Team Leadership

Team BuildingLeading effective teams can be a rewarding part of a job. But many leaders are unsure of where to get started. They may wonder how to build the foundation of an effective team or how to lead them to success.

The general consensus is that effective team’s progress through four stages of team growth. Secondly, there is general agreement that a team is a group of people with complementary skills who are committed to a common purpose, performance goals, and approach, for which they hold themselves mutually accountable. We should allow for some variation and flexibility in our definitions because there are various types of teams.

These types of teams include:

Task forces – A temporary team assembled to investigate a specific issue or problem
Problem solving teams: Temporary teams assembled to solve a specific problems
Project teams: Temporary teams assembled to manage a project to conclusion
Committees: Temporary or permanent groups of people assembled to act upon some matter
Work groups: Permanent group of workers who receive direction from a designated leader
Self-directed work teams: Ongoing group of associates who share a common mission and collectively manage their own affairs within predetermined boundaries
Quality circles: Groups of associates from the same functional area who meet regularly to uncover and solve work-related problems and uncover process improvement opportunities

Often, teams are put in place without a clear set of guidelines of how they will work together, how decisions will be made, or even what it takes to be effective. This is where leadership can make a difference in helping the teams be effective.

Effective Teams

The most important characteristics of effective teams is open communications. Team members are able to express their ideas or concerns openly. To the extent that this milestone is true, you can see and evaluate the value of your leadership and the level of trust that has been established.

Effective teams also have clear objectives that are accepted by everyone, a good formal and informal organization structure, and clear roles and expectations of team members.

Effective teams also have the following characteristics:

• Effective conflict management strategies
• Good utilization of key performance metrics
• Support of one another
• Effective decision making and problem solving processes
• A focus on the customer
• Value team and team member development
• Sense of accomplishment from achieving results

All teams are comprised of individuals with their own needs and personalities. It is inevitable that teams will experience conflict. Good leaders recognize this and provide tools that will help manage those differences.

“Members must learn how to work together because effectiveness increases when members trust each other. Without trust, your team will never reach its full potential of success.” The bottom line is teams will only be as effective as their leaders. Good leaders have good teams, poor leaders have less effective teams.

Team Growth Stages
As a leader, you can use the following stages as a guide to help your team develop through its natural progression.

Number 1Stage One: Formation – The team members learn about each other, the team’s purpose is clarified and roles and responsibilities are resolved.

Number 2Stage Two: Brain Storming – Team members learn how to work together, difficult issues are surfaced and the team begins to focus on achieving results.

Number 3Stage Three: Norming – Team starts to work and act together, roles evolve, helping the team to succeed, and members become comfortable and confident about expressing their opinions.

Number 4Stage Four: Performance – Team members work toward goals with sufficient flexibility to help each other while the leader takes a less active role.

Consensus Building
One of the conditions necessary for successful teamwork is a team members’ ability to make decisions and solve problems as a group. It is important to know when a decision requires team input or if it can be made individually. One way to make decisions that is often misunderstood is consensus.

Consensus means coming to an agreement. Creating consensus in a team setting means finding a proposal acceptable enough that all team members can support it, with no member opposing it.

Ways to reach consensus include:

• Pooling opinions
• Listening effectively
• Discussing ideas and differences
• Not getting all you want
• Reaching an agreement that everyone “can live with”

Consensus is not a unanimous vote; majority or minority rule; one-person rule; or bargaining.

Creating effective teams is a process and doesn’t happen overnight. Teams naturally go through phases as they grow. A leader has to learn how to lead and manage the team, and help the team to overcome team challenges. Using some of these principles will help you to build effective teams within your organization.

Related Articles:   Are Your Team Members Critical Thinkers?  and   The Smartest Teams … 3 Traits

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James E. McClain is the author of Successful Career Development: A Game Plan, the book upon which some of our training programs are based. He has over 30 years' experience as a corporate HR executive, small business owner with ongoing experience in career development and as a college instructor. His educational background includes a B.S. and Masters degrees Education and Certification in Financial Planning. Our promise is that "you can pay more for training but you can not buy better training." The mission is to deliver the most effective and cost effective training and development programs.

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