Effective teams can contribute heavily to the success of an organization. This lesson explores the key characteristics that make teams effective in the business world. You'll see an example of each characteristic and learn about underlying, supportive aspects of effectiveness.
Team Is a Verb as Well as a Noun
In the business world, the word 'team' is thrown around a great deal. It's become a phrase or term we use on a regular basis, such to say things like 'let's work as a team,' or 'we are a solid team around here.' The truth is that just because we use the word 'team' to describe a group of people, it does not mean the team functions in an effective manner.
We often use the word 'team' as a noun to identify the group, but we need to remember that 'team' can be a verb as well. The action of teaming is part of what makes a team effective. Putting a group of individuals on a team (noun) is great, but having that group team together (verb) is when effective teams arise.
What Makes Teams Effective
There are many different facets that make a team effective. While the list of what makes a team effective can be quite long, with attributes like good members or solid leadership, there are aggregate facets that can be identified that will contribute to the team effectiveness. They are:
- Clear performance goals: Performance goals are the incremental and quantifiable or qualitative accomplishments the team is looking for. The less abstract these goals are, the more cohesively the team can work together to accomplish them. For example, a goal of 'be the best team in the National Football League' is not as clear as having a goal of 'winning the Super Bowl.' It is much easier to be effective if the goals are clear.
- Meaningful common purpose: A common purpose is the understanding of what the team is trying to accomplish or what they are working towards. If the purpose is not meaningful to all members (thus they share it in common), it is more difficult to have a group of people function as a team. If the purpose of the team was to eliminate plastic bottles and some team members did not really see that as a pressing world need, the ultimate purpose of the group is not unilaterally common.
- Diversity: The concept of diversity is commonly understood to be a condition that is composed of varying elements. In the case of our teams, we strive for diversity as it relates to culture, personality and skill sets. This diversity gives us a wider perspective on any issues the team might face and thus allows for a more expansive level of inputs. Think of how challenging it would be if the team was assembled to deal with world hunger but was only made up of individuals from the U.S. that were middle-aged, white male executives from a similar background. As the problem was worked on, there would not be many varying viewpoints or sources of team input - thus the effectiveness could be impacted greatly.
- Communication: As with any situation, communication is critical. The sharing and understanding of data and information as sender and receiver is critical to a team's effectiveness. Put simply, you cannot solve a problem if you cannot openly talk about it and share viewpoints and ideas.
- Trust: Trust goes hand-in-hand with respect, and it is the cornerstone of any long-term relationship. True, many teams are not together for long and do not really have time to establish long-term trust, but even short-term trust is vital to a team reaching its goals. Teams learn to believe in the strength, credibility and ability of team members and, once again, those areas are vital to the team's efforts.
Additional Aspects of Effectiveness
While the concepts we just spoke about are the main areas that influence team effectiveness, there are also underlying - or we could say supportive - areas that impact effectiveness as well.
When we look at these supportive aspects of team effectiveness, we see areas such as the leadership of the team or what reward systems are in place; even team size has an impact on effectiveness. These areas can influence a team, but if the previous five areas we discussed are not present (or are not strong), having a reward system or a leader will not have as much of an impact.
Do you think a team would be effective if they had a reward system but no trust? Or if they had leadership but poor communication? The answer is no, which is why these secondary aspects are considered secondary. Without the presence of key aggregate aspects discussed previously, the success of the team will be greatly inhibited.
An effective team is really more of a journey than a destination. Most businesses strive to have effective teams that can deliver high-quality results. Unfortunately, many companies focus on the secondary aspect of team effectiveness (having a good leader or a solid reward system) without understanding the importance of the key aspects: clear performance goals, meaningful common purpose, diversity, communication, and trust.
After you have seen this video, you should be able to:
- Understand that 'team' is both a noun and a verb
- List the five characteristics of effective teams - clear performance goals, meaningful common purpose, diversity, communication and trust - and explain why each is important
- Identify the supportive aspects of team effectiveness, such as leadership, reward systems, and team size, but understand that these secondary aspects won't do much good without the five main characteristics in place