Top 10: characteristics of an effective team

Sat, Feb 7, 2009

Top 10 tips

1: Identity:

Strong teams have a clear identity, often signified in a number of ways.  Most obviously a name, but also including budget, venue/meeting place, uniform, logo, colour scheme, language, rituals…

2: Shared values:

Team members share similar values, such as integrity, commitment to the common task, mutual support…  These are not imposed, but genuinely shared.  Ideally these are clearly known at any recruitment stage, so potential members can self-select (or otherwise), and may be used as part of the selection process…

3: Complementary skills:

There is an excellent mix of complementary skills; within the team there is the competence to get the job done to a high standard.  Everyone’s skill set is recognised, valued and used.  No one feels redundant…

4: Complementary roles:

Based on Belbin’s work, there is a balance of key roles - eg completer-finisher, shaper, harmoniser.  Too many with the same role preference, or gaps, will diminish the team’s effectiveness…

5: Common goal, vision, purpose:

The main focal point for the team is some commonality of mission, goal or purpose.  Many manufactured teams are created around achieving a specific goal or outcome; but others - often more informal - are built around other commonalities - eg shared values, or friendships.  It may be worth thinking of three types of commonalities - not necessarily mutually exclusive: commonality of destination, commonality of journey, commonality of state.

destination: team members want to get to, or achieve, a shared end product, result, or goal

journey: more important for these team members are to share the journey - to travel together, whatever the project, or goal - or not.  These team members are less bothered about where they go, than that they go there together

state: these team members just share ‘being’ together; a commonality of attitude, or state of mind; this is a risk taking team; this is a happy team; this is a wellbeing team

6: Leadership:

Strong teams have clear leadership - which does not always mean a clear leader.  Some teams can be self-managing.  But whatever the form of leadership, it is known and supported by all team members, and adds value to the functioning of the team…

7: Clear formal roles and responsibilities:

Team members will have absolute certainty who is specifically responsible for what, either in terms of task completion, or formal roles.  Individual team members accept accountability for their role and contribution; they will also tend to have collective responsibility - whatever disagreements there are within the team, they provide a united front externally…

8: Clear and agreed ground rules:

The team operates within an agreed set of ground rules, which provides for team discipline.  These will include how the team makes decisions, and how it deals with internal conflict and disagreement…

9: Non-insular:

One team strength is a potential weakness: that it becomes so internally strong it loses touch with its external world; it becomes precious, interally focused, and risks becoming detached from ‘reality’.  A truly strong team welcomes external viewpoints and criticisms, and ensures it stays genuinely in touch with its customers, stakeholders and markets, and avoids becoming smug or complacent…

10: Celebratory:

A strong team celebrates its successes, however measured.  These celebrations are a way of bonding and reaffirming the team’s identity and culture, and possibly attracting new members…

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