“At the heart of every great team is a great leader.”
– Sandra Leigh

One of my favourite activities is to facilitate team development in organizations. I’ve worked with powerful teams and dysfunctional teams, broken teams and teams that have lost their way.

I’ve seen many negative characteristics that contribute to a lack of teamwork: 

  • Two sets of rules, depending on the individual supervisors’ personal style and approach
  • Team members gossiping or being condescending to each other
  • Working in silos – lack of awareness of what each other is working on
  • No team goals
  • Regular team meetings, but no one really contributes or wants to be there
  • Work efforts negatively impact other team members ability to do their job
  • Individuals showing up late, talking on their phones or taking excessive smoke breaks
  • Negativity from a small number of individuals that spreads through the team
  • Favouritism and a lack of fairness shown by the supervisor

These types of teams have higher disengagement that shows up as apathy, absenteeism, more sick leave and less discretionary effort. If your work team has at least one of these characteristics, then you might want to consider assessing and developing your team.

High performing teams are inspiring to watch in action. They leverage everyone involved, achieve their intended results and each person is fully engaged. How do they do it?

In my experience of working with dozens of teams, in different countries, there are three key factors:

Team Fundamentals         +         Positive Team Dynamics           +        Great Team Leadership

Team Fundamentals

These tenets are the must-haves – a checklist of activities to ensure your team is working together.

  • Goals – what are the short and long-term goals and/or projects for this team and how will success be observed
  • Roles – what is each person responsible for that contributes to the achieving the goals
  • Resources – each member of the team has the tools and resources to carry out their role
  • Orchestrated implementation – a schedule or plan is in place that shows who does what, when and how
  • Continuous improvement – everyone participates in assessing all aspects of the team and contributes to find new and better ways to work

Positive Team Dynamics

Now that you have the fundamental requirements set up, it’s critical to have the right people on your team and create an opportunity for them to do their best work. If the tools listed below are not established yet, try getting your team together to brainstorm ideas.

  • Focus on customer experience – understand who the internal and external customers are and what they expect of your team
  • Team Purpose – a sense of why this team exists – what is its overall contribution to the business
  • Team Vision – what is your team working toward over the next 2-3 years – what will it look like, what will the team members be doing, how will customers be responding
  • Team Values – what are the core values that meet the needs of your customers and represent who you are as a collective team
  • Trust & Transparency – having open and honest conversations about the team’s progress, successes, and breakdowns.
  • Safe Zone – enabling team members to speak up respectfully, about the barriers to getting their work done without judgment from others
  • Collaboration – encouraging team members to work together on projects
  • Positive Attitudes – are a must – this skills set includes the ability to see possibility and to respond to or initiate change

Great Leadership

Being a team leader is very similar to project management. Here are some success factors of effective team leaders.

  • Set Direction – communicate very clearly on a team and an individual level, what the expectations are (purpose, vision, values, goals, projects)
  • Team Structure – ensure the team fundamentals are set up, implemented and consistently applied
  • People skills – have a genuine interest in your team – as individuals – not just a means to get the job done
  • Team Development – ensure all team members have the skills they need to do their job. Offer cross-training to fill in for each other.  
  • Managing Team Performance – on a regular basis, hold team meetings to have each member share their progress and challenges, with the entire team. Collectively brainstorm ideas. Acknowledge effort and show appreciation.
  • Shut Down Negativity – chronic complaining and constant criticisms, gossip or judgments about each other, the job or co-workers outside this team and poor work ethics cannot be accepted and needs to be addressed immediately.
  • Be a role model – demonstrate the behaviour you expect of your team, roll up your sleeves and offer to help out when there are moments of urgency or heavier workloads

It is incredibly rewarding to witness team synergy and high performance for the team, their leader, and the organization.  Everyone wins!

What’s the state of your team?