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Elements of Effective Teams

5 March 2012 3 comments

Promotial photo of the original Star Trek cast, season three.A team isn’t a team just because you call a group of people a team. Instead of calling people “my staff” or “the department”, managers are referring to their subordinates as “a team”. However, Shakespeare’s quips don’t apply here: “A rose by any other name would smell as sweet.” Just because you call it a team doesn’t make it smell any sweeter.

 

Regardless of what it’s called, if you want to develop a team you have to include a few key elements.

1. Commitment

Each member of the team must be committed to achieving the team’s mission. One bad apple spoils the barrel. Each member of the team must be devoted and driven to the end goal. If one person drags her feet or misses meetings or doesn’t follow through on assignments because of lack of enthusiasm or other commitments, the success of the team is as risk. This is especially true of small teams. This doesn’t mean that membership on this team is the only commitment or even the most important commitment. I am committed to my family, but that doesn’t mean I spend 24-7 with them. I am, however, there when they need me. The same should be true for team members.

 

2. Communication

Communication among the team members must be open and clear. Sometimes one member of the team may dominate the communication. This can be detrimental to understanding, cohesiveness, and collaboration. Everyone needs to feel comfortable sharing opinions and ideas without the fear of retribution.

 

3. Diverse Skills

When Star Trek’s Captain Kirk sent an away team to the surface of a planet, he didn’t just send a team of doctors. He sent a representative from key departments: medical, security, science, and administration. Besides the varied skills, diverse teams bring different perspectives and experience to the table. A programmer looks at a problem much differently than a school teacher. Teams need the broad range of expertise and perspective to tackle problems from every angle.

 

4. Flexible

There always seems to be a great deal of unknowns in the world. Even with the most extensive planning, there is always a curve ball. Teams that can adapt in changing environments will thrive and succeed. Part of being flexible means the team attacks problems head-on and not procrastinating or ignoring the problem altogether. Adapt, attack, advance.

 

5. Autonomy

Effective teams need the freedom to be creative. If a leader micro-manages the team, then the team is reduced to mere acolytes attending to the whims of the manager. The goal and constraints need to be clearly communicated to the team. Then stand back and let them solve the problem. Let their diversity and creativity reach a resolution.

 

Teams can be difficult to manage, both for managers and for team members. Some managers feel they need to be in control and that control stifles the productivity of the team. Some team members lack the social skills to function effectively in collaborative environments. These weaknesses can be overcome with education and practice. By practicing these principles you can bring yourself and your team one step closer to excellence.

 

What qualities or principles have you experienced in team settings that seem to work well? What have not?