Building and Managing Great Teams

No one ever said being a leader is easy. You’re faced with one challenge after another, and overcoming issues within your team is often overwhelming. But here’s the thing: Yes, leading can be challenging—but it shouldn’t be a struggle. We’ve developed four steps you can follow that lay out a proven, practical process for developing a healthy team.

A note of caution: For the process to work, it requires more than lip service. It takes teamwork, trust, dedication, and a commitment to communicating in a way that creates a safe place for team members to share concerns, ideas, and solutions.

Step 1: State Clear Team Goals and Expectations

“If you don’t know where you’re going, you might end up someplace else.”

Yogi Berra

Before you can do anything else, you and your team have to get on the same page about what exceptional teamwork looks like. Unless you get crystal clear, you’re likely to waste time and energy changing behaviors that will have little to no effect on your team’s overall effectiveness. There are seven elements that make a high-performing team, and teams that demonstrate them consistently generally achieve better results more easily.

A high-performance team:

  • Builds a healthy climate.
  • Is cohesive.
  • Has contributing team members pull together toward a common goal.
  • Practices shared leadership in which members take accountability for the team’s effectiveness, participate in decision making, and provide feedback to one another.
  • Has strong group work skills.
  • Is change-compatible.
  • Thinks innovatively.

Step 2: Engage Your Team

Improving the team’s effectiveness shouldn’t rest solely on the leader’s shoulders. Rather, it’s a responsibility that should be shared by the entire team—and that starts with engaging them in the process. To get started, bring the team together and do the following:

Introduce the 7 Elements (see Step 1 above). Start by sharing why you believe it’s so important for the team to have a clear picture of what high-performance teamwork looks like.

Identify strengths and opportunities. This is a great opportunity to spark a meaningful dialogue around the team’s effectiveness as a whole. Start identifying the team’s strengths by asking questions:

  • Which Element resonates the most with you?
  • What are we doing well?

Next, identify opportunities for improvement by focusing the group’s attention on things the team can work on to make it even better than it already is. You can start by asking the following:

  • Which of the 7 Elements represent opportunities for improvement?
  • Which Element should be our initial priority?

Develop an action plan. This is an essential part of the dialogue process; after all, unless your team commits to taking action, your conversation won’t lead anywhere. Now that you’ve identified your top-priority Element for improvement, start crafting your plan by asking:

  • What do we need to do differently in order to improve in this Element?
  • How will we hold each other accountable?

Step 3: Keep Everyone Accountable for Ongoing Team Development

If Steps 1 and 2 are all about getting everyone on the same page and starting a dialogue, Step 3 is about keeping the conversation going. Why? Because meeting once and never following up won’t get you anywhere in the long run. Instead, it’s up to you to make your conversation an ongoing one to increase your team’s chances of making lasting changes. To do so, dedicate 20 minutes every month to reviewing the commitments to action, asking questions like:

  • Which commitments have we lived up to? (Ask for specific examples.)
  • What/who will we recognize and celebrate?
  • What are we not yet doing well? What might be getting in our way?
  • Has anything else come out of this discussion that we should commit to?

Step 4: Celebrate, Reassess, and Repeat

n order to make this process a habit, you have to build it into your team’s culture. After all, the goal is fo your team to embrace this process as part of the everyday job. At this point, you’ve done the important work of identifying issues and coming up with a plan to improve them, and you’ve developed a plan for keeping the conversation open. So, give yourself a round of applause—and then start again! Recognize and celebrate your accomplishment once you’ve targeted and strengthened a specific Element, then move on to the next one by repeating the process.

When you make this process a priority and stick to following through, team members will follow suit. I think you’ll be surprised by what you can achieve together.

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