What’s the secret sauce that makes teams come together rather than drift apart? Few managers would argue an effective team is worth it’s weight in gold but not all of them can articulate how those successful teams got that way. There’s no denying there are many elements with the power to impact, and potentially derail, a team. The organizational culture a team works under can change a team’s dynamics, as can managerial style, or workload and resource distribution. But when looking internally at the team itself, what factors should good leaders account for that will set their teams up for success?
What are the key elements of successful teams?
Once you’re determined to tackle team success, where do you start? Here are five cornerstones of successful teams that will help you create a solid foundation whether you’re joining a new team or revitalizing an old one.
Structure: At it’s most basic level, teams needs a strong structure to succeed. This means taking processes and targets into account, along with a balance of skills sets and abilities. You ideally want to clear the way of any obstructions to performance by trying to plan ahead for when problems arise. Before your team starts on their first assignment, take the time to consider the roles within your team. Is there a team leader? Will certain team members be in charge of certain tasks? Figure out what the best structure will be and then set up procedures and policies to support your framework. When will check-ins be held? Who needs to be notified if something goes wrong? The clearer the structure and expectations of a team are, the faster they’ll find their feet and be able to work together as a unit.
Relationships: Most teams are brought together by a hiring manager, rather than by people who actively choose to work together. Personalities don’t always mix just because a manager wants them to so keep each other’s individual differences in mind. Managing team dynamics is not an easy task but leaders need to create opportunities for their team members to come together and learn about each other. Communication styles or approaches to work might be different and talking about that misalignment openly and without judgement can help a team better understand new ways of working together. High-performing teams know each other’s strengths and weaknesses and lean on each other in order to achieve a goal.
Communication: How teammates, or managers, communicate can set the stage for how safe a team feels working together. Without communication, collaboration becomes next to impossible. Communication can cover a lot of ground from how well team members listen to each other, to the respect they give when ideas are raised, to how they handle conflict. Good leaders should even think about how and where people are communicating. Are they on one unified platform like Slack, for example, or is everyone talking about work all over the place? The goal should be centralized and open communication so that everyone on the team understands what the expectations are and what to do if they need help or to brainstorm about a task. After all, you want a team culture where people turn to each other when they hit a bump in the road, not one where trust is low and everyone is only looking out for themselves.
Transparency: Speaking of trust, another way to achieve that level of respect and cooperation comes from being transparent. Projects and tasks can come at employees quickly in the real world and they don’t always take the time to check what their other team members are doing. Creating a culture of transparency can help eliminate the conflict and confusion about assignments that can be a big time waster. This can come from using a shared project management tool or from regular meetings but ensuring everyone has a clear view of the work being done and what is being achieved can help teams push forward together. And this goes double for the manager or team leader. Whoever is in a leadership position needs to be clear about what a team should be doing and what sort of communication they may be getting from higher up the food chain. A team that feels like they have all the information upfront stands a better chance of hitting the desired target.
Appreciation: Perhaps the most important step of creating a successful team is taking the time to appreciate wins and reward effort. A strong team will work hard and when they tackle their goals, those wins need to be celebrated. And don’t just focus on individual achievements but also on team collaboration. You want to build a team culture where everyone relies on one another and comes together when times get stressful. Some efforts will require individual accolades of course, and they should, but don’t forget that the driving power of success should come from working together. Appreciating your team will show employees they are seen and their efforts are valued. Teams that achieve but aren’t rewarded learn very quickly not to try as hard because no one cares when they do. So take the time to say thank you for a job well done and make sure your team gets the recognition they deserve.
A strong foundation paves the way for success
As a team grows and learns together other elements of team dynamics or effective performance may come into play. But starting with a strong foundation gives leaders the ability to get off on the right foot and ensure everyone has a clear understanding of what the team’s goals are, how they will be achieved, and what they can expect once they’ve been completed. Productive teams know how important it is to work together and lean on each other’s strengths and unique skill sets. Individual roles are important and valued but team successes need to be prioritized too to help create a culture of respect and collaboration. Creating a sense of camaraderie can go a long way towards increasing productivity and employee engagement so next time you need to take charge of a team, make sure you have the right foundation in place in order for everyone to succeed together.