perform at their best when there's strong leadership at the top. This means successful teams have leaders who can provide clear direction and have a gift for helping every team member succeed.
12 Things That Make For a Successful Team
1. Effective communication
Communication is the most critical factor in successful teamwork. However, having good communication doesn't mean holding meetings at the drop of a hat.
Instead, it means setting an example by always being open to suggestions and concerns, asking questions, and offering help. It also means doing everything in your power to avoid confusion in your own interactions with others.
To work together seamlessly, a team needs clear lines of communication. To make this easier, your team should clarify each member's roles and responsibilities. This will show who's in charge of what. It also helps when a problem arises, and you need to know who to talk to.
Also, your team needs to decide how it will communicate project updates to each other. This could be via messaging platforms such as Slack, email, or project management applications.
2. They make team members feel safe and secure
Leaders should consider cultivating a feeling of psychological safety where members feel a sense of security and trust in their teams. This allows members to take risks without feeling insecure or embarrassed. Members who speak up won't be rejected or punished.
Psychological safety can't exist without trust. That's why it's probably a good idea to model trustworthiness within your teams and to validate it when others show it.
Mutual respect and understanding are grounded in getting to know one another. Learning more about a teammate, including their past accomplishments and future goals, helps foster respect.
Psychological safety vanishes when everyone starts blaming everyone else. This creates a culture of team members watching their own backs instead of helping each other out. Risk-taking and trust go out the window, and you suddenly have a culture of defensiveness, self-protection at all costs, and lots of tunnel vision.
Let's say you're able to create a culture where team members see mistakes as learning opportunities and where teams are opportunities to work together to problem-solve. In that case, you'll create lots of psychological safety.
As the team begins to coalesce, pay close attention to how team members work together. When you need to, take steps to improve communication, cooperation, trust, and respect in those relationships.
3. They establish ground rules
These are the guidelines that you and the team establish. They can be simple rules, such as “members need to be punctual for meetings.” They can also be general guidelines, like “everyone has the right to offer ideas.”
Either way, ensure that the team creates these ground rules by consensus and commits to them.
4. They solve problems together
Teams that are successful share ideas and solve problems together. This means having the ability to set, implement, and track goals as a cohesive unit.
They're effective at brainstorming solutions to problems, encouraging everyone to contribute ideas on things like how best to structure a project, or collecting and analyzing market research results as a group.
Consider each team member's ideas as inherently valuable. Remember, there's no such thing as an idiotic idea.
5. Members are open to learning new roles
Sometimes, managers might need to adjust responsibilities in team roles due to changing project needs. Successful teams have members who are open to learning new positions, which keeps projects on target and the team flexible.
6. They set SMART goals
Successful teams establish SMART goals. These are objectives that are:
SMART goals give you a crystal clear idea about what you need to accomplish, help you know the standards for success, and establish clear time frames.
"Exceeding the quarterly quota by 10% by the end of the third quarter" is an example of a smart goal.
Make sure each team member understands what their responsibilities are. After setting up a way to accomplish each of these objectives, your team should regularly track their progress. Since each member shares the same team-specific metrics, they can celebrate achievement together when it happens.
Be sure that team members regularly talk with each other about the progress they're making towards goals. This fosters camaraderie—the sense that "we're all in this together."
7. They establish consensus when feasible
Whenever you can, try to establish consensus before making a final decision about which projects to pursue. While it takes longer to reach this kind of agreement, this method ultimately results in better decisions because it cements every employee's commitment to a particular undertaking.
Think about conducting an open debate about the advantages and disadvantages of various proposals. You can also establish committees to explore project possibilities. Encouraging debate allows creative solutions to emerge. Emphasize how significant each team member's contribution is. Talk about how all the divergent ideas work together to move the entire team closer to its goal.
As the leader, your first priority in creating consensus is to facilitate a healthy debate. Keep in mind that employees are often afraid to disagree with another team member. This apprehension can lead your team to make horrible decisions. While you want to be sensitive to the frustration that can build up when the team isn't achieving consensus, watch out for consensus that happens too quickly.
This can be a false consensus. If you feel that this is going on, probe each member to uncover their real feelings about the proposed solution.
8. Their roles are well defined
When team members have well-defined roles, they can focus on following predetermined workflows. This is vastly preferable to constantly diffusing their energy by wondering what the heck it is they need to be doing.
Teams work best when each member is responsible for contributing something specific.
9. They allow leaders to lead
Individuals with leadership talent get quickly bored with assignments that don't take full advantage of their capabilities.
If you notice leadership potential in one of your team members, don't hesitate to promote them to a position where they can fulfill their passion for being a leader.
10. They embrace diversity
The best teams are the most diverse because diversity encourages creativity and innovation. The teams with the most extensive range of experiences, backgrounds, and opinions tend to have the most potential for high performance.
Great teams embrace people with thought processes vastly different from their own, skillsets that complement those of individual team members and people with widely different worldviews.
11. They share a common mission
Teams that succeed are typically composed of individuals working on something that feels important on a personal level. The work has a meaning that goes beyond merely meeting company financial metrics.
Despite their personal differences, members of successful teams feel part of a cohesive, overarching mission. You can help foster this by reflecting on your company's mission statement and having your team articulate what the team could do to live up to these lofty ideals.
By doing this, you'll help the team to share a singular set of values. This allows the team to be even more cohesive, resulting in more passion for the mission and greater productivity.
12. Each Member is Accountable to the Team
Being accountable is an essential team competency. Without it, teams tend to be low-performing. When each team member knows there are standards they need to be responsible for, they'll do their best work.
Unfortunately, accountability is almost always applied to the individual and not the team. However, for an organization to be effective, it needs to have collaborative teams in which members are accountable to each other. In other words, work accomplished in the relationship.
This is a significant paradigm shift from the way work has been traditionally done. Individual accountability is still essential, but there's a vital relationship component that encourages mutual support.
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