It takes great leadership to build great teams. Whether in the workplace, professional sports, or your local community, team building requires a keen understanding of people, their strengths and weaknesses, and what motivates them to work with others. Team building is both an art and a science and the leader who can consistently build high performance teams is worth their weight in gold.
High-performing teams have the potential to accomplish significant achievements given the combination of unique skills, abilities, and insights that each teammate offers. Strong teams benefit the individuals who comprise them because they provide each member with the opportunity to learn from one another. 1 The company reaps great benefits as well because effective teams accelerate the delivery of results and can enact change across multiple fronts of the organization through cross-disciplinary problem solving.1 Teamwork is currently a key area of focus now in the healthcare industry as the shift toward value-based care requires collaborative, interdisciplinary teams to maximize performance, care coordination and patient satisfaction.
It is not uncommon for teams to be faced with obstacles to achieving desired results, often caused by tension, poor communication and lack of coordination and collaboration. Patrick Lencioni has identified five common challenges that teams face which can impede high-functionality:2
- Absence of trust – unwilling to be vulnerable within the group
- Fear of conflict – seeking artificial harmony over constructive passionate debate
- Lack of commitment – feigning buy-in for group decisions creates ambiguity throughout the organization
- Avoidance of accountability – ducking the responsibility to call peers on counterproductive behavior which sets low standards
- Inattention to results – focusing on personal success, status and ego before team success
At the heart of a successful team is a clear sense of purpose and common mission which binds the team members together. The best teams are committed and engaged to that purpose with each member contributing to the group’s efforts. Open communication is another core characteristic of successful teams as demonstrated by each member comfortably voicing his/her opinion and offering insights and ideas without fear of unwarranted judgment or criticism. In addition, successful teams set clear objectives, discuss an approach for achieving goals, outline realistic marginal steps, and identify individual responsibilities. Disagreement is constructive, not contentious, and an understanding can be reached through rational discussion.
Listed below are key areas which successful leaders focus on in building an effective team:
Steps to Building an Effective Team:
- Choose the right people.3 Identify the key players given the needs of the situation based on the contributions that each can offer to the team’s efforts.
- Set goals as a group that all can agree on and discuss a plan of action, followed by prioritization and delegation of tasks to achieve those goals.3
- Before the group engagement kicks off, hammer out any issues or concerns within the team dynamic that may pose problems for the future.
- The most effective way to communicate is to ask open-ended questions, acknowledge and address errors, and explore new ideas and possibilities.1
- Throughout the engagement, reflect on team and individual performance regularly through observation and discussion.
Not all teams are created equal. High performance teams, by definition, are comprised of members who work well together. A high performance group excels in accomplishing work-related tasks, sets and reaches goals, engages in constructive conflict and open dialogue, and is built on mutual support and collaborative decision-making. Building an effective team does not happen overnight. However, efforts towards development of effective teams translate into higher performance metrics including productivity, efficiency, and engagement.4
1 Edmondson, A.C. (2012, April). Teamwork on the fly. Harvard Business Review, 90(4), 72-80.
2 Lencioni, P. (2013). Conquer team dysfunction. The Table Group. Retrieved from http://www.tablegroup.com/imo/media/doc/Conquer_Team_Dysfunction.pdf
3 Kruyt, M., Malan, J., & Tuffield, R. (2011, Feb.) Three steps to building a better top team. McKinsey & Company. Retrieved from http://www.mckinsey.com/insights/organization/three_steps_to_building_a_better_top_team
4 Pentland, A. (2012, April). The new science of building great teams. Harvard Business Review. Retrieved from https://hbr.org/2012/04/the-new-science-of-building-great-teams