5 Necessary Elements for Effective Teams | BridgeBetween.com

5 Necessary Elements for Effective Teams

You’ve got a team assembled. Now what?

Bodies in chairs do not a team make! There are elements which are necessary within a team for it to work as a finely oiled machine. After all, a solid team can create unbelievable results as well as competitive advantage in the marketplace:

“The idea of building a good team is not just an abstract: these are real people, real projects and real goals.”

But bringing together different personalities with a range of skills and goals, you have to find some common points to build a cohesive team.

It’s important for any good leader to build up their teams to reflect five common elements of team success:

  • Results
  • Accountability
  • Commitment
  • Conflict
  • Trust

We’ll look at each of these in turn, in ascending order:

1. Trust

If you’ve ever worked in a group where team members didn’t trust each other, you’ll know exactly how it feels, compared to a team that has built up that inter-member reliance.

From a business point of view, trust comes with transparency. You’re not guessing what your colleagues are thinking: you know. You’re not wondering if someone is talking behind your back because they’re not. A team that has trust has members that have each other’s backs in terms of support for one another.

They’re also quick to point out and accept errors. That’s because, with trust, you know that your colleague isn’t pointing out a mistake to get you in trouble or for their own gain. They’re pointing it out because it’s in the interest of the common goals that you all agree on.

Honesty is vital to building real trust.

2. Conflict

It’s unrealistic to imagine a team of people agreeing about everything, all of the time. Conflict is inevitable but it’s the style of conflict that the team engages in that matters. This is linked to trust in that if you don’t have a team whose members trust one another, you can’t have healthy debates about issues and ideas.

Constructive disagreement is totally acceptable, knowing that the goal each person has is not to ‘take down’ the other but to contribute to the good of the team.

A team that can engage in debate but still provide a safe environment where everyone is heard respectfully is a solid team!

3. Commitment

When everyone has a voice and that voice can be expressed in a safe, trust-based environment, then it’s that much more likely that everyone on the team will be committed to whatever decision comes at the end of the discussion.

It doesn’t become about winning or losing: the commitment to a team and its decisions means compromise, sometimes, but again with the knowledge that everyone is working toward a common goal or results.

4. Accountability

Teams flounder when there are members who aren’t pulling their own weight. A committed team will hold each other accountable to the plans, processes and steps that need to be taken, to ensure that everyone is ‘in the game’, so to speak.

No one takes the credit and no one takes the blame but every team member does have to serve every other team member and one way to do that is through accountability.

Think of a football team, as an analogy. The goal for the team as a whole is to get the ball to the other end of the field. Each person on the team has a role to play and they know what that role is. If the quarterback stops doing his job or the halfback quits halfway through a play, the team, as a whole, will fail, so they hold each other accountable.

By working as a team and supporting one another and holding each person accountable for their part of the play, the team works as a cohesive whole and will score.

“By uniting we stand, by dividing we fall!” (Source)

5. Results

This is the end goal of any team: to work together to achieve results. Whatever those results are, there is always a goal and getting there as a team creates strength that can be leveraged onwards.

With a solid grasp on these five elements, a team can make decisions quickly and effectively, leverage everyone’s differing skills, value all opinions, avoid destructive conflict, and have a solid goal that each member has a stake in reaching.

Sounds good, doesn’t it? If you want your team working and thinking this way, contact us to take part in the ‘Five Elements of Effective Teams’ program. It’s a benefit for the individuals, the team as a whole and the organization that supports them!

Risk Taking | BridgeBetween.com

Risk Taking: How to Encourage Growth on Your Team

Whether you call it risk taking or innovation, growth comes from moving forward, not standing still!

Taking risks in business is hard enough; allowing your team to do it with only minimal intervention on your part? That is harder still! But it’s risk taking and creative innovation that encourages team growth, not stagnation., so one of your roles as a leader is to push your team to take a little risk.

So, one of your roles as a leader is to push your team to take a little risk.

Risk doesn’t have to be reckless

If you want to encourage your team to grow and innovate, you have to give them clear parameters within which they are allowed to do so.

Whether that involves defining how much money can be spent in the pursuit of a new business track or creates boundaries on decision making and the point they need to involve you or a process of review, smart risk taking isn’t without limits.

Just be sure that your limits aren’t in fact so constraining that innovation isn’t ever going to be a part of the picture. A little discomfort and out of the box thinking is what propels people, and companies, forward.

Create a safe place for your team to take calculated risks

People will take risks if they know that they aren’t putting their necks — and their jobs — on the line. Fear is probably the greatest barrier to innovation.

Instead, you have to create a safe environment where your team clearly understands that despite everything done to mitigate problems, innovation comes with …well, risk!

Learning from mistakes or failure is essential. Whatever your team is attempting could all go very wrong. Or, it could all go very right. Either way, your ability to create a culture that includes accepting failure is the only way to encourage team members who fail to pick themselves up, dust themselves off and strive for more.

Either way, your ability to create a culture that includes accepting failure is the only way to encourage team members who fail to pick themselves up, dust themselves off and strive for more.

Model the behavior you expect to see

You can’t create a culture that encourages risk if you don’t engage in the behavior yourself. Leadership is all about walking the walk, not just talking the talk, so while you might fall flat on your face in attempting a little risk taking, playing it safe won’t motivate anyone.

As a member of the team yourself, you need to involve others in your decisions and demonstrate how you intend to take on and mitigate risks for the best possible outcome. Clear communication is fundamental to creating the right environment for growth.

Don’t just reward success

While there’s no question of giving everyone a ribbon ‘just for coming out’, it is important to reward successes AND failures. Not just any failure, of course, but ones that come from a strong attempt and smart risk taking.

If failure is not only tolerated but even praised for the goals that a team member was trying to achieve, others are more likely to take a step towards a little risk themselves. A team member need only understand that their career growth won’t be stunted by a failure.

And, in fact, might be improved by one, to decide that it is something they’re willing to engage in.

You can take it as far as celebrating the mistakes or failures, literally! Putting it out in the open and having the whole team own a failure creates some of that safety that individuals will be looking for.

Remember, not every failure is a categorical mistake. There is always something that can be learned and always some positive side effect that can be leveraged, if only that your team feels free to try again.

Hope for the best, plan for the worst

Part of mitigating risk is figuring out the worst case scenario in any given plan. If your team learns to look at all the possible consequences and assign relative value over risk to them, they will quickly be able to judge what is a smart risk or innovation and what isn’t.

That’s part of their growth as a team, and the company as a whole, which will help propel everyone forward, as time goes by.

However you inspire your team towards innovation, remember that nobody wins the game by playing it safe all the time. There are times for risk and there are times for safety: your job as a leader is to have a clear vision for both so that you can encourage your team in the right direction.

The Key to Good Teamwork is Kindness

The Key to Good Teamwork Is…

Drumroll please…

While many factors come into play in creating and maintaining a solid and healthy working team, the bottom line comes down to such a simple thing: kindness.

Yes, it’s true, according to the mother of all team creators, Google.

Wanting to find out what makes the quintessential team, a … well, a team was formed at Google and given a project name: Project Aristotle.

The project compiled data from hundreds of interviews with Google employees to attempt to pinpoint the perfect combination that would lead to a solid team: was it team members? Was it skill sets? Google was bound and determined to find the perfect algorithm: the one that defined a top team.

As it turned out, the right algorithm wasn’t about the WHO but about the HOW. The members of the team—their skills, abilities, experience—was found to be less important than how the team members interacted with one another. In other words, HOW they worked together as a team was more important than WHO they were as individual team members.

This probably isn’t ‘breaking news’ to anyone who has experience leading teams but it’s significant in that it puts into specific relief that which many leaders—including people like Steven Covey—have suspected all along: psychological safety is the key to an effective team.

Covey said in his 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: “Members of productive teams take the effort to understand each other, find a way to relate to each other, and then try to make themselves understood.”

Put another way, kindness drives a good team. Specifically, the project discovered five keys to a successful team:

  1. Psychological safety—taking risks within the team and in front of one another without feeling as if there will be negative repercussions.
  2. Dependability—knowing that each member will do their best work, on time.
  3. Structure and clarity—having each member be absolutely clear on their role, the processes for the project/team and the ultimate goal they are trying to achieve together.
  4. Meaning of work—each team member feels personally invested in the work being accomplished.
  5. Impact of work—each team member feels that the work matters, in the overall scheme of the organization and the world at large.

Identifying solidly with all five keys is the hallmark of an effective team. A leader who feels that this isn’t happening with his or her team can take heart if the first of the five is underway in his or her group. Why? Because ‘psychological safety’ is at the heart of all the keys and without it, the rest doesn’t hang together. It’s primary and most important.

A team can’t be effective if its members, including the leader, don’t feel safe sharing or putting out their ideas, in effect creating vulnerability vis-a-vis their team members. Work on that and you’ve got a team that’s working.

What to Do (or Not Do) on a Team

What to Do (or Not Do) on a Team

That old chestnut that there is no ‘I’ in ‘team’ is tired but true and those team members who forget it are likely to struggle.

Working in a team isn’t necessarily easy. It takes effort and requires contributions from every member in order to be effective. There are, however, some specific things you can do as a member of a team to ensure that you are acting as effectively as possible and inspiring others to do the same.

Speak up… and listen

Communication is key. If you aren’t talking, sharing, being honest and open, you probably aren’t communicating effectively and if you don’t, the other members of your team won’t know what you’re thinking. A team can operate cohesively but that doesn’t mean that other members are mind readers!

In addition to speaking and sharing, a good team member will also listen. And not just passive listening, where they take in what is being said around them and don’t react to it in any way, but active listening, where they feedback what they think they have heard, to ensure that there are no misunderstandings. Further, other team members will feel that their contributions are valuable if you demonstrate an interest in what they are saying. If you are playing on your smartphone while others are speaking, you aren’t communicating effectively.

Don’t play the blame game

When something goes wrong during a project, proactive problem solving is the best result a team can strive for. It’s important not to waste a lot of time and energy blaming individuals for an error; it’s more valuable to own the problem as a team, assess the damage and figure out a way to move forward.

That said, a team’s spirit can be undermined if there is a need to hold someone or several persons accountable for their actions and that accountability is not exercised; but that’s different from laying blame.

Accountability to the team is important: if everyone is participating and ‘pulling their weight’, so to speak, there should be no issue that can’t be handled as a team. It’s when there are individuals who do not have the motivation, interest or ability to participate that issues of blame begin to crop up.

Be supportive and an active player

To follow on the notion of accountability, all team members need to be active participants, supportive of their teammates. Cooperation, reliability and flexibility are the order of the day and a desire to achieve working ability through consensus makes for the strongest teams.

If everyone pitches in and does their share, contributes with their strengths and supports others as they contribute with theirs, each team member will have done the best they can to achieve the goals of the team as a whole.

You can’t control how others behave, but you can control your own behavior and it behooves us all to put our best foot forward, in every circumstance.

Take credit as a team

Goals are achieved as a team and therefore accolades need to be given to the team as a whole. While there may be one person or a sub-group that stand out as being particularly important in the achievement, the reality is that most great achievement does not happen in a vacuum. There are a lot of people who contribute to it and those contributions should be acknowledged.

Some things not to do, as a team member?

  1. Not contributing and giving out signs of apathy—if you don’t want to be on the team, or you don’t subscribe to the goals as set out for the project, it will show. Your lack of contribution—sitting on the sidelines, as it were—will eventually be resented by the other members of the group, which in and of itself can damage the group’s dynamics.
  2. Not communicating, at best; being rude, at worst—the importance of communication cannot be overstated. If you are in over your head, say so. If you need something from someone else in order to do your part of a project, say so. If someone is trying to tell you that they disagree with something you have done or said, listen to them. Ignoring others or arguing with them disparagingly will be damaging to any project.
  3. Not trustworthy, poor timekeeper, won’t get it done—reliability is essential in being an effective team member. If everyone else is doing their share and working to the best of their abilities and you can’t be bothered to show up to most meetings and don’t complete the tasks that are on your to-do list, you’re letting the whole team down.
  4. Only interested in personal gain—doing things as a team means achieving (or failing) as a team. If you are engaging in activities for your own personal gain and with no regard for your teammates, you’re there for the wrong reasons.
  5. Blames others when falls short—a good team will take the hits together. Blaming other team members instead of constructively trying to alter the methods used going forward is a weak approach and one that ultimately will not benefit the team.
  6. Negative attitude / not buying into team goals—we all have disagreements or times when we don’t necessarily agree with everything that is being done on a project. But rather than sitting in a corner passive-aggressively ranting about it, or worse, complaining to anyone who will listen, do something about it. This all comes back to communication and contributing, for an effective team.

 

So much of what I’ve said here is common sense but it’s all worth repeating and reminding ourselves about what works and what doesn’t, in a team environment.

 

Five Steps to Building the Most Effective Team Ever by Shannon Cassidy

Five Steps to Building the Most Effective Team Ever

As any good leader knows, from the manager of the local big box store to the President of the United States, a good leader is only as good as his or her team.

 

Whether you are leading a group of scientists in new discovery or a staff of twenty in the first grueling days of a start-up, the importance of your team operating as a well-oiled machine cannot be understated. One broken cog can throw the whole wheel off-balance and the downstream effects on projects or plans can be devastating.

 

Ultimately, the responsibility for the success or failure of a team is entirely yours, as its leader.

 

Outstanding leaders go out of their way to boost the self-esteem of their personnel. If people believe in themselves, it’s amazing what they can accomplish. ~Sam Walton (Source)

 

Build Respect

 

Open communication is fundamental to any good team and that can only exist in a respectful environment. Leaders have to respect the people working for them and vice versa; team members need to respect each other. Respect includes an element of trust. A team can tackle any situation that arises if they trust and respect one another. If they don’t, they’ll work at cross purposes or in individual silos, which can only result in goals and targets being missed.

 

How do you build respect?

  • Make sure that team members have a chance to get to know each other, even if they are not working from the same location.
  • Put together team values and goals that everyone understands and buys into.
  • Foster a respectful environment by ensuring that each member’s ideas are treated as being valid and valuable.
  • Be aware of how your team is working together and areas where improvements in communication might be made.
  • Make sure that team members feel free to share information with one another and encourage active listening.

 

Build Processes

 

Part of working cohesively as a team is knowing the rules of the game. That’s where processes come in. As the leader, it’s up to you to be clear on directives: how the team is to work, communicate, make decisions. These processes have to be communicated clearly so no one is unsure of how to operate.

 

How do you build processes?

  • Ideally, by consensus. People buy into the ground rules if they had a hand in making them.
  • As a leader, you can lay out some fundamental goals and then allow the team to establish how they will go about achieving them, with input and direction from yourself.

 

Delegate

 

Related to processes, above, once you have a clear idea on deliverables on a project, make sure that your team does too and then delegate the ability to make consensus decisions amongst themselves. They need a stake in the goals to take them on fully. Remember however that delegating does not mean telling your team to do something and then walking away. It means letting them get the work done with minimal interference on your part; however, the team needs to know that you are still present, participating and willing to step in if discussions go off the rails.

 

How do you delegate?

  • A huge part of delegating is trust on your part, as the leader. You have to trust the people on your team to get it done.
  • Be specific on what you are delegating. Tasks versus entire projects are easier to manage and follow, at least in the short term, until the team has a solid working relationship with one another. Eventually, you should be able to get to the point where you can outline the entire project and let the team proceed.
  • Your job as a leader isn’t to tell them how to do the work, but to support them by giving them what they need to get it done and removing any stumbling blocks from their path.
  • Make sure there is a framework in place to deal with situations where consensus is not being achieved or where team members are not fully participating / being bullied by others. A solid team should not have this issue but people change over time. They have their own issues and agendas and that can change the team dynamic.

 

Hire Smart

 

As I said before, one broken cog can send the wheel flying so ensuring that your team members are amenable to working together is best achieved by involving existing team members in new hires.

 

How do you hire smart?

  • Involve existing team members in the hiring process. A person can look good on paper with the right skills and experience, but the key to ongoing communication and good teamwork is whether that person fits with the rest of the group, in terms of personality and softer skills, like social interactions. A bad fit can be as damaging to a team as a lack of skills.

 

Be a Reliable Leader

 

For a team to trust you, they need to know that you have their back. So while you have to delegate and give them the freedom to pursue the goals you have set out, you also need to continue to be involved, to monitor their progress and act on their behalf with any obstacles in their way. Being reliable becomes something that your team members will admire in you and perhaps even choose to emulate.

 

How do you become a reliable leader?

  • Be involved. Be true to your word: if you say you are going to do something, do it.
  • Show that you are monitoring the projects by creating a method by which the team can share status updates and any concerns that they have. A team that feels that they’ve been abandoned might flounder: stay with them!
  • Celebrate the successes, big and small.
  • Make sure that every team member knows that they can speak with you if they need anything. An open door policy is communication at its best.

 

The idea of building a good team is not just an abstract: these are real people, real projects and real goals.

 

You know, as most entrepreneurs do, that a company is only as good as its people. The hard part is actually building the team that will embody your company’s culture and propel you forward.

~ Kathryn Minshew (Source)