Building an Effective Team
Creating a Productive and Efficient Group
What comes to mind when you think about an effective team?
You might picture a team that works seamlessly as a whole.
Everyone brings unique talents and strengths to the table, no-one is playing politics or bickering, and there's just enough competitive spirit to bring out the best in everyone. Work gets done effectively, and everyone contributes to the team's goals.
It can be a challenge to reach this level of effectiveness if you're putting together a new team, or if you're developing an existing one. However, it's much easier if you have a plan in place.
In this article and in the video, below, we'll explore a common-sense, step-by-step process that you can use for building and maintaining an effective team.
Click here to view a transcript of this video.
Step 1: Analyze and Plan
Whether you've been tasked with setting up a new team, or you're taking over an existing one, begin by defining the goal of your team. What is its ultimate purpose? What are your expectations? How will your team contribute to your organization's goals and mission? Then create a Team Charter to help clarify your team's objectives.
If you're in charge of an existing team, and you want to help it function more effectively, take our Team Effectiveness Assessment. This quiz will help you understand the areas that you need to work on.
You can also conduct a DILO (Day in the Life Of) Analysis. This helps you analyze your team's daily activity, to identify what people are actually doing with their time, resources, and energy. You'll also be able to spot problem areas, and this will help you think about how you'll improve your team's overall effectiveness.
If you're setting up a new team, or making significant changes to an existing team, you'll also want to define specific roles and tasks at this stage. Try to ensure that no tasks or responsibilities overlap unnecessarily between roles, as this could cause problems later on. (Techniques like Swim Lane Analysis can help you analyze your processes and think about who does what.)
Before you start, it's helpful to understand how good your own management skills are. Our management skills quiz will help you think about which areas you may need to improve.
Step 2: Get the Right People
Once you've defined your goals, and have identified the roles that you need fill, make a list of the type of people that you want on your team. What strengths should each person have? As well as technical ability, should they also bring supportive team behaviors, such as a positive attitude, emotional intelligence, or a collaborative spirit to the team?
It's just as important to do this for existing teams as it is for new teams. This can shape how you train and develop your people (see Step 3), and will determine what you look for when you recruit new team members.
When you bring new people on board, make sure that you recruit effectively and professionally. Carefully analyze the roles that you want to fill, and then craft a recruitment process that brings the best possible people in to fill these roles. It's important not to rush this stage – recruiting the wrong people will waste resources, and will cause frustration and resentment with other team members.
Once you have your core team in place, use your Team Charter (see Step 1) to refresh people's memories of team objectives. Each person should clearly understand the goals of the group, and should know how these fit with your organization's overall objectives.
Use Management by Objectives (MBO) to connect each member's contributions to the common goal of the team. Avoid being general here – each person should be aware of how his or her specific efforts will help the team achieve success.
Also, establish Key Performance Indicators (KPIs). These metrics will link your team's activities to your organization's goal, so that you can better manage performance. Team members should know which KPIs will affect them directly, so that they know what standards they'll be working toward.
If you're setting up a new team, it's also important to go over the logistics of how the team will work, and to set some ground rules. How will information be shared? How often will you meet, and who will chair each meeting? Are there significant project deadlines? Update your Team Charter with this information where appropriate.
Step 3: Train/Develop
As your team begins to work together, allow some time for people to get to know one another. Successful groups are built on trust and collaboration. As such, you might want to conduct team building exercises to help build team trust and establish bonds of friendship and mutual respect.
Conduct Training Needs Assessments to explore whether people need further training, or need specific opportunities to develop their skills. (Remember the key skills and strengths that you highlighted in Step 2 – think about how can you help existing team members develop these.) Also make sure that you have an
induction program in place that helps new team members build the skills they need.
Keep in mind, too, that your people will likely progress through several predictable stages, as they move from being strangers to forming a cohesive team. Read our articles on Forming, Storming, Norming and Performing, and Cog's Ladder, to get a good understanding of these different stages.
Many team leaders and organizations limit training to the very beginning of team formation. But your people will likely need ongoing training and development to help them become more effective. This is because tasks, responsibilities, goals, and expectations will change; and people need "next-level" training as they develop their skills and competence.
To help your people to continue improving, you'll need to understand their developmental needs, and make training an ongoing priority.
You can assess and improve your team development skills by taking our How Well Do You Develop Your People? quiz.
Spend time thinking about each team member individually. Are they meeting deadlines? Do they seem to be thriving in the group? If you notice someone lagging behind, or not meeting deadlines, consider giving him or her one-on-one
It's also important that you identify people with leadership potential, and provide them with the opportunities to develop their skills in this area. Our article, Building Tomorrow's Leaders, will help you to do this.
Timely two-way feedback is especially important in developing your team. Learn how to provide feedback effectively yourself, and encourage your people to do the same.
Step 4: Motivate
One of the most important roles that you have as a team manager is that of keeping individuals motivated and energized as they work toward their goals.
Start by taking our How Good Are Your Motivation Skills? quiz, which will help you identify areas of motivation that you need to work on.
Also, spend some time learning about the psychology of motivation. You'll be much better at tailoring your efforts to the different needs of each individual if you understand what they truly want from you, and from their work.
For instance, many managers believe that their people will be motivated by the lure of a financial bonus if they hit a key goal. However, people are often motivated by factors that have nothing to do with their paycheck or bonus, and it's important to identify what these motivators are.
Our article on Herzberg's Motivators and Hygiene Factors will help you identify what truly motivates people on your team. Building on this, our articles on Sirota's Three Factor Theory, McClelland's Human Motivation Theory, and Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs will help you develop a sophisticated and flexible approach to motivation.
Your people will want to feel like they're making progress, and making an impact. So take time to celebrate successes along the way, whether these are big or small.
Step 5: Reward/Compensate
Once you know what truly motivates your people, you can use appropriate compensation to reward them as they hit key targets and goals.
When doing this, it's important that you praise the team as a whole, as well as people individually. You can also structure your rewards in this way, based on what you discovered about people's motivations from Step 4.
For instance, your team may appreciate a reward of a catered lunch for all their hard work. Additionally, people may appreciate meeting with you one-on-one to discuss their career prospects, or may like to meet just for a personal chat, so that you can say "job well done."
See the Managing Different Types of Workers articles in our Team Management section for strategies for managing and motivating specific groups of employees.
Building an effective team is something that all managers want to achieve. But it's important to plan ahead if you want to do this properly.
Start by creating a plan for your team. Identify goals and responsibilities early on, so that you can recruit effectively to fill each position.
Next, identify any training and development needs by doing a Training Needs Assessment. You can then structure training and ongoing development so that it makes the biggest possible impact.
As people get more comfortable in their roles, your team may go through several stages of development. The more you know about these predictable stages, the better position you'll be in to coach your people through them.
Also, make sure that you spend time keeping everyone motivated and engaged. And remember, building an effective team is on ongoing activity – revisit each step of this process on a regular basis.