Have you ever been a part of a rockstar team?
What did it feel like?
Was it fun? Collaborative? Engaging? Did everyone understand their roles and know what was expected of each other? Did you consistently meet or exceed your goals? Did you feel like you were making a difference? Did you feel valued and appreciated? Were you able to be your authentic self?
If you answered yes, CONGRATULATIONS! You’ve been a part of an effective team and will recognize all the varying aspects of what goes into creating one.
If you answered no, we extend our heartfelt apologies and hope this blog helps you identify opportunities to develop and nurture an effective team.
Team effectiveness, also referred to as team performance, is the capacity of a group of people, usually with complementary skills, to work together to achieve its goals and objectives. Top performing teams have a culture rooted in Deep Trust and High Expectations™. Building an environment of deep trust and high expectations creates the conditions for people to do their best work and for the entire team to thrive.
Team effectiveness is important because high-performing teams deliver results and it’s what your employees want – 37% say “working with a great team” is their primary reason for staying with an employer. When deep trust and high expectations work together, businesses see higher employee engagement, better business outcomes, and significant boosts in ROI.
Research shows that engaged and effective teams show 21% greater profitability (Source: Gallup) and that 72% of organizations say team performance has a positive impact on productivity (Source: Brandon Hall).
In their book “Teams that Work—The Seven Drivers of Effectiveness,” authors Tannenbaum and Salas tell us that effective teams benefit from the following:
It’s important to note that high-performing teams don’t just magically appear and you can’t throw a bunch of star performers together and automatically hope the team wins – just ask the 2021-2022 Lakers (sorry Laker fans). Team effectiveness has to be nurtured and developed, with vision from leaders and motivated employees.
So, now that you know what team effectiveness is, why it’s important, and what it looks like in the workplace, let’s dive into the steps you can take to create one.
The right leadership enhances a team’s success; however, far too often, people are placed in leadership roles without any proper leadership development training. A team is only as good as the person coaching it. It’s vital to take advantage of every opportunity to uplevel your leadership skills in order to build effective teams.
Request regular feedback from each of your direct reports, as well as your manager, to determine areas of opportunity. Identify your leadership strengths and weaknesses and work to develop strong communication skills with active listening. Learn how to lead with empathy and ask pertinent questions to understand, and be able to disseminate, organizational strategy and objectives.
Our clients have continuously told us how important it is to skill up their people managers but many of them indicated that they had a hard time finding the right program for their unique organization. Recognizing their deep need, we developed Best Boss™, an immersive, facilitated learning experience for teams of people managers that equips them with the mindset and capabilities to unleash the potential of their people and lead engaged, high-performing teams.
The key to developing your leadership skills is to focus on skills that every manager, regardless of personality, needs to have including:
Team effectiveness is dependent on achieving goals and SMART can help. The SMART in SMART goals stands for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-Bound and utilizing this approach can help your team stay accountable. It eliminates generalities and guesswork, sets a clear timeline, and makes it easier to track progress and identify missed milestones.
SMART goals are:
Finding meaning in work isn’t just a way to survive a crisis or avoid employee burnout – it’s about making sure your teams are motivated to innovate, create, and propel the organization forward. People who are passionate and motivated help fuel team effectiveness because they deeply understand how their work contributes to the organization’s overall success and objectives.
As a leader, it’s your job to help your employees and teams find meaning in their work. To uplevel productivity and motivation, have discussions around the “why” of your team’s tasks. Have them meet with customers (both internal and external) and learn how their work affects their lives or jobs. Extend a helping hand and become a positive “force for good” in your workplace and among your team. Look for areas of opportunity to increase skills sets and recognize when team members are improving. Pair people together so they can build relationships, create trust, and deepen connections.
Teams function most efficiently when members share a common understanding of each others’ roles and responsibilities. When roles and responsibilities are clearly defined, team members are more productive. There is less duplication of effort; less confusion, disappointment, and frustration; and greater productivity.
Understanding roles and responsibilities can also help build trust and respect among team members because they learn to value the contributions of their colleagues. Don’t just focus on individual achievements – recognize the overall success of the team to heighten shared responsibility and ownership.
Diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) matters to your employees and it should matter to you. DEI is a key cornerstone of team effectiveness and performance. Organizations with strong diversity climates are more likely to have employees with increased job satisfaction, higher levels of trust, and more engagement.
However, in our recent study “Closing the Employee Expectations Gap – The undeniable, promising new mandate for business,” we found that 81% of knowledge workers believe DEI is important but just 65% of business leaders shared their view. This disconnect will show in your team’s productivity, engagement, and effectiveness if you don’t take steps to mitigate it.
Building a Deep Trust and High Expectations culture requires psychological safety and lack of diversity can significantly diminish that. Be curious and humble about cultural differences and, if you don’t know, ask politely. Learn about conscious and unconscious biases and take steps to eliminate it. Take any opportunity you have to mix up your teams so that employees learn from different voices, experiences, values, and cultures. Review roles and salaries to ensure pay equity and develop a strategic DEI training program that’s relevant to your specific organization. Take a hard look at organizational policies and develop a feedback loop so employees feel seen, heard, and valued.
Current employees can be outstanding organizational ambassadors and potential candidates are more likely to view a current employee’s perspective as authentic. A current employee also knows the company culture and can spot people with the qualities and skills that will complement the team. It’s also important to tap star employees’ networks. Look for employee referrals and don’t be afraid to inquire if someone knows someone. Ask for the team’s input on potential candidates and/or setup panel interviews so they can get to know them.
Allowing your team to participate in the hiring process can lead to better hires, faster hires, more productive hires, and contribute positively to team effectiveness.
Good communication is a core leadership function and a key characteristic of a good leader. Effective communication and effective leadership are closely intertwined and it can make, or break, teams. Be purposeful and intentional about effective communication and tailor your style to meet the differing needs of your team. Be authentic and sincere and get rid of the corporate robot. Have an open door (or Zoom) policy and be visible.
Before sending another email, ask yourself if there’s a more engaging way to communicate. Practice active listening and allow people to give you constructive feedback without fear of reprisal or judgment. Ask questions and don’t be defensive. Focus on what you’re contributing to conversations to help you learn more about your team’s work and how you can help. Keep it simple and follow through with actions.
Strong professional relationships drive high performance. Investing time and energy in building strong professional relationships is critical to developing Deep Trust and High Expectations in a team environment. Building relationships allows you to begin to create your organization’s values and behaviors, and, ultimately, your culture. Once you and your team genuinely trust and respect each other, regular, honest dialogue about individual and team performance increases team effectiveness.
Focus on connecting deeply with your employees and teams to ensure outstanding performance by upleveling your emotional intelligence. This allows you to engage and inspire your people by creating bonds that are authentic and reliable. Model collaborative behavior and use feedback to continuously improve. Build a relationship model that is memorable, unique to your organization, and suited to your team’s strengths and weaknesses. Adapt a coaching and community mindset and seek out opportunities to break down barriers and obstacles that stand in the way of your team’s success.
It goes without saying (but we’re saying it anyway) that the best investment your organization will ever make is in your employees and teams. Investing in team development helps improve manager and employee relationships and helps team members connect to one another. It will also help strengthen communication and nurture your future leaders. Potential candidates are drawn to high-performing teams and it can help retain the top talent you already have. And, let’s not forget that a highly effective team is a competitive advantage.
Much of the advice surrounding high-performing teams and team effectiveness may seem trite and easy to achieve but our research tells us otherwise – 76% of employees regard collaboration and teamwork as important but 30% of employees don’t believe their organization is doing enough in that area. Don’t be afraid to engage with experts who can help you equip your teams with the skills necessary to navigate and meet increasingly complex business challenges.