What are the foundations and building blocks of great teamwork?
Having worked with many teams in corporate, SME, government, NGO, defence and sporting environments since 1988 we feel that the "Foundations" below represent common traits that we find in the best ones.
An effective team will have a blend of different talents, abilities and personalities. It is important to remember that good leadership and understanding within a team is critical to enable the right role contributions to be made. A balanced team will have thinking, social, and action-oriented roles in addition to the leadership role.
Clear Objectives and Agreed Goals
An effective team knows the goal it is working toward. Having clear objectives and agreed goals is more than knowing what results you want. The goals of the individual must be reconciled with those of the team for effective teamwork to occur. Begin with the end in mind (as Mr Covey would say) to scope not only where you want to go, but also what are the milestones necessary to get there.
Openness and Conflict
In an effective team, people feel that they can state their own views, differences of opinions, interests and problems without fear of ridicule. There is no “stab in the back” mentality. Conflict is also present and valued in an effective team (as long as it's professional and well handled). The team will openly work through an issue that causes conflict and use the results to help achieve objectives. Conflict helps to avoid complacency and laziness and can often be the source of new ideas!
Support and Trust
This is the skeleton on which an effective team is built. Support is not sympathy, but strengthening through assistance. With trust, people can talk freely about their fears and problems- knowing that they will receive from team members, the help they need to become more effective.
Cooperation through Understanding
People put the team’s success before their own. Individuals trust and respect the abilities of others and are not suspicious of their motives. It takes time and a lot of understanding for people to genuinely cooperate whilst being able to minimise the cognitive biases, clashes and emotional responses that can come from different opewrating styles and personalities.
The effective team thinks results first and methods second, but also realises that sound and proven working methods and decision making help to achieve results. Good procedures help ideas to be captured and worked through without being lost and also ensure optimum usage of human and material resources for a challenge. Plan well, brief well, execute well and then de-brief.
The best teams have leaders whose leadership style varies according the situation and the needs of the individual group members and the group itself. In fact the role of leader in an open and supportive team, can change from person to person as dictated by the situation. This situational form of leadership requires great undertsnading of team roles, tolerance of other members and the ability to control egos.
Good teams understand not only the team’s character, but they also look at the way that a team works, how it arrives at decisions, deals with conflicts etc. They then use this information to develop new methods or plans and then implement these ideas. Reviews are best when teams are willing to go beyond personality and simple causes to actual root causes with a view to improving operating methods.
Members of high performing teams feel good! They have opportunities to attempt new and challenging situations with in the team framework and know they have the support of those around them. They are motivated to be successful and are not intimidated by the individual wins of others within the team.
Sound Inter-Group Relations
The successful team can often appear threatening to less successful groups. This can cause isolation and hostility. The effective team works at its relations with other teams and ensures that help for others will be given when needed.
Team members are aware of developments within their own team and how this fits into the larger picture of the organisation. When people understand why things are being done, they avoid duplication of effort. Rumor is replaced by fact when teams engage internally and externally in regular and quality communications.
Celebrate and acknowledge success
In the same spirit that errors are identified openly and reviewed for improvement to occur, success needs to be identified and celebrated to ensure that “what we do well” is equally addressed in tandem with areas for improvement.
To find out how to bring these "Foundations of Teamwork" to life then click through to our Team Building options of Learning and Development options. Team Building can be about far more than just fun and games, we can meaningfully address where a team's strengths and weaknesses are in terms of these Foundations and Building Blocks.