Teamwork Training: Six Elements of a Successful Team

Posted by Lou Bergholz on Feb 17, 2015 11:01:00 AM
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We often use the term “team” to describe a group of people in an organization who are working on a certain project. “We just got a great report from the Sales Team and we’re way ahead of our quarterly goals,” or “The Marketing Team has some great ideas about how we can leverage our existing database to bring in some new leads.” The first word in those phrases tells us what the group does – Sales, Marketing – but what about the second word? What makes those “teams” into teams?

Here at Edgework Consulting, we are voracious readers of reseach papers and insightful books -- and we often distill key insights to inform the delivery of our programs, including our Building Effective Teams Workshop. Today I will share with you the six core elements that when put together, make a team a true team. These ideas are a meshing of several key bodies of research on teams, but there are two books that I am particularly fond of called "The Wisdom of Teams" by John Katzenbach and Douglas Smith and "Leading Teams" by J. Richard Hackman.

  1. Small Number – Two to seven people generally, with some wiggle room depending on the project. Why a small number? More can get done with fewer people. Each person on the team knows each other and has a good understanding of both the team’s goals as well as each individual’s role in achieving those goals. Jeff Bezos, the Founder of Amazon, believes in the two pizza approach. If you can’t feed your team with two pizzas, it’s too big.

  2. Complementary Skills – No one person has the skills to do everything. But when all the individuals pool their skills, the team has the overall skillset to do the work and do it well.

  3. Common Purpose – It’s critical that a team is working toward the same objective, understands that objective, and makes sure that is it is challenging, clear, and consequential. All the work the team does is with a common purpose in mind.

  4. Common Approach – Team members have a shared understanding of how the team does its work. This is not to say that everyone does the same thing – rather each person brings his or her own unique style to the team, which is important. Instead, the themes, inspirations, and core principals are the same. You can test this by asking each team member what these are for your team. If there is commonality in their responses than you are on the right track.

  5. Enabling Structure – Systems, roles, and norms are in place, organized, and functional. Members of the team know the structure, how work is to be accomplished and presented, and to whom and for what they are accountable. This structure should not feel restricting, but instead liberating. When people know their roles they are able to work more confidently toward the team’s goals.

  6. Mutual Accountability – The team’s success is tied to the success of the individuals, and no individual can succeed without the work of the others. This is accountability to each other, not just to a boss. The mutual accountability leads to trust and understanding.     

Though each of these attributes is important in advancing your organization’s goals, it’s only when they are all combined that you can have a highly effective team working together to achieve goals. Does your team meet these six criteria? Or are there adjustments and tweaks you could be making to ensure you are getting the most out of each other? We recommend using the above as a checklist and even discuss it with your team at the onset of your next project.

We’d love to hear from you! Have an experience when your team was missing one or more of these essentials? How did it impact your team’s performance? Leave us a comment below.

This is the second entry in Edgework Consulting’s Teamwork Training series. Each Teamwork Training post is designed to help you get more out of yourself and the team with which you work.

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Topics: Teamwork