Teams operate almost everywhere, in different contexts, with different compositions, with varying sizes and purposes. Teams are the foundational element in most organizational structures. Whether the organization is private or public, for profit or non-profit, teams are a vital element to the organization’s success. Given this, the very important question then, is what makes an effective and successful team?
Let’s look at 5 elements which are vital for dynamic teams.
Trust is a word that is regularly thrown around, but often very elusive to achieve. Trust is paramount because it is the foundation of a strong team, and it must be developed with intentionality. How is trust demonstrated in a team? Trust can be addressed from two sides. The first is personal and relational. Teams must invest the time to learn more about one another. The second is learning based. Teams learn what are trust based behaviors and what are words and behaviors that undermine trust. As teams learn about one another and begin to intentionally demonstrate trust building behaviors, the openness and vulnerability that grows will lead to the development of trust.
At MIT’s Human Dynamics Laboratory, through a study using card sized electronic badges that collected data on individual communication behavior – tone of voice, body language, whom people talked to and how much, and more, it was identified that patterns of communication are a key predictor of a team’s success. The key is that teams cannot just communicate, they must communicate well. Communication can be thwarted in many different ways. It can be a team culture issue (this is my information), or organizational conflicts or turf wars (we won’t share), or ineffective structures for communicating important information, the list goes on! The sharing of the right information in the right ways enhances a team’s ability to be successful.
Teams can function much more productively and effectively if they have established agreements. Agreements are basically arrangements made between two or more people concerning a course of action. They can be as simple as identifying if meetings start precisely on time or if you wait for stragglers. Agreements can concern team structures or conduct. In her book, ‘Team Alchemy’, Deborah Pruitt outlines the benefits of strong, articulated agreements for teams. When considering and writing agreements, it is important to ask what agreements support an environment of trust. Establishing agreements concerning trust and communication builds capacity and efficacy in these areas. Has your team discussed and articulated team agreements?
A COMMON GOAL
Why does your team exist? The answer to this question seems like it would be obvious. Dig a little deeper, though, and see if every team member answers the question the same. In addition, does the answer to that question align with the organization’s reason for existing? Working toward a common goal and understanding its alignment within the overall organization is crucial.
What team behaviors and attitudes promote collaboration? Good collaboration isn’t just discussion. Discussion or brainstorming efforts can lead to ‘group think’, not truly generating innovative ideas. Objectivity and the willingness to critically think about ideas and to receive critical feedback are essential for constructive collaboration. In addition, effective collaboration includes contributing, facilitating the contributions of others, fostering a positive team climate, and responding well to conflict.
How do the elements of trust, communication, agreements, and collaboration support the goal of the team? Identifying and understanding the conceptual elements of an effective team grow awareness and capacity. Beyond just the learning of these concepts, is the implementation. Success truly lies in the implementation of these 5 elements of effective and successful teams.
Written by Christa Sandidge
The Center for Professional Development
Northwest Nazarene University
NNU Center for Professional Development offers a one day team workshop expanding on these concepts - Team Development: Foundational Elements of a High-Functioning Team. NNU also brings this team workshop into organizations. If you’d like to learn more, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org or 208.467.8491. As always don’t forget to follow us on Facebook!
Pentland, A. (2012, April 1). The New Science of Building Great Teams. Retrieved November 6, 2015, from https://hbr.org/2012/04/the-new-science-of-building-great-teams/ar/1
Pruitt, D. (2012). Group alchemy : The six elements of highly successful collaboration. Emeryville, CA: Group Alchemy Pub.