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7 Things That Will Help Make Your Team Great

May 11, 2011

Being a team in name alone is not enough. Having the right people on board, in the right roles and led by a strong leader will all help but it’s the day-to-day behaviours that make a truly great team.

Forming, Storming, Norming, Performing

Tuckman’s Forming, Storming, Norming, Performing team development model is as true today as it was in 1965.

So here are 7 day-to-day issues that make a truly great team:

1. Maturity
Teams mature over time and with experience. Even adversity can help a team ‘grow up’. Bruce Tuckman’s Forming, Storming, Norming, Performing model is as true today as it was in 1965, when he first presented it.

Sadly however, too many teams get through the first three stages to reach Norming, then sit back and coast when they should be pushing ahead towards Performing.

2. Engagement
Virtually all of the research published on the subject of pay and motivation suggests that most of us don’t just work for money. We derive pride from doing a job well, using our minds, interacting with others and most importantly for making a difference.

As organisations get ever larger and job roles more specific it is more important than ever to remind people of why their contribution is important.  For teams, the fact that a number of people share responsibility for achieving the same goal is immensely powerful. A sense of shared purpose should not only get people out of bed on a Monday morning but it will also lead to smarter working, better decision making and more efficient use of resources.

3. Openess
Modern communication devices have enabled us to communicate in an instant with people anywhere in the world. For many this has led to an increased number of relationships with consequently fewer significant personal relationships.

Strong teams understand the importance of regular, open communication. Not one-way scripted presentations but two-way dialogues about what’s really happening day by day.

Openess can even include conflict. Where there is passion there are bound to be conflicting views, it is far better that these are aired, debated and wrestled with than for team members to leave the debate muttering their unspoken views.

Like the married couple that have never had an argument, the team that has never had a frank exchange of views is sitting on a ticking bomb of built up resentment that might explode at any time with disastrous consequences.

4. Focus
When asked ‘What do you do?’ we often respond in very general terms: I work with technology, pharmaceuticals or finance, for instance.

In truth our roles are far more specialised and without expert knowledge, training and experience it is unlikely that the average person could do our job. Teams often present themselves in similarly vague terms, when they should be much more definite, both externally and particularly internally.

Some big questions we must ask are:

  • What is the primary purpose of our team?
  • Why is this so important?
  • Where are we up to?
  • What does ‘excellent’ look like?

By being crystal clear with these facts it is possible to increase commitment and focus on the results and outcomes that really matter. A failing in the human condition is that most of us will prefer to choose an easier route if we think we can get away with it. In weak teams this means people devote too much time to unimportant issues, preferring to enter into a lengthy discussion over a minor issue rather than grasping the nettle early on before it becomes unwieldy.

Strong teams exist in a culture where their purpose is clearly defined and often repeated, so that deviation from the main task amounts to unacceptable behaviour.

5. Trust
All of our studies and work with many hundreds of teams have reinforced that the quality of a team is directly proportionate to the levels of trust within that team.

So, if a team trust their leader and can be open and honest with one another they will be strong. On the other hand if just one team member can’t be trusted then the whole team is weakened.

Trust is like a delicate model, it takes time and care to build but even when established is fragile and can be destroyed in an instant. However the benefits far outweigh the weaknesses; where trust exists there is less hierarchy, less bureaucracy, more loyalty, faster decision making and clearer communication.

In the 21st century economy billions of pounds are spent on guarding against mistrust. Worse, many productive hours are lost as well paid executives are expected to escalate decisions that they are fully capable of making themselves.

Contary to conventional wisdom, the business that places trust in it’s people can gain a significant commercial advantage.

6. Humility
Teams contain people and people have egos.

Egos erode teams. This fact threatens most teams, particularly those made up of high achievers.

Unfortunately when we lack humility we fail to own up when we don’t understand what’s going on. Very often our colleagues are equally confused but they too keep quiet, so confusion reigns – silently.

In strong teams it’s okay to be vulnerable from time to time, to raise a hand to ask for clarity or to tap a team mate on the shoulder for advice. These behaviours generate accountability – a sense of generosity, forgiveness and willingness to help others, even if that means delivering candid feedback.

7. Measurement
In many organisations this vital contributor to great teams has been overused with league tables, inspections and published targets. The pendulum will doubtless begin to swing the other way in due course but as it does take care to continue to monitor the results that really matter and most importantly to share and discuss them with the team.

Set short term achievable targets so that success can be regularly celebrated, creating a culture of achievement.

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