Teamwork is about bringing people with differing knowledge, skills and attitudes together and forging them into a single cohesive unit that is stronger than just a group of individuals. The team creates a level of mutual support and synergy that allows it to achieve a great deal more than the same individuals could alone.
So how best to build effective teams? The best teams need a good mix of the appropriate people, the skills and attitude to thrive and some basic behaviours and techniques to help them excel.
Meredith Belbin had a useful model for selecting the type of people that make an effective team. His 8 role model identified the types of characteristics that needed to be represented in an effective team. These roles are:
Resource Investigator – An enthusiastic, curious and communicative person with a capacity for connecting with people, exploring new ideas and thriving on challenge.
Completer – A conscientious orderly person with a liking for process and a capacity for the persistence it takes to work towards perfection.
Team Worker – A social member able to respond to the people in the team and the changing situations, focusing on the goals and able to promote a team spirit.
Monitor-Evaluator – A sober, unemotional and prudent team member that provides the balanced judgement and hard-headedness.
Plant – A serious minded unorthodox individual in the team that provides the flashes of innovation, the imagination and knowledge for the rest.
Shaper – An outgoing and dynamic team member, strong in personal drive and ready to overcome team inertia, complacency and self deception such as Groupthink.
Co-ordinator – The calm, controlled and self-confident member of the team providing an assessment of all members inputs without prejudice or bias.
Implementer – A well organized element of the team that is conservative and predictable, setting the example of hard work and and self-discipline.
All of us have a degree of each element of Belbin’s model as part of our character and so you should not look to find people that fulfil only one role. Rather we all possess many of these characteristics and some of them are dominate in different situations. There will be however, a dominant set of characteristics that a person has, which can be seen when that person isn’t thinking about how they are behaving, just acting.
Having assembled a team, what else does it need to succeed?
Common goals – The team must be clear about what it is trying to achieve. The phrase I like to use is ‘What does a good job look like?’ This lets everyone gain an insight into the vision or goal and allows them to make decisions independently in order to move the team towards that goal.
Targets – A target gives the team focus. A stretch target is a challenge and there is nothing like a challenge to bring out the best in people.
Leadership – A team needs a person who is respected and influential enough to guide the team towards the common goal. They needs strong communication skills and the ability to listen, consider and act on the information and advice that is available. Often they are good at building relationships, linking people together and reinforcing the cohesion of the team.
Open Communications – With any group, the free expression of ideas is very important in finding innovation and exploring opportunities, but it is likely to lead to conflict. Opinions vary and often oppose and so it is important to allow these views to be expressed without fear of negative judgement or a response that would cause that person to reduce their effort to the common goal. In these opposing views, creativity is often born.
Decision Making Power – Tasks should be such that the team has the capacity and authority to make the decision needed to move toward the goal. An empowered team is effective and efficient and creates a momentum that drive that team forward.
Mutual Trust – Trust is essential. It grows slowly but only takes moments to destroy. It can be useful to agree the ground rules for the team early on and ensure that any conflicts are addressed as quickly as possible.
Role Clarity – Team members need to understand the scope of their responsibility and who else is responsible for the tasks the team is to achieve. When each team member knows their own contribution, there is reduced conflict, increase respect and the ability to identify performance shortfalls quickly.
Problem Solving Focus – A team that is focused on solving problems is prepared to work together to tackle even the largest problems and the biggest challenges and are able to achieve amazing things.
When JFK announced that ‘the US was going to put a man on the moon and return him safely before the end of the 1960s’. The team that was brought together to fulfil that promise, had the diversity to draw upon, a goal that was certainly a stretching target and the commitment to achieve it. So effective was that team and so stretching was the target that we have yet to repeat the goal of going to the moon.
Dare to Aspire