Getting a group of people to work together effectively as a team can be a challenging task. But if you lay the right foundations and foster effective teamwork behaviours, you create the conditions for success.
This guide looks at how to get all of the essential elements in place to give your team the best chance of success.
What is an effective team?
The word "team" gets used a lot to describe any group of people who work alongside each other and/or report to the same manager. But that's not really what we're talking about here.
A real team is a group of interdependent people who work together to achieve a common goal (e.g. designing or manufacturing a product, producing a report, delivering a service to customers etc).
Stages of team development
When people are brought together as a team, they don't necessarily function as a team right from the start.
They tend to move through a number of stages - forming, storming, norming, and performing - as group members establish roles, relationships and figure out how to work together.
Direction and purpose
The foundation of any team is a clear direction. After all, how can a team achieve if they don't know what it is that they are trying to achieve?
In order to set the direction for your team you need to establish team goals. These are the collective goals that every member of the team should be working towards no matter what their individual contribution is.
Another foundation of team effectiveness is a strong structure. Teams need to have the right mix of people, roles and responsibilities need to be structured effectively, there needs to be clear ground rules for how the team operate and work together and there needs to be a structure in place that recognises and rewards achievement.
The third foundation for an effective team is support. This includes maintaining a reward system that reinforces good performance, providing the team with the resources and information that they need to do the job, as well as providing training and coaching to help team members build their knowledge and skills and overcome issues and challenges faced on-the-job.
Communication is a critical element of effective teamwork. It distributes the needed information between team members and it enables team members to build co-operative working relationships.
Plus, studies have shown that teams trained on communication dimensions tended to perform better than teams that were not - so it's worth investing some time and energy in upskilling your team members to communicate more effectively.
Laying the foundations for team effectiveness gives you a great base to work from, but you then need to actually manage teamwork in practice.
That means ensuring that everyone understands their role in the team, and that they engage in positive collaborative behaviours, including resolving conflicts when they arise.