Good teamwork is essential to success. Good organizations need teams that are high-performing and can communicate clearly. As a supervisor or manager, you can contribute by cultivating strong teams and encouraging teamwork.
In this article, we discuss the key characteristics of a successful team and how to build your own.
What are the characteristics of a successful team?
Successful teams encourage team members to share ideas, consider solutions and solve problems together. Good teams benefit individual members by offering added support and opportunities for development. Successful teams typically have the following characteristics:
- Goal-oriented mindset: The most effective teams set, implement and track goals together to increase efficiency and improve productivity.
Commitment to their roles: Individuals working in roles based on their strengths and expertise are often highly motivated.
Open to learning: Some teams may adjust roles and responsibilities due to the needs of a project or task. Team members who are interested in challenging their skills and learning to complete new individual tasks encourage professional growth.
Diverse perspectives and experiences: Since diversity tends to encourage creativity and innovation, teams with the largest spectrum of experiences and opinions have the potential to perform at their best.
Shared culture: Whether it is a company culture or group culture, teams who are united by a singular mission or set of values are often more motivated.
Responsibility and accountability: When teams share a set of values and goals, each team member can be held to the same standard.
Clear communication: Good teams brainstorm solutions, provide status updates and complete tasks.
How to build an effective team
To build a strong team, consider these eight steps:
- Set SMART goals.
- Perform well-defined roles.
- Experiment regularly.
- Embrace diversity.
- Share a common culture.
- Be accountable to the team.
- Communicate effectively.
- Welcome strong leadership.
1. Set SMART goals
Your team can prioritize SMART goals by choosing objectives that are Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Time-based. For example, you may want to exceed your quarterly quota by 10% by the end of the second quarter.
After implementing these objectives, track progress regularly. Since every member shares the same team-specific metrics, your team can monitor advancement and celebrate accomplishments. Measuring progress with a single metric rather than applying their own definitions of success helps individual team members more accurately understand their progress.
2. Perform well-defined roles
Teams tend to work best when each member is responsible for contributing something specific. When team members have well-defined roles, they can focus on accomplishing individual tasks and following specific workflows rather than devoting energy to identifying their place. For example, you can assign some team members to take charge of leading different project types, while others may conduct research, perform analysis or recommend solutions.
In some cases, teams may achieve even more when members have opportunities to contribute more and advance into new roles. To make these changes as effective as possible, think about assigning new roles when beginning new projects or when taking on new responsibilities.
3. Experiment regularly
Although teams are often most productive when they have well-defined roles, consider experimenting with new ideas. The most successful teams tend to accommodate informed risk-taking and allow ample opportunities for learning, especially if these experiments have the potential to generate better results.
To introduce experimentation into your standard workflows, try making time for brainstorming before starting a project. During this thoughtful exercise, team members can contribute ideas for conducting research, structuring a project or collecting and analyzing results.
4. Embrace diversity
The most effective teams embrace different skill sets, experience levels and professional backgrounds. You should include members who have dissimilar opinions and encourage different ways of thinking. By welcoming members with diverse views, your team may consider different approaches or goals.
5. Share a common culture
Despite differences, the most successful teams share a common culture, such as a company or group culture. Your team might create and agree on these shared behaviors unconsciously, as they are likely to reflect preferred working or communication styles. However, your team is likely to be more productive when it has guidelines to follow. As the leader, you should gather input from members to establish a cultural values framework.
For many teams, shared values start with a cohesive mission. You should establish a singular team mission by reflecting on the organization’s mission statement and the ways your team contributes to this overarching goal.
6. Be accountable to the team
To build a successful team, each member should maintain accountability. When each member is held accountable, they typically do their best work. You can establish this type of accountability by setting a good example with your own work, encouraging your team members to discuss ways to improve and making a point of implementing feedback. By encouraging group accountability, your team members can find a sense of belonging and purpose.
7. Communicate effectively
To work together seamlessly, teams need clear lines of communication. To streamline communication, your team should clarify each member’s roles and responsibilities. This will show who is in charge of what and what to do when an issue arises or a problem needs to be solved.
Also, your team should decide how project updates will be communicated, be it email, messaging platforms or project management applications.
8. Welcome strong leadership
To ensure that teams reach their goals, work together smoothly and perform at their best, they need strong leadership. You can demonstrate effective leadership by being committed, accountable and responsible for your work. To be a strong leader, you should also cultivate adaptability, welcome feedback and motivate team members to do their best work.
Select a leadership style that best fits the type of team you’re managing to discover how to best facilitate communication, mediate discussion and conflicts and ensure continuous progress.
How to be an effective team member
How To, Human Resources
Being a good team member helps build collaborative relationships that foster trust and lead to success. It also helps us feel more engaged and enjoy our time at work. Here are a few key ways you can be an effective team member.
- Communicate well: What makes a good communicator? Actively listening to team members. Often when someone is speaking, we’re thinking about what we want to say next. Instead, focus on understanding what is being communicated. At the same time, it means actively participating in discussions by sharing your opinion and ideas with the team respectfully. Afterall, a diversity of ideas is what keeps creativity alive and projects moving forward.
- Be reliable and responsible: A great team member can be relied on. If you say you will do something, your team should be able to trust that you will. If you can’t meet your deadline, share this information as early as possible to keep everyone in the loop.
- Share the workload: We all have roles at work, but a strong team member tends to think in terms of “What can I do to move this forward?” as opposed to “That’s not my duty.” Being a great team member is about being aware when someone is having a busy week, stepping in when needed and volunteering to take on part of the project that others might not have time for. It also works in the other direction – if you have a really exciting project or a skill someone else can learn from, it’s important to share that knowledge or opportunity as appropriate.
- Recognize others’ skills and accomplishments: When most people hear the word feedback, they tend to think it’s only about a behaviour being corrected. Constructive feedback is an important part of growing our skillset, but it should also be used to highlight the strengths that others have and give praise when they accomplish something great. This not only boosts team morale, but also strengthens interpersonal relationships within a team.
- Have a positive attitude: A positive attitude can change someone’s day in the short term and the culture of your department over the long term. It not only builds relationships but also helps team members cope when things don’t go well. This doesn’t mean you have to be cheery or insincerely happy all the time, but it speaks more broadly to how you approach difficult tasks. At the same time, if a colleague is having a particularly challenging week, it’s important to provide them understanding and space as needed.
Underpinning all of these attributes is an understanding that in order to reach the goals laid out in our academic plan, we need to work together. For opportunities to build your skills, both as an individual and as a team member, visit the Learning Events Calendar.
The first rule of team building is an obvious one: to lead a team effectively, you must first establish your leadership with each team member. Remember that the most effective team leaders build their relationships of trust and loyalty, rather than fear or the power of their positions.
- Consider each employee’s ideas as valuable. Remember that there is no such thing as a stupid idea.
- Be aware of employees’ unspoken feelings. Set an example to team members by being open with employees and sensitive to their moods and feelings.
- Act as a harmonizing influence. Look for chances to mediate and resolve minor disputes; point continually toward the team’s higher goals.
- Be clear when communicating. Be careful to clarify directives.
- Encourage trust and cooperation among employees on your team. Remember that the relationships team members establish among themselves are every bit as important as those you establish with them. As the team begins to take shape, pay close attention to the ways in which team members work together and take steps to improve communication, cooperation, trust, and respect in those relationships.
- Encourage team members to share information. Emphasize the importance of each team member’s contribution and demonstrate how all of their jobs operate together to move the entire team closer to its goal.
- Delegate problem-solving tasks to the team. Let the team work on creative solutions together.
- Facilitate communication. Remember that communication is the single most important factor in successful teamwork. Facilitating communication does not mean holding meetings all the time. Instead it means setting an example by remaining open to suggestions and concerns, by asking questions and offering help, and by doing everything you can to avoid confusion in your own communication.
- Establish team values and goals; evaluate team performance. Be sure to talk with members about the progress they are making toward established goals so that employees get a sense both of their success and of the challenges that lie ahead. Address teamwork in performance standards. Discuss with your team:
- What do we really care about in performing our job?
- What does the word success mean to this team?
- What actions can we take to live up to our stated values?
- Make sure that you have a clear idea of what you need to accomplish; that you know what your standards for success are going to be; that you have established clear time frames; and that team members understand their responsibilities.
- Use consensus. Set objectives, solve problems, and plan for action. While it takes much longer to establish consensus, this method ultimately provides better decisions and greater productivity because it secures every employee’s commitment to all phases of the work.
- Set ground rules for the team. These are the norms that you and the team establish to ensure efficiency and success. They can be simple directives (Team members are to be punctual for meetings) or general guidelines (Every team member has the right to offer ideas and suggestions), but you should make sure that the team creates these ground rules by consensus and commits to them, both as a group and as individuals.
- Establish a method for arriving at a consensus. You may want to conduct open debate about the pros and cons of proposals, or establish research committees to investigate issues and deliver reports.
- Encourage listening and brainstorming. As supervisor, your first priority in creating consensus is to stimulate debate. Remember that employees are often afraid to disagree with one another and that this fear can lead your team to make mediocre decisions. When you encourage debate you inspire creativity and that’s how you’ll spur your team on to better results.
- Establish the parameters of consensus-building sessions. Be sensitive to the frustration that can mount when the team is not achieving consensus. At the outset of your meeting, establish time limits, and work with the team to achieve consensus within those parameters. Watch out for false consensus; if an agreement is struck too quickly, be careful to probe individual team members to discover their real feelings about the proposed solution.
Increasingly due to the complexity of today’s research problems, science and engineering research projects both in industry and academe are being accomplished through group rather than individual investigator efforts. Single investigators may not have the time, skills, and/or expertise to accomplish the various tasks that must be carried out successfully in order to successfully tackle the problem of interest. Working with a team requires a different skill set from that required in traditional single-investigator based research efforts. To be an effective team member it is essential to have good people skills and effective communication skills in addition to a strong technical skill set.
Some useful guidelines for being an effective team member include:
Respect Your Colleagues
If you are new to team-based projects, it is important to understand that everyone on the team brings with them unique technical expertise, knowledge, and experience that should be valued by all of the team members if the team is to be successful. This means that you should make a good effort to listen to other people’s ideas and suggestions respectfully. In turn, you should expect the same from your colleagues. Note that this doesn’t mean that you must become “best friends” with everyone on your team, i.e., you don’t have to eat together, socialize together, and/or share any personal information with your colleagues unless you choose to. However, it is important that you are personable and that you make a good effort to pleasant when interacting with everyone.
Be proactive. If you notice that there is a task that needs to be done and you have the skills to accomplish it, speak up and take on that task. Be dependable – do your fair share of the work and strive to accomplish any assignments in a timely fashion so that the team can meet any deadlines. Be accountable. If you agree to take on a specific task, it is important for you to follow through on your promise and if you encounter technical difficulties in meeting your obligations to bring this information to the attention of your group as soon as possible so alternatives can be explored and any goals met.
Good communication skills are essential in teamwork. This means you should strive to be open to other people’s ideas. Listen thoughtfully and be enthusiastic in your support of their ideas if warranted. Take the initiative to share your own ideas and do so respectfully. A good guideline to follow in dealing with others is the “Golden Rule”: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you” Bottom line: Assume the best of your teammates and in turn give your teammates your personal best.
Conflict is Inevitable
Whenever you work with people, conflict is inevitable. Each of us brings with us different views on just about everything. So, it should make sense to you that if the team is to be successful, members cannot simply ignore or complain about problems that threaten the accomplishment of the team’s goals. Team members need to identify roadblocks to productivity and bring these in a helpful, positive way to the attention of the team to ensure its success. Being able to deal with emotions and emotional issues in a productive way for all involved or emotional intelligence is a critical skill in team-based work. Managed poorly, conflict can stymie creativity, impede teamwork, and even cause the team to fail to meets its goals and/or deadlines. If members have problems, it is important for them to bring these problems out in the open for discussion by the group without assigning blame, which does little if anything to solve a problem. Although tempting, gossiping with colleagues about difficult team members only creates tension, may get back to them (creating more tension), and erects barriers that won’t get the work done. In concluding this section, it is useful to recognize that conflict isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Conflict, managed productively, can lead to new ideas, more thoughtful decisions, and superior results.
Give Credit Where Credit is Due
Team efforts are also different in terms of how credit is apportioned. Consequently, it is important to support good ideas, to give credit where credit is due, and to assertively speak up when you have made a significant contribution that merits recognition.
Teams are formed when individuals with a similar interest, taste, need and even attitude work together to achieve a common goal. Conflicts must be avoided among the team members so that they are able to concentrate on their work and do not lose their focus and concentration. Every individual is not a good team player and requires skills to successfully work in a team. A team member must have certain qualities in him so that he is not only able to work in a team but also deliver results and grow both professionally and personally.
Let us go through some skills which a team member must have:
An individual should be a good communicator to be a good team member. He should be able to carefully put his thoughts into words for everyone to understand it well. He should be sensible enough to carefully choose his words for sharing his thoughts with others. One should master the art of speaking clearly and convincingly without confusing the listeners.
Be a little forgiving. Dont unnecessarily drag issues .Take the initiative to say sorry and avoid making issues out of small things. Dont take things to heart.
One has to be reliable and trustworthy to survive in a team. Do not ever discuss any issues with someone outside the team. It is no harm to make friends from the opponent team, but make sure you do not discuss business with him. Always learn to draw a line between your personal and professional lives .The strategies, agendas, critical issues of the team must not be discussed with anyone except those involved in it. Any information with you must not be leaked. Any team member might trust you and share something important and personal with you, dont reveal his secret in front of your boss as well as others. It will hurt him.
You have to be a good listener to be an effective team player. Listen to other people as well. Dont draw conclusions on your own. Sit with your team and discuss strategies and policies before implementing. Give a patient ear to your team members before coming to any decision.
Positive attitude is again a must for a team member. Do not spread negativity around. Avoid blame games and spreading unnecessary rumours.Sometimes ignore things which are not that important, rather than fighting over it. Avoid people who have a tendency to overreact. Dont go by what others say, it is always better to follow your own instinct. One should never use derogatory sentences or lewd remarks against anyone in the team. Try to look at the positive aspects, instead of cribbing.
A team member must express his views in front of others. Do not sit quiet in meetings and seminars. Dont assume that the others will laugh at you or make fun of your ideas.
Participate in discussions and try to make your point clear in front of your superiors and team mates. Convince them with valid reasons.
Be a little more focused and concentrate on your work rather than interfering in each others work. Always respect each others privacy .Remember you are paid for your work and not for gossiping and loitering around. One must have the zeal to work hard to achieve the teams goal.
Be a little more creative. Everyone works hard but one who works smartly walks away with the credit. Be very clear about your roles and responsibilities and never take it as a burden.Accept the challenges with a smiling face. Always try to do something out of the box. Be a little more involved and serious about your work.
One has to be patient enough to work in a team. Dont ever get hyper or react over petty issues. One should not unnecessarily indulge in conflicts and misunderstandings. Enter the office with a cool mind. Be a little more flexible. Avoid being adamant and rigid.
One should always be willing to help each other at the times of crisis. Be helpful and stand by your team members always .Never say ill about anyone in the team. Discuss issues face to face.
For any individual, his team must come first, and everything else should take a back seat. Do not always think about your personal interests.
The Importance of Team Work
Working as part of a team is a given in nearly all organizations. Even if one is a consultant one is more often than not working as part of a team. It can sometimes be a frustrating experience for many very talented and capable people. Often individual goals have to be deferred to meet team goals. Plus working with others requires lots of patience and understanding. When teams are working well it can be very enjoyable and bonding experience. Strong friendships often result and it can produce many long-term career benefits. Most people enjoy working with others. Man is after all a social animal! However, it can turn stressful when there is work to be done and time is limited. We do not like the situation where our future and reputation possibly depend on work done by others who may have their own needs and agendas. How does one work well and happily in a team and become a good team player?
It is important to understand that a work team is a very powerful beast. When functioning well teams can be highly productive and very effective. People working together can achieve much more pooling their talents and resources than working alone. On the other hand a very dysfunctional team can have equally destructive effects on both the organization and the individual. This makes it crucial to get teams working well together as soon as possible. Issues and problems need to be sorted out soon otherwise they can turn toxic to the team and possibly spread to the rest of the organization. Team leaders and management have a big role to play in making teams work together successfully. Team members too have a lot of responsibility in making things work.
Making it Work
Here are a few things that can help you in your role as team member or team leader:
- Get an idea of the team goals, responsibilities and timelines: Try to meet with supervisors and senior managers to get an idea of what they wish the team to do and when. This is a very crucial element of success. If we have a mistaken notion of what is important we are going to be very unhappy & disappointed when the team’s work is considered a failure because it did not achieve goals or schedules that team did not know about.
- How will success be measured: Understanding what is defined as success will help us marshal our resources and not waste them on items that are not very important. Sometimes even if the team is unable to find a solution, senior management may consider it a success, as one of the goals may have been to identify solutions that would not work!
- How is information to be provided to stakeholders: This is another crucial item. While all of us may dislike the drudgery of regular reporting it plays an important role in helping our stakeholders have a good handle on the project. Nervous stakeholders who do not understand what is happening can itself put the team at risk. Imagine investing your money in a company that does not seem to have any results or information to report. At some point you will be tempted to sell your stock, as you have no idea whether they are going forward or not!
- Who in the team is responsible for what: Knowing everyone’s roles and responsibilities will help reduce conflicts and finger pointing. It also gives each team member some sense of control and ownership that is highly conducive to great work.
- How does one handle issues and escalate them for resolution: This is another item that can help things from breaking down. A well-understood process for handling issues and escalating them can help ensure that things do not get swept under the carpet or cause items to be blown out of proportion possibly causing hard feelings.
- Be proactive in handling problems: Try to handle problems quickly rather than avoiding them till it is too late. If they are not your own problems, see if you can help other members who may be struggling with these issues. Their delays are your delays since you are part of a team. Maybe you can take on some other items off an overloaded team member.
- Try to be as tolerant as possible: Remember that everyone has his or her faults as well as good points. At the same time realize when things may be going out of control. Discreetly bring this up with team management if you cannot resolve it directly with team members. Avoid being confrontational; people will resist criticism on anything that seems personal. You could try to recommend changes in a process oriented way. For example a co-worker may not be able to complete a task on time or the quality of work leaves a lot to be desired. Discreetly check if this is due to too much of a workload, a lack of skills or unwillingness to do the work. Too much workload could be resolved by rebalancing work within the team or trying to reduce project scope or increase time and resources. A lack of skills can be addressed by training or support from more skilled members. Unwillingness to work can be due to a variety of reasons. Try to find out what they are. In many cases they could be issues that can be addressed in other ways e.g. unhappy with tasks given, had a fight with a co-worker, family problems and so on.
- Keep team leaders, management and other members in the loop as often as possible. While it may seem attractive to go off a do ones own thing for several weeks, making sure that everyone knows what you are doing will help ensure that your work products are considered useful and will not be thrown away because they are not what was required. It can help to circulate around among the team, go out for lunch together, request opportunities to publicly speak about one’s work. The last option is a great way to highlight your skills and talents. It also benefits the organization since others get a chance to learn what you know.
Working as part of a winning team can be an exhilarating experience. The strong team dynamics make it very enjoyable for all and can benefit the organization in many ways. Tough problems have a way of getting solved and team members learn many useful and valuable skills as well as make many strong friendships. The techniques outlined above can help make your team a winning team. Good luck!
Teamwork in the workplace: 10 qualities of an excellent team player
Every organization relies on good teams. Effective teamwork in the workplace helps drive the organization toward success. Here are a ten qualities that can make a team player outstanding in the workplace:
1. Show Genuine Commitment
Team players are genuinely committed to their cause. Good team players might make sure they are in the office when needed, but great team players will make “seat” time worth it and contribute as much as possible. They strive for excellence.
2. Be flexible
Instead of sitting on the bench watching the rest of the crew perform, an outstanding team player wants to see the magic happen through his or her efforts as well. They are flexible to the situations thrown their way, and they participate and tackle challenges without showing too many signs of stress or pressure.
3. Don’t stay in the shadows
It is not in your interest to just sit quietly and get your work done. It’s a good thing to involved others, as long as you aren’t bothering people with questions you should know the answer to. Great team players come to their teammates having prepared their ideas clearly.
4. Be reliable and responsible
An excellent team player will be reliable and responsible. They complete the tasks in order of priority, not necessarily in order that they’re given. When you’re not sure of what should take priority, ask your manager.
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5. Actively listen
You are only a team player if you respectfully consider the viewpoints and ideas of other people as well. This is why diverse teams have the potential to so effective, and it all depends on active listening. Active listening is harder than you think. When you hear someone saying something you don’t initially agree with, keep from interrupting and don’t let your mind prepare any counter remarks. Just listen, and consider what they’re saying and more importantly, why they believe that.
6. Keep your team informed
Share your opinion and ideas without trying to come up with a plan for taking credit for it. Transparency is key on a team, so keep your team members informed. Planning for your own success is important, but whether you get promoted may have a lot to do with how you communicated with your team members.
7. Always be ready to help
Even if it is not in your job description, be generous with pointers or tips to help your team members. For example, if a member of your team is having trouble with a technology tool that is easy for you, offer to sit down with him and show him what you know.
8. Support and respect others
It seems obvious that you wouldn’t want to shut someone from your team out, or laugh at other people’s ideas, but we do these things in a subtle way, without realizing it, all the time. It is important to become more self-aware of how you treat others. Remember, you’ll receive respect when you give it to others. An ideal team player knows how to have fun, but he would never do it at someone else’s expense.
9. Be a problem-solver
Your team leader may be working on solving problems, but there is no reason why you can’t offer solutions yourself. Your teammates will appreciate your skills, and this may pays off later when your manager considers you for a promotion!
10. Recognize when you are wrong
A good team player will back off an idea when it becomes clear it’s not the right path. If you believe strongly that your team is making a mistake, you can find a way to come back to the issue when the time is right, but being a stubborn stick in the mud is not a quality of a good team player.
This article was updated June 22, 2017. Original content was written by Lara Pole.
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I hope this blog is occasionally read by team members as well as project managers. Maybe you’re a team leader trying to figure out your project manager . Maybe you have a special interest in team dynamics and team management. Maybe you’re just nosy. Maybe your project manager was so inspired by one of my posts it’s been tacked on the notice board!
Anyway, in my opinion, the team is critical to the success of any project – if you want to have an effective team (or be an effective team member) here’s what you should be looking for:
1) Confident, Not Arrogant
Pride may cometh before the fall, but only if it’s undeserved arrogance, not well-deserved confidence. A confident team member speaks their mind, but lets others voice their opinions too, and either agree, or calmly and rationally disagree. Either way, confidence is an asset to any team.
2) Gets Involved
Project work isn’t a nine-to-five, clock-in, clock-out job, and it doesn’t mean coming to work, doing your bit of work and going home. An effective team member is interested in the project as a whole, and is willing to work outside their little niche.
3) Good Communicator
“ The fact that no one understands you doesn’t mean you’re an artist. ” Unknown – I love this quote because so many excellent programmers are lousy communicators. However, projects cannot succeed without good communication, and a team than can’t communicate is not effective. And don’t forget the other half of communication – listening. Effective team members don’t just talk, they pay attention to what others have to say too.
A good team member is responsible. They take responsibility for their actions, mistakes and successes. If they say something will get done, it gets done OR they let their manager know there’s a problem before it becomes a crisis.
Good team members are loyal to their team, their manager and their customers. This isn’t aways easy, as interests between these groups are often conflicted, but a sense of loyalty is an essential part of being an effective team member.
6) Plays Nicely With Others
The most brilliant employee is pretty much useless in a team environment unless they work as a part of that team. There’s no room for isolationists or prima donnas in an effective team.
In even the most tightly controlled project, things change, and teams need to roll with those changes. If you want to be an effective team member, you need to cope with change.
Your project manager and your fellow team members all need your support – and in turn, you need their support. This doesn’t mean agreeing with everything that’s said and done – on the contrary, it means putting forth rational and reasonable arguments when you disagree, remembering point 6.
Effective team members – and this includes project managers and team leaders – don’t go for an individual win at the expense of the team or the project. Teams work much better and projects are more successful if there’s consensus rather than winners and losers.
10) Sense of Humor
And finally, my favorite trait in any coworker – a sense of humor. Humor can get you through the toughest times ,and can help you get along with the toughest adversaries. If you cultivate no other trait, work on your sense of humor.
If you’re a team member, cultivate these “soft skills”. If you’re a project manager, these are some of the skills you want in your team . Hard skills are great, but they aren’t enough to have successful projects. (And people without a sense of humor aren’t much fun to work with!)