Building Effective Work Teams

Great work teams are generally more productive and produce greater results than individuals or even star employees alone. A team gives a sense of unity and enthusiasm for common interests and responsibilities. Teams can take the individual contributions of one employee and magnify them to their maximum potential. In other words, a good team is greater than the sum of its parts.

While building an effective team may seem hard, there’s actually a proven process that you can follow to build your team. It’s not as difficult as you may think.

Steps to Creating an Effective Work Team

Conduct a Needs Assessment

The first step in creating a work team is doing a needs assessment. A needs assessment helps you answer two straightforward questions: where we are now and where we want to be. This is known as a gap analysis. Once you understand the gap, you can set SMART goals

Goal Setting

The SMART goal model sets strategic, measurable, attainable, realistic, and time-based goals. A SMART  goal uses the gap analysis to document where you are now and where we’d like to be in the future. Make sure that you set goals that can be measured in real terms and that aren’t too far out of reach in the time that you need to accomplish them. Don’t forget to clarify the purpose of the team’s goal to build buy-in and camaraderie amongst the team members.

Identify Resources

Once you have done the gap analysis and set your goals, the next step is to identify resources. Take the time to understand the people who will be contributing to the organization’s goals, how much time they will need, what space they will be working in etc. Make sure that you are gathering data during this process. You can do this by using surveys, general observations of the group, individual or group interviews, and reviewing documents relevant to your decision.

Work Team Buy In

Get Buy-In

Once you’ve conducted a needs assessment and completed the gap analysis, and set your team’s goals, you can move forward into the construction of the work team itself. This starts by getting everyone who will be a part of the team invested in the goals you’ve set. 

A new team won’t flourish unless all of the individual contributors have bought into the team’s goal. One of the best ways to make sure you get buy-in is to respect and foster different communication and work styles. Take some time to understand and appreciate the differences in how your team members work and communicate and make sure your team members understand and appreciate each other’s differences.

Team Leadership Styles

Different work teams may need different leadership styles. But some styles are more effective than others. Below are some of the different leadership styles and the characteristics that are typically attributed to them.

  • The authoritarian leader gives orders. They provide a series of directives, and they expect team members to work to achieve those directives.
  • The democratic leader really likes to get into the trenches with their employee, get buy-in, and consensus from the entire team before setting the goals that everybody agrees to work towards.
  • The pacesetting leader is more concerned with setting goals right from the beginning and then making sure that they’re helping the team members get to those specifically outlined goals throughout the project.
  • The Laissez-faire leader is very hands-off. This can lead to chaos, miscommunication, and ambiguity among work team members. This leadership style is typically not recommended. This person will sit back and let employees do what they want and move at their own pace toward their own goals. It’s not typically conducive to a healthy team environment.
  • A coaching leader will make sure that they are with their employees every step of the way. They’re always available. They may move or modify some goals as the team needs them. This person is a very hands-on leader and really wants to be involved with the employees as they work towards their goals.
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Tuckman’s Team Formation Model

Psychologist Bruce Tuckman came up with the memorable phrase, “forming, storming, norming, and performing.” Understanding this model will help you be successful in setting up and managing your team.

Forming a team can be stressful and tenuous. Members often go through recognizable stages as they change from individual contributors to a united group with common goals. In the Forming Stage, most team members are positive and polite. Leaders play a dominant role because their goals and responsibilities aren’t yet 100% clear. 

Next, the team moves into the storming phase. In this phase, people start to push against boundaries, and they question authority and even the team’s common goals. This is the stage where many teams fail. Storming often happens when there is a conflict between the team member’s working styles. Team members can challenge authority. They might jockey for position as their roles are established, and some may question the worth of the team’s goal, and they might even be resistant to taking on any new tasks.

Next is the norming phase. Gradually the team moves into the norming stage. When people start to resolve their differences, they appreciate their colleagues’ strengths and weaknesses, and they respect their authority as leaders amongst the team and leadership that’s over the team. Members may socialize together, and they can ask one another for help and provide constructive feedback. Team members people typically develop a stronger commitment to the team goal at this phase. 

The final stage is performing. The team reaches the performing stage, where hard work is really key. There’s very little friction, and everybody’s looking toward and working toward achieving the team’s goal. The leader can delegate much of their work and can really concentrate on developing individual team members to their maximum potential.

Work Team Roadblocks

When building and managing a work team, you will encounter roadblocks. Roadblocks don’t mean that you are failing. With the right tools and practices, you can prevent these roadblocks from happening.  When they do happen, you can mitigate them right away.

Common roadblocks are:

  • confusion about tasks
  • frequent ineffective meetings with low participation
  • aggression amongst team members
  • Decisions being ambiguous or misunderstood or not carried through.

Declining productivity is a symptom of these roadblocks. But there are strategies to overcome them.

Communication is Key

The best way to mitigate common roadblocks is communication. Effective communication makes sure that any roadblocks that happen are either dealt with quickly or prevented in the first place.

Regular check-ins with the individual contributors as well as the group are important. Ensure that you’re setting expectations for communication, who will discuss what goals, when, and how often. Be able to praise individual contributors. This promotes trust and cooperation among the team. Celebrate when milestones are reached, or micro-goals are achieved. 

If there are conflicts, take steps to resolve those conflicts and make sure each party feels heard. 

Work Team Communication

Work Team Building Tools

These tools help maximize morale and performance amongst your team.

  • Use icebreakers at meetings. It might sound silly, but it gets people talking, and it gets people to know each other better and be invested in the personal relationships they have with the team.
  • Everyone likes to eat free food, so take the team out for lunch and treat them for their contributions so far. 
  • Play a game. Sometimes things that sound silly like “two truths and a lie” really help people start to see their individual team members as people and not just co-workers. 
  • Volunteer together as a team. If there’s something that the organization feels strongly about, have the team go out and help that community cause be effective.
  • Personality tests are also fun. They help other people understand how their co-workers would like to be communicated with. It helps them understand and respect the different communication styles.
  • Brain teasers, puzzles, or scavenger hunts are also very effective to help boost morale and get people thinking outside of the individual contributor mindset and into the team contributor mindset.

Remember that building a great work team takes time but is well worth the effort. Great work teams are more productive and get greater results than individuals. A good team is greater than the sum of its parts. If you need help building your work team, our HR partners can help with everything from training to hands-on coaching. You can find a local HR Hero here.

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