8 Key Factors of an Effective Team

Groups and teams have become an essential component of an organization’s success in today’s economy. Being able to work in a group is a key skill for managers and employees alike.

The definition of a team is: “a small number of people with complementary skills who are committed to a common purpose, performance goals, and an approach for which they hold themselves mutually accountable.” (Katzenbach, 1993)

Turning a group of people with different backgrounds into a team is one of the biggest challenges workplaces face. Often we find ourselves part of groups of individuals with diverse backgrounds and points of view working on complex projects. We don’t always get to pick the team we are in; we often have to accept teams and all of its differences. And while some thrive on teamwork, others find themselves suffocated by the different personalities in a team.

As Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “No member of a crew is praised for the rugged individuality of his rowing.” Effective teams maximize and flourish on the strengths and diversity of its members. (Maeliea, 2005)

I work as part of a team and know how important it is to have a positive team environment where everyone respects and treats each other with dignity. Our performance is measured individually however all 14 of us understand how important it is to have each other’s back. After a while of working in a team, you get really close to people and feel like you are part of a family. Relationships in a team are not always perfect and workplaces have to learn on how to build strong teams.
But how would you build an effective team? I would like to focus this blog post on the key factors that determine an effective team. After an extensive research, I have determined 8 key factors that would help build a strong team.

  1. Respect is important on any team. It is needed to build loyalty and mutual trust. A team leader can reinforce respect by taking others’ input regarding decisions that may affect the team.
  2. Unity. Common goal, vision, purpose. Teams that work towards the same goal and have the same work ethics would succeed. Have you ever found yourself as part of team where your goal was to put the maximum effort in your project, but your teammates did not share the same enthusiasm. The team lacked unity, therefore you were stuck doing most of the work. That is example of an ineffective team.
  3. Trust. It is very hard to build trust of others. If people encouraged to be honest and have each other’s back, that would build trust in a team. On my own experience I can say once someone broke your trust, it is very hard to rebuild it. However, the management practice should be to build unity in a team, and trust would follow.
  4. Shared leadership. In a team there is no place for one dominating leader. Leadership roles should be shared between members based on the expertise and team needs. In my previous class, the professor changed different team leader every weak, and I can say it was very effective because the team would benefit by getting different feedback from every leader.
  5. Open communication. Based on my own experience, I have been in teams where members chose to gossip and talk behind backs. This behavior would undermine the trust, respect and other important aspects of an effective team building. Management’s role should be to facilitate group meetings in case of a conflict and encourage open communication between group members.
  6. Complimentary skills. The strongest teams are the teams with diverse skill sets. Often people with the same professional backgrounds think alike. In an effective team brainstorming sessions are more productive when everyone brings something different to the table while developing the same idea.
  7. Strong relationship. According to BusinessWeek, Google invests into movie nights, restaurants on premises with top chefs because they care for their employees and because they want to build a team environment outside of the work projects. By bringing team members together, the company can ensure the strong relationships and collaborative teams.
  8. Constructive conflict. Open communication, as mentions in my earlier point, is essential in case of any arising conflicts; the lack of trust and respect in teams lead to personal disagreements. For the teams to have a clear and timely conflict resolution, team members are encouraged to openly discuss any conflicts.

Companies that require a lot of teamwork need to invest into building strong and effective teams that would help to eliminate disadvantages of team work such as group think, star complexes, wallflowers, and maintain positive work environment.

Looking forward to your comments!

References:

Conant, D. (2012). Building Effective Teams Isn’t Rocket Science, But It’s Just as Hard. Harvard Business Review. 
http://blogs.hbr.org/cs/2012/04/consistently_building_highly_e.html

Davies, N. (2009). Build and Effective Team. Nursing Standard23(29), 72.

Elgin, B. (2005). Managing Google’s Idea Factory. Bloomberg Businessweek. http://www.businessweek.com/magazine/content/05_40/b3953093.htm

Katzenbach, J.R. & Smith, D.K. (1993). The Wisdom of Teams: Creating the High-performance Organization. Harvard Business School.

Mealiea, L., & Baltazar, R. (2005). A Strategic Guide for Building Effective Teams. Public Personnel Management.

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9 thoughts on “8 Key Factors of an Effective Team

  1. Hi Anastasia,

    I like how your post has a combination of credible secondary research as well as your own unique “8 key factors”. One of the challenges and issues I’m unsure about is your 4th key factor: Shared Leadership. I’m currently working in a group of 6, and half of the members rarely voice their opinions or take leadership roles. I want that to change. I want for every team member to feel they have the autonomy and confidence to lead the team. I’m a big advocate of each member taking on a leadership or management role within the team from time to time.

    However, some people appear to be innately quiet or submissive. (They may prefer to follow, and even dismiss any opportunity to lead) Do you think it’s possible for every member to be a “good leader”? Or is it just an ideal? Perhaps not everybody can be a leader. After all, if everybody was a leader, there wouldn’t be anyone left to follow them. A leader with no followers, by definition isn’t a leader. What’s your thoughts?

    Thanks for the insightful post!

    • Thank you for your comment Antony, I agree that getting all people in a group to lead could be challenging in some organizations. However, good leadership comes with practise, if a team makes it a habit to rotate leadership roles, the person with less skills would have to practise. Having said that, every teammate in a workplace does his/her job, and hopefully they were hired because they are good at it.
      When you mention the team of 6 that you are working with now, it would only benefit your project if every member takes on a leadership role at some point in the project, because it would allow every member in a group to take the responsibility and liability for the work done.
      When you mention that teammates are not motivated to take on the leadership roles, you could implement a team contract as a external factor, which would require every person to take charge for full participation mark.

      I hope I answered your questions.

      • Yeah, with my team of 6, that’s exactly it: I want every member to take responsibility and liability for their work. Then, we all have ownership of the project and become internally motivated to do a great job. (not just because we want to receive an external reward, or to please the “leader”)

        Thanks for answering my questions.
        I’m looking forward to working with you, Anastasia.

        -Antony

      • Interesting discussion about group leadership guys. I like the idea of everyone in the group being a leader but this is where the 4 stages of group forming can make itself most evident.

        When having multiple leaders in the group it is crucial for all of the leaders to be on the same page, and be working togethor. All of the leaders must share the same vision to ensure the team operates efficiently. The 4 stages of group forming (by the way great post Tony) are where the team unifies its’ vision and goals, and can facillitate shared leadership.

  2. Good Post Anastasia, everything you mentioned is true, it is very important to establish strong relationships based on trust etc., when establishing a good team. Although teams can and do improve the organization as a whole, in my opinion it can also cause conflict when a member receives a promotion, and is thereafter a supervisor for instance, for the rest of the team. In an article I read, the problems of having a friend/team mate being promoted can damage relationships as the one promoted is now expected to enforce rules etc., The article further states that relationships can be maintained if individuals maintain a work relationship separate to personal relationships. To me that can at times be complicated, especially when you spend so much time at work and your teammates become personal friends. What is your opinion of promotions among employees who work in teams ?

    Thompson, S. (n.d.). Maintaining Friendship with a Coworker – Life123. life123. Retrieved June 15, 2012, from http://www.life123.com/relationships/friendship/office-etiquette-friends/maintaining-friendship-with-a-coworker.shtml

    • Hi Clarissa,

      Thank you for your comment. I believe that any promotion within an organization would have similar effect on relationships within the group. It is up to the person promoted to decide how to maintain the relationships with the employees. It is more difficult than it seems especially if you know some people under perform or use work time for personal things. Due to jealousy some people might confront any decisions or authority made by the newly promoted team member. Having said that, the article you mentioned is excellent, it covers almost every situation how friendship at work can create tensions between employees.
      I believe the most important and sometime the most difficult solution is to keep your personal and professional relationships separate at work. Thank you for the link.

      -Anastasia

  3. Great post Anastasia.

    I think one of the major changes in the workplace that are trying to boost the overall teamwork of teams are company retreats.

    It seems that the exercises they do on these retreats are all team-oriented and help build on the strengths of others. Sure someone may be a leader, but maybe someone is good at puzzles, and one of the team exercises requires a puzzle to be solved, it allows a chance for every member to take on a role.

    It also seems like getting co-workers to interact outside of the workplace helps them get to know each other on a personal level and mesh together.

    http://www.inc.com/guides/how-to-plan-a-company-retreat.html

    • The team retreats are very interesting, I’ve actually noticed a lot of companies doing that. It definitely helps teammates get to know each other on a personal level, which I think is very important as it gives insight into a person’s beliefs and also gives individuals a better idea as to why people react and respond to things the way they do. When I think of this, the movie “The Proposal” comes to mind. In the movie, Sandra Bullock’s character is a disliked manager at work who doesn’t seem to care about her staff or the fact that they have families to spend time with, which resulted in her colleagues disliking her. Later on she is forced to spend time with a colleague (Ryan Renalds) and his family as they plan a fake wedding (I won’t say too much, in case it’s something you intend watching), but while spending time with his family, she mentions to her co-worker that her parents died when she was a child and so she forgot what it was like spending time with family and loved ones. This gave her co-worker an insight into her character.

      Unless individuals are comfortable with each other and know each other on personal levels, topics such as the one in “The Proposal” would not generally be discussed. This could create a lot of tension in the work place. So again, I think investing in exercises etc. that enforce relationship and team building are very important.

  4. True to my word, I just checked out your blog and first of all, I really like the look of it. It definitely caught my eye. Nice job.

    I want to comment on your key factor #6, complimentary skills. That one really rang true for me. I am in the accounting program and at times when I form groups, I end up in a group with a lot of people in the same program. At first it seems like a good thing because we have similar interests and it can possibly help the social dynamic, but when it comes to the actual work, it can cause inefficiencies.

    During the creative design portion of the project, not having a diverse group with different backgrounds and experiences can limit the amount and quality of ideas brought to the table. Another issue is that we are all good at the same things so we all want to do the same tasks. Therefore people get stuck with tasks that they do not feel comfortable with and it shows in the quality of work.

    I have started to take a different look at group formation since realizing the benefits of complimentary skills.

    @atorris16

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