In the previous article we left-off with the first three of six principles for effective teamwork. In part two of two-part series, we’ll conclude with the last three principles as well as the signs to look for when promoting them within your team and organization.
Open Communication and positive feedback - actively listening to the concerns and needs of team members and valuing their contribution and expressing this helps to create an effective work environment. Team members should be willing to give and receive constructive criticism and provide authentic feedback
Open communication starts with the leader of the team.
It’s imperative that the leader exemplifies this principle through his or her actions with each individual team member. This involves actively listening to the needs and questions of the team. Acknowledging to the team that their concerns and inputs are valued will go a long way in promoting this principle within the work environment. “The importance of an open business environment cannot be overstated; a company can survive without open communication, but very few organizations thrive without it,” writes David Hassell of the American Management Association.
When it comes to providing feedback, the leader must keep in mind that he or she must be open to feedback from the team as well. The willingness to receive constructive criticism in a non-defensive, receptive manner will pave the way for the rest of the group to do the same and really cement this principle into the team. “Effective feedback not only improves your team’s morale, but it also motivates your team to grow and do a better overall job,” says Alina Vrabie. “It’s important to understand what constitutes effective feedback, because it has the power to bring harmony and cohesion to your team, not to mention the kind of motivation that will move mountains.”
Naturally, there will be times where the feedback is negative by nature; where improvement is required. It’s important to note that beyond just keeping the comments constructive, it should also be non-evaluative to a certain degree.
This means that we shouldn’t be grading someone else’s work by our own measuring stick, assuming that our standard is the sole standard that all others should be abiding by. Our point of view can still be expressed, just in ways that show what our perspective of their work is.
For example, instead of criticizing the format and style of a report that one of the team members have put together, acknowledge the work and thought they’ve put into it while suggesting an alternate format and style that you’d feel would be a better fit for the client. This achieves two things:
1. Expresses your perspective on their current work and how it can be improved (which they may or may not have considered before), and;
2. Shows the team member the advantages your suggestions have over their current work without specifically pointing out flaws
When this principle is properly applied within your team, the other principles -- especially interpersonal skills -- automatically flow seamlessly into the team.
Appropriate team composition is essential in the creation of a successful team. Team members need to be fully aware of their specific team role and understand what is expected of them in terms of their contribution to the team and the project
This is the one principle that must be planned out before the team is even formed. The types of members that make up the composition of your team play one of the pivotal roles in the overall success and longevity of said team.
Team composition will decide if you can successfully implement the other five principles into the group or not. If the individual skills and talents are one dimensional instead of diverse, or if there are bad eggs that refuse to compromise their personal style of working, the success of the entire team is compromised.
One of the easiest way to ensure you have appropriate team composition is by being proactive in selecting the right members for the various tasks involved. It cannot be overstated that this must be done well in advance of the work. Doing so gives you enough time to evaluate not only the skills and expertise, but the personalities of each team member. Expectations can be set well ahead of time, and responsibilities and relationships between team members can be optimized before the work starts.
Just like the first principle of Commitment To Team Success And Shared Goals, each team member must be aware of their role in regards to the overall goal of the team, the differences between their work and that of their teammates, and how they affect one another.
Going for proper team composition well in advance allows us to take advantage of the time to inculcate the various principles into the team and prep each member for their roles. According to the National Academy of Sciences,“Research to date has found that team composition influences team effectiveness, and this relationship depends on the complexity of the task, the degree of interdependence among team members, and how long the team is together. Task-relevant diversity is critical and has a positive influence on team effectiveness.”
Commitment to team processes, leadership & accountability - team members need to be accountable for their contribution to the team and the project. They need to be aware of team processes, best practice and new ideas. Effective leadership is essential for team success including shared decision-making and problem solving
Processes that are put in place by the team leader must be respected by all team members, and this requires a commitment from all involved.
While all six principles of successful teamwork stem from the team leader, this sixth and last principle may be the most important of all for the leader to implement.
However team processes are derived and implemented, it is the leader’s responsibility to make sure that they are followed and respected by all. Whether it’s a shared decision-making process, or simply a new idea that they’d like to implement for the team, each individual needs to be made aware of the implementation and abide by it.
This comes about with effective leadership.
While not everyone is cut out to be, or even desires to be, a leader, the leader of the team must be willing to be held accountable for the team’s actions. Once this is observed by the rest of the team, the leader will gain the respect of each member and commitment, trust and respect will follow.
This will also prompt the rest of the team to follow the leader’s example of accountability, taking responsibility and ownership of their work and their contribution to the team. “Accountability is not simply taking the blame when something goes wrong,” writes Peter Bregman in the Harvard Business Review. “It’s not a confession. Accountability is about delivering on a commitment. It’s responsibility to an outcome, not just a set of tasks. It’s taking initiative with thoughtful, strategic follow-through.”
An effective way to show accountability is to track progress. When issues arise, the team leader bearing responsibilities will be perceived as a responsible and caring leader who wants the team to succeed and is willing to go through personal sacrifice to achieve that success.
Earning the respect of the team involves openly communicating with the members, being present, and encouraging feedback and suggestions from all individuals within the group. “Engage your people,” says Jim Whitehurst. “Trust has to be earned, and it’s not enough to call a meeting and tell people what to do and then retreat behind your own closed door. You also need to be open about your weaknesses and ask the team to help you address them. Nobody expects perfection, so don’t hold your cards too close; get your team to work with you.”
Effective and successful teamwork is not difficult, nor is it complex. It does, however, take work, time, and a committed effort in order to bring about all-star teams.
These six principles are the backbone of every solid, sustainable team out there. Whether it’s sports or business, these principles apply to every team effort.
It’s clear that most if not all of these principles must start with the leader of the team. Stay tuned for future articles on how leadership is developed, how effective leaders are made, and case studies on how various organizations have benefited from effective leadership.