How to Build Successful Work Teams?
I have observed that organizational leaders across various industries always emphasis the importance of building efficient work teams and building a great team culture. This is especially because considering the complexities of the business world it is difficult to expect one person to drive performance single-handedly. Delivering excellence at workplace is always a result of impeccable teamwork.
Being part of a great team is a highly elevating feeling in itself. Being in team we can share expertise, gain knowledge, and generate better ideas and solutions. Healthy and high performing teams foster a feeling of mutual respect and commitment to shared goals.
However, is it that simple? Are their some easily implementable ideas for effective team building?
Humans are complex organisms. Each one has inherited or acquired peculiar set of traits, value systems, work styles and life experiences. Hence, while building a team, diverse individuals with their life experiences and varying degrees of success are coming together for the accomplishment of organizational mission. In addition to this each individual has his/her professional and personal interests involved in the work they do. This makes teamwork quite an intricate process.
So, the challenging task in hand for the leader is to get such diverse workforce on the same path, to achieve best results. Based on my experiences during several team building and change management assignments, I have observed the following key aspects of team building that leaders need to focus on:
- Set Clear Expectations–
A leader should clearly communicate the work expectations from the team along with broader vision /picture. In most of the cases work expectations are defined in terms of goals, targets, and timelines and quality parameters. However the aspects that make great teams are often missing in expectation setting process. The team leaders hence need to think about, what behaviors we expect from team members? What will the team do in case there are disagreements? How will the team ensure that all members get to contribute and are listened to? Answers to these questions along with clear targets, timelines create a working context for team.
- Role Defining-
Each team member seeks his unique individual identify in his/her team. Their sense of pride and self-worth is highly dependent upon their own perception of the role and tasks they are assigned in the team. Hence leader needs to ponder on – Do the team members have an idea about the role they are going to play in team process? Have they understood how their role/tasks add value to the overall team goals? Are they willing and competent to do the job? It is also important that the team leader explains and highlights the interdependencies in teammate’s roles and obtains an agreement amongst teammates as to how they would meet each other’s work expectations/goals.
- Emotional Intelligence–
Team members may have the required qualifications and expertise for a specific task in hand, but above all they are unique individuals. They have diverse skill sets, knowledge and experiences, which can be beneficial to meet overall team goals. If the leaders desire to make the most of the member’s involvement, they need to understand their unique talents and provide empathetic support to help unleash these talents for the betterment of both the employee as well as organization.
The team lead has to ensure that the members feel a sense of responsibility to complete the given task. The key questions to ask here will be – Are the team members excited and challenged by this assignment? Do they feel sufficiently supported to take calculated risks? Are they willing to take ownership of mistakes and learn from them? How will you as a leader ensure that you create a culture of experimentation where members don’t feel afraid to take more responsibility?
- Sense of participation and effective interpersonal communication
Interpersonal communication is an integral part of teamwork. Does your team understand this process? It is quite clear that one cannot focus only on his/her work in a group situation, especially because in a knowledge-driven economy most tasks are interrelated. Your team needs to approach problem solving, process improvement, goal setting cohesively and collectively. This obviously involves handling clash of interests, conflicts and disputes. It is a leader’s responsibility to set ground rules to resolve issues with total participation and effective conflict resolution while reinforcing healthy interpersonal relationships within teammates.
Innovation can either be born or killed in a group work situations. For instance in a group where all members think alike, do not challenge the status quo, are afraid to challenge each other and generally flock together, innovation will be a distant reality. For innovation to happen, employees needs to bring insights from external world, from their own areas of expertise and continually challenge themselves, others in the group and the organization as a whole to improve and innovate. The team leader hence need to take a responsibility to ensure that ideas are encouraged, different perspectives are listened to and people are provided opportunities to explore, fail, learn and innovate.
- Motivation and Engagement.
Remember, each employee should feel a sense of worth being part of his/her team. Each teammate may have a different driver for motivation. For instance a team-member who is technically proficient but a solo worker may like to experiment with a new idea or solve a critical problem. Another technically proficient team member may like to convince customers as to how a product creates value for customer rather than speaking about its technical aspects. Some members may not like to get over engaged in hands on functional/technical work but rather would like to lead a team of technical experts during a challenging project. Team Leader needs to diagnose these motivational drivers and allocate responsibilities accordingly so that teammates feel a heightened sense of engagement with their teams and leader.
“Coming together is the beginning, staying together is progress, and working together is success” -Henry Ford.
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