What is an effective team?

What is an effective team?

An effective team is one in which a group of people achieve a common goal in a productive, efficient and harmonious way. Team members don't have to be in one place, or all be working on every task involved in a project, but they do all need to contribute to the best of their ability.

Effectiveness isn't just about productivity. Other marks of an effective team are:

  • Good communication and a positive dynamic, as well as a shared understanding of roles and responsibilities

  • The ability to adapt to change and overcome obstacles to achieve goals

  • Meeting expected standards or outperforming in terms of quality, quantity or timeliness

  • Meeting or exceeding customer expectations

  • More innovative problem-solving thanks to the combination of new perspectives and individual skills

  • Team members gain added skills and experience through working together

Good teamwork can contribute significantly to employee engagement and job satisfaction. And it also has an exponential effect on productivity. According to Forbes, employees who were given the opportunity to work as a team stuck at their task 64% longer than their coworkers working alone. They were more engaged, and reported a higher success rate. It's clear that 'the whole is greater than the sum of the parts'.

Untangle work with Workplace

From informing everyone about the return to the office to adopting a hybrid way of working, Workplace makes work more simple.

What happens when teams are ineffective?

What happens when teams are ineffective?

On the flipside, an ineffective team can have a negative effect which is at least as powerful. In one study, 86% of executives said they saw ineffective collaboration as a major cause of business failure.

Socially, poor team management and performance can damage relationships, shut down communication, and lead to harmful factions and divisions. It can also lead to feelings of isolation and lack of support for individual employees.

This decline in employee engagement, in turn, affects staff retention and productivity. So effective teamwork is essential to avoid these negative consequences and enable the business to succeed and grow.

Potential pitfalls when you build a team

Potential pitfalls when you build a team

There are a few essential pitfalls to beware of when establishing and managing a team:

  • Unrealistic expectations. These will lead to employees feeling discouraged, or as if they don't have a chance of succeeding.

  • Being too prescriptive with individual roles. Although everyone is on the team for a reason, be prepared to let people flex their skills and experience in new ways where possible.

  • Inflexibility. While it's important to have processes, it's easy to stifle creativity and innovation by sticking too closely to a plan or set of rules.

  • Lack of ownership. Where nobody feels they own a task or responsibility, feelings of investment and engagement are lost.

  • Lack of trust. Mutual trust is vital for high morale and effective teamwork. Lead by example, and give people space to show what they can do.

Top tips for building an effective team

Top tips for building an effective team

Recruitment and selection

Although it can be tempting to keep tried and trusted teams and partnerships together, teams can be most effective when created for a specific purpose.

When putting a team together, choose team members with complementary skills and abilities, who will bring a range of views and ideas with them. This may involve bringing in people from outside the business, or from across departments.

A good balance of ages, ethnicity, seniority and personalities will make sure that the project benefits from a variety of perspectives. It will also encourage challenges to traditional processes. According to research, gender-diverse teams make better decisions 73% of the time, and inclusive teams make better decisions 87% of the time.

Define your goals

Clearly outline the goal for the team as a whole, and define what team members have been brought together to achieve.

Once the team has been established and on board with this overall goal, the vision can be broken down into stages, and smaller, manageable steps. These can then be set against timelines, deadlines and individual responsibilities, and other resource requirements can be identified and met.

Establish roles

Allocate individual tasks and responsibilities, and make sure that everyone knows what's expected of them. When people know what they're supposed to accomplish and are allowed to work freely, they'll be more engaged.

Make clear how much input you need from the team during the project, and make sure that everyone understands their role in decision-making processes, and how much freedom they have.

Define your metrics

What will success look like for your team? Before you begin your project, decide how you're going to measure achievement. Also put checkpoints in place along the way so team members can see how the project is progressing and whether milestones are being reached.

Establish communication channels

Define how the team is going to communicate, including regular meetings, whether virtual, in-person or a mix of both. Schedule opportunities for feedback and individual contributions.

Make sure that everyone has access to the right collaboration tools and channels, and knows how to use them to report, share progress and information and access resources.

Establish ways of working

Team culture and values are as important as any other aspect of company culture, and should reflect the same values and standards.

The most effective team leaders:

  • Consider everyone's ideas as valuable

  • Are aware of things unsaid, and people who may be struggling or feel unable to contribute

  • Look for chances to mediate and resolve disputes

  • Direct the team and keep them focused on the overall goals

  • Encourage trust amongst employees

  • Encourage sharing of information, progress and ideas

  • Delegate effectively and allow the team to solve problems together

Emphasise accountability

Everyone in the team needs to be accountable for their work, with team leaders modelling the behaviour they want to see. For accountability to work, everyone needs to be comfortable with their responsibilities. Leading by example by delivering on your commitments and taking on responsibility will encourage your team members to do the same.

Build and grow team relationships

Team building is important, not just at the start of the task, but throughout. Building and strengthening bonds will boost loyalty and trust and reduce friction.

Combine the freedom for the team to establish its own dynamic with some guidelines and opportunities to help people work together. This may involve team-building activities or opportunities to get together socially, or just building in work-free time at the end of business sessions.

Allow flexibility and experimentation

One of the most dynamic aspects of teamwork is innovation, where all members are encouraged to raise new ideas without fear of being ridiculed or criticised. This can give rise to opportunities for new ways of working, thinking and problem-solving.

Brainstorming sessions can also help unlock creativity and expand the capabilities of the team. Be receptive to the team and be ready to stimulate debate. Make it clear that disagreements, if handled well, aren't necessarily negative.

Manage conflict

It's almost inevitable that conflict will arise to some degree during the course of a project. As a team leader, it's key to show how it can be managed without derailing the team.

This can be done by listening, as well as being open-minded, flexible and ready to compromise. It's also useful to agree ways for reaching consensus at the start of the project, which can be used as a blueprint for resolving disagreements later on.

Monitor and give feedback

If the goals and parameters of the project, and the responsibilities of team members, are clearly established at the start, it will be easy to monitor progress as you go along. However, it's important to check in with the team on a regular basis and ask how they feel about progress and achievement, and what they think has been positive or negative so far.

This way, problems can be flagged and solved much earlier, improvements can be made, everyone's contribution can be seen and acknowledged. Key questions might include whether team members feel they're working effectively together, where performance might be improved, or if anyone has identified any unexpected issues or challenges which need addressing.

Recognise and reward

Remembering to notice, flag up and reward progress and success regularly will maintain the morale of the team and boost team spirit, fostering a sense of belonging and camaraderie.

Use relevant milestones to celebrate team success and acknowledge individual effort. Saying thank you, delivering promised incentives, publicising contributions and rewarding the team as a whole will inspire positive progress.

Keep reading:
Was this article helpful?
Thanks for your feedback

Recent posts

Team collaboration | 10-minute read

How to build team collaboration

A collaborative approach can help your people work smarter, more creatively and more effectively. Here's how to get team collaboration right.

Team collaboration | 3-minute read

Multidisciplinary collaboration

Discover essential tips to improve multidisciplinary collaboration, including the benefits of multiple points of view and how to improve teamwork in your workplace.

Team collaboration | 8-minute read

How to make cross-team collaboration work effectively

Learn how to encourage cross-team collaboration and understand the best practices and pitfalls to leverage better collaboration across your teams