7 Keys to Building Great Work Teams


For a work group to reach its full potential, members must be able to say what they think,
ask for help, share new or unpopular ideas, and risk making mistakes. This can only happen in an atmosphere where team members show concern, trust one another, and focus on solutions, not problems. Communication-when it is friendly, open, and positive-plays a vital role in creating such cohesiveness.

Friendly communications are more likely when individuals know and respect one another. Team members show caring by asking about each other's lives outside of work, respecting individual differences, joking, and generally making all feel welcome.

Open communication is equally important to a team's success. To assess work performance, members must provide honest feedback, accept constructive criticism, and address issues head-on. To do so requires a trust level supported by direct, honest communication.

Positive communication impacts the energy of a work team. When members talk about what they like, need, or want, it is quite different from wailing about what annoys or frustrates them. The former energizes; the latter demoralizes.

To enhance team communication, leaders can provide skill training in listening, responding, and the use of language as well as in meeting management, feedback, and consensus building.

Most challenges in the workplace today require much more than good solo performance. In increasingly complex organizations, success depends upon the degree of interdependence recognized within the team. Leaders can facilitate cooperation by highlighting the impact of individual members on team productivity and clarifying valued team member behaviors. The following F.A.C.T.S. model of effective team member behaviors (follow-through, accuracy, timeliness, creativity, and spirit) may serve as a guide for helping teams identify behaviors that support synergy within the work team.

One of the most common phrases heard in groups that work well together is "You can count on it." Members trust that when a colleague agrees to return a telephone call, read a report, talk to a customer, attend a meeting, or change a behavior, the job will be done. There will be follow-through. Team members are keenly aware that as part of a team, everything that they do-or don't do-impacts someone else.

Another common phrase heard in effective work groups is "We do it right the first time."

Accuracy, clearly a reflection of personal pride, also demonstrates a commitment to uphold the standards of the team, thus generating team pride.

Innovation flourishes on a team when individuals feel supported by colleagues. Although taking the lead in a new order of things is risky business, such risk is greatly reduced in a cooperative environment where members forgive mistakes, respect individual differences, and shift their thinking from a point of view to a viewing point.

When work team members are truly cooperating, they respect the time of others by turning team priorities into personal priorities, arriving for meetings on time, sharing information promptly, clustering questions for people, communicating succinctly, and asking "Is this a good time?" before initiating interactions.

Being on a work team is a bit like being part of a family. You can't have your way all of the time, and-to add value-you must develop a generous spirit. Leaders can help work teams by addressing these "rules" of team spirit: value the individual; develop team trust; communicate openly; manage differences; share successes; welcome new members.

It is inevitable that teams of bright, diverse thinkers will experience conflict from time
to time. The problem is not that differences exist, but in how they are managed. If people
believe that conflict never occurs in "good" groups, they may sweep conflict

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