7 Keys to Building Great Work Teams


Successful projects depend on how well the team works together. Elements that lead to success include commitment, contribution, good communication, and cooperation. Cooperation itself includes factors such as follow-through, timeliness, and others. Conflict management and change management are also important. This article analyzes and explains all of these elements that constitute a productive and successful team.

Fostering teamwork is a top priority for many leaders. The benefits are clear: increased
productivity, improved customer service, more flexible systems, employee empowerment. But is the vision clear? To effectively implement teams, leaders need a clear picture of the seven elements high-performance teams have in common.

Commitment to the purpose and values of an organization provides a clear sense of direction.

Team members understand how their work fits into corporate objectives and they agree that their team's goals are achievable and aligned with corporate mission and values. Commitment is the foundation for synergy in groups. Individuals are willing to put aside personal needs for the benefit of the work team or the company. When there is a meeting of the minds on the big picture, this shared purpose provides a backdrop against which all team decisions can be viewed. Goals are developed with corporate priorities in mind. Team ground rules are set with consideration for both company and individual values. When conflict arises, the team uses alignment with purpose, values, and goals as important criteria for acceptable solutions.

To enhance team commitment, leaders might consider inviting each work team to develop team mission, vision, and values statements that are in alignment with those of the corporation but reflect the individuality of each team. These statements should be visible and "walked" every day. Once a shared purpose is agreed upon, each team can develop goals and measures, focus on continuous improvement, and celebrate team success at important milestones. The time spent up front getting all team members on the same track will greatly reduce the number of derailments or emergency rerouting later.

The power of an effective team is in direct proportion to the skills members possess and the initiative members expend. Work teams need people who have strong technical and
interpersonal skills and are willing to learn. Teams also need self-leaders who take
responsibility for getting things done. But if a few team members shoulder most of the
burden, the team runs the risk of member burnout, or worse-member turn-off.

To enhance balanced participation on a work team, leaders should consider three factors that affect the level of individual contribution: inclusion, confidence, and empowerment. The more individuals feel like part of a team, the more they contribute; and the more members contribute, the more they feel like part of the team. To enhance feelings of inclusion, leaders need to keep work team members informed, solicit their input, and support an atmosphere of collegiality. If employees are not offering suggestions at meetings, invite them to do so. If team members miss meetings, let them know they were missed. When ideas-even wild ideas-are offered, show appreciation for the initiative.

Confidence in self and team affects the amount of energy a team member invests in an
endeavor. If it appears that the investment of hard work is likely to end in success,
employees are more likely to contribute. If, on the other hand, success seems unlikely,
investment of energy will wane. To breed confidence on a work team, leaders can highlight the talent, experience, and accomplishments represented on the team, as well as keep past team successes visible. The confidence of team members can be bolstered by providing feedback, coaching, assessment, and professional development opportunities.

Another way to balance contribution on a work team is to enhance employee empowerment. When workers are involved in decisions, given the right training, and respected for their experience, they feel enabled and invest more. It is also important to have team members evaluate how well they support the contribution of others.



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