Teams come in all shapes and sizes. They serve different purposes and have different goals. But one thing they have in common is, when functioning properly, teams are more effective and creative than going it alone.
Vince Lombardi once said, “Individual commitment to a group effort—that is what makes a team work, a company work, a society work, a civilization work.”
He should know, he’s considered by many to be the greatest team coach in football history. But today we aren’t talking about sports teams, we’re digging into teams at work. They are becoming more widespread, and for good reasons. Teams:
- Draw on a collective knowledge.
- Are typically more creative and innovative.
- Often have better decision-making processes.
- Tend to be more thorough.
- Usually have less oversight, and fewer errors and omissions.
- Are more likely to challenge the status quo.
Sounds great, doesn’t it? Work teams can do impressive things if they are pulled together and managed properly. When assembling a team, it can help to have the candidates take a communication and personality assessment. At MRA, we use the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator® (MBTI®), which looks at personality types as well as the DiSC® Communication Assessment, which focuses on four different workplace styles—dominance, influence, steadiness, and conscientiousness. When someone’s personality is determined, it helps pinpoint his or her communication style, among other things.
When constructing a team, keep in mind the task at hand. What kind of people do you need to achieve your goal? Someone who is organized, detail oriented, knowledgeable in a specific area, a planner, a decision maker? Be sure to fill these specific roles for a successful outcome.
Diversity is also very important. Having different ages, races, genders, nationalities, and creativity levels opens up many different ways to approach tasks. If everyone on a team has similar backgrounds, knowledge, and skills, etc., the process and decisions can be limited.
But here’s an often-overlooked aspect of teamwork—your team should have fun. If the team isn’t a pleasant experience from the beginning, there’s a good chance it will fail.
Now that your team is intact, everyone needs to be on the same page with these five pieces to the team puzzle:
- A shared vision. What is the team trying to accomplish and what’s the desired outcome?
- Complimentary (but different) skills. A mix of abilities brings valuable collaboration and dialogue to the team.
- Mutual trust and respect. We learned this as children and it still rings true. Team members don’t always need to agree but they must trust and respect one another.
- Open communication. Transparency, always. If you’re going to share something with someone in the group, share it with the entire team. There’s no room for isolation or subgroups.
- Encouragement to push boundaries. Teams are meant to elevate a project or idea to the next level. So, to raise that bar in performance, they need to be able to think creatively, push limits, challenge the status quo and take risks without the fear of failure or termination.
A Team—Only as Strong as Its Weakest Link
You put all the pieces together, but the team isn’t clicking. Now what? When a team falters there are many reasons that could be in play.
Start by making sure everyone understands and agrees when it comes to these team functions:
- Roles and clear expectations. Who’s doing what.
- Goals. A team timeframe.
- Accountability. Team members take responsibility for their actions and commitments.
- Ground rules. The team dos and don’ts.
- Mission statement. The shared vision summed up in a nutshell.
- Leader of the team. The leader needs to be open and effective.
Remember, the fun part? It’s one of the most important aspects of a team. The success of a team relies heavily on the social aspect, the quality relationships among its members. Teams need to take the time to celebrate victories (even the small ones) and have some fun together. Celebrating a job well done builds a team bond, and without that bond a team won’t thrive.
Figuring out what isn’t working and fixing it often makes a team closer and stronger.
Productive teamwork isn’t something you can force on people. But when the right steps are taken to put together and nurture your people, quality teamwork will happen. Remember, there’s no “I” in team.
“None of us is as smart as all of us.” --Ken Blanchard