Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Creating an Effective Team

The process of creating an effective team can be a daunting task for someone not used to dealing with the human dynamics of teamwork. The following tips provide an outline for building teams.

Start with Your Ability to Relate:

One of the most important aspects of leading a team is understanding the importance of relating to each of the member’s as individuals. Recognizing that individual members of a team bring different perspectives, skills, opinions, and ideas is important. Leaders of process simplification work can begin by simply focusing energy on relating to the unique qualifications of each member of the team – and expressing that openly to the group as it forms.

 Lead with a Sense of Authenticy:

Effective leaders are those who present themselves as authentic with an openness that is characterized by being genuine. As a leader, you do not need complex interaction formulas to create an effective team. In fact, you do not have to be easy-going, well-educated, hard-nosed, or even especially experienced to build a team. In other words, it’s more important to simply be yourself. You can be effective with people using common sense and a few fundamental principles. 


Vision means being able to excite the team with large, desired outcomes. As a leader your vision for the outcome of the process simplification work is essential to helping members of your team achieve results. The first step in creating a sense of vision is to project such a goal and articulate it to the team. This goal must contain challenge, appeal to personal achievement, a sense of contributing to something larger than one’s self, and it must also provide an opportunity to make a difference. As a process simplification leader it will be essential for you to position the goal by picturing success. Initial questions for members of your team might be:
 What will it look like when we get there?
 What will success be like, feel like?
 How will others know that we have arrived?


Some members of a team may assume, for example, that commitment means long hours of work well beyond what is normally expected of others. To some it may mean increased productivity and a sense or drive for project success. Generally speaking, when expectations are defined, success rates soar. When leaders assume that everyone "should" be committed, as a matter of course, we overlook the difficulties many have with certain commitments. 
If people cannot initially commit, it doesn't mean they don't care. More often, it means they do care, and they are caught up in a process of doubt. This process precedes every meaningful commitment. Effective leaders catalyze this process, so that team members can pass through this stage efficiently on their way to genuine commitment and innovative strategies. 
This pre-commitment process is the same for team leaders and members. When we ponder a new commitment, we climb up to a kind of mental diving board. Commitments contain unknowns, and some warn of possible failure. It is common for people to neither jump nor climb back down the "ladder," but rather to stay stuck at the end of the board, immobilized in pros, cons, obstacles, and worries. In this state of mind, the obstacles begin to rule, obscuring the vision, and often times blunting motivation and creativity. 
When leaders do not understand the commitment process they tend to seek accountability without providing support. Without a means to process doubts and fears, people often feel pressured to commit, but can't. The solution to this problem is two fold: establish an atmosphere of trust, and within that atmosphere encourage inclusion. 


Trust is the antidote to the fears and risks that can block meaningful commitment. Trust means confidence in team leadership and vision as well as direction. When trust prevails, team members are more willing to go through a difficult process, supported through ups and downs, as well as the ability to deal effectively with risk and potential loss or failure. Trust is most efficiently established when leadership commits to a vision first, followed by the fact that everyone knows those commitments are genuine. The process for leaders to commit is the same as for everyone else: assess pre-commitment doubts, questions, unknowns and fears. This involves three simple steps:
 List the unknowns.
 Research the unknowns.
 Assess worst case scenarios and their survivability.
The list of unknowns reveals some answers and further questions for the team. Some of these questions lend themselves to research (others' experience, a smallpilot plan), and
some have no apparent answers. Every major commitment contains some risk as well as some lingering unknowns.
Having explored worst case scenarios to the process simplification effort, the team as well as the leader now understands the potential loss and gain involved in the new vision. At this point, leadership can commit itself, and prepare to include other team members. That preparation must include a plan for leadership to share visibly both risk and reward with the other team members who will be coming on board. With leadership's commitment to a clear vision, and a genuine plan to share risks and rewards, the atmosphere for trust is in place. From this point forward, you are now ready to include others in the process simplification team effort. 


Inclusion is essential to ensure that the project has all voices represented at the table. This means getting others to commit to the team effort and helping others through their "diving board doubts" to genuine commitment to the task at hand. The best setting to obtain buy-in and build trust is in small groups that facilitate thorough “give and take”. The basic tasks are to communicate the vision, make sure it is understood, communicate leadership's commitment (including sharing risk and reward, and how), and elicit and address peoples' doubts. Inclusion means allowing others to voice their concerns as well as a leader’s ability to elicit response or inquiry through non-invasive approach.

 Help Exchange:

The final step in creating the team is to establish a corroborative, balanced strategy for reaching the committed vision. This plan will consist of all of the tasks and help exchange necessary to realize the overall vision. If well formed your team is in the best position to supply this information. Since by this time you have laid the groundwork for trust, and established good buy-in, your team is likely to be enthusiastically cooperative. 
At this point, the leadership role is to catalyze consensus, not to issue orders. Consensus means that team members agree to a particular approach. Consensus occurs easily when most feel their ideas were heard and considered. Obtaining consensus again requires use of leadership communication skills such as non-assumptive questions, good listening, and directed response. Effective teams often produce lively discussions of divergent viewpoints before reaching consensus. Diverse views can mean unresolved argument, or they can mean increased team growth and ultimate consensus.
In summary then here are some general guidelines for building an effective team:

Open Communication . . .

 Creates and maintains a climate of trust and open, honest communication.
 Allows team members to talk openly with one another.
 Promotes the exchange of feedback.
Provide team members to work through misunderstandings and conflicts.

Commitment to a Common Purpose and Performance Goals . . .

 Keeps the purpose in the forefront of decision making and evaluations of team practices.
 Helps one another maintain the focus.

Shared Responsibility . . .

 Allows team members to feel equally responsible for the performance of the team and its outcome.
 Permits individuals to have primary roles for completing team tasks and remain flexible to do what is necessary to accomplish the team’s goals and tasks.

Use of Resources and Talents . . .

 Utilizes the resources and talents of all the group members.
 Makes good use of the team’s creative talent by openly sharing skills and knowledge, and encourages learning from one another.

Capacity for Self-Evaluation . . .

 Allows teams to stop and look at how well they are doing and what, if anything may be hindering their performance and communication.

Participative Leadership…

 Provides opportunities for team members to participate in decision making.
 Allows team members to help set goals and develop strategies for achieving these goals.
 Allows team members to help identify tasks and decide how to approach and evaluate them.

No comments: