5 steps to building effective teams

On the Job

5 steps to building effective teams

Each of us needs to be able to build an effective team. We have a tendency to view team-building as a manager-only skill and it’s true that managers need to be able to build effective teams. But we can also be asked to assemble a team as part of a company project, employee committee or in our volunteer lives.

So regardless of our job title, we need to know some proven methods for building and maintaining team effectiveness. Here are 5 strategies that can help:

  1. Develop SMART goals to keep the team focused. Once you’ve used RACI to define roles and responsibilities, consider using the SMART acronym to guide the goals and actions of the team. SMART stands for specific, measurable, actionable, responsible and time-bound.
    * Specific represents the goal or action the team is going to take. (What’s our plan?)
    * Measurable defines the outcome or result. (What does success look like?)
    * Actionable lists the individual steps needed to achieve the goal. (How will we accomplish our plan?.
    * Responsible indicates who will handle each step. (Who will be responsible?
    * Time-bound attaches a date for completion. (When will we get this done?)
  2. Use RACI to clarify team member roles and responsibilities. One of the biggest mistakes I see team leaders make is taking on too much responsibility. Get other team members involved using the RACI acronym: responsible, accountable, consult, and inform.

    Here’s how the individual roles can be defined using RACI: “R” (Responsible) represents the people who are responsible for doing the work. “A” (Accountable) stands for the person who will be accountable for the final outcome of the project. “C” (Consult) is for the subject matter experts whose knowledge and expertise is required. Lastly, “I” (Inform) includes the senior leader who is sponsoring or supporting the project.

  3.  Provide the group with team training and team building. Team building and team training are two different things according to Dr. Eduardo Salas, Trustee Chair and Pegasus Professor of Psychology at the University of Central Florida.

    Team training is focused on specific teamwork competencies — the knowledge, skills and attitudes needed to be a good team player and work well with others. Team building is usually about role clarification, goal setting or interpersonal relationships. Both have a place and can yield positive results, if designed appropriately.

  4. Deliver problem-solving training and a model to use. Often the reason teams work together is to solve problems. So giving the team a consistent way of addressing problems is productive. I use a three step approach called STP – assess the Situation, identify the Target, and generate Proposals. It can be used for both problem-solving and conflict management.

    During the Situation phase, ask the “who, what, where, when and why” questions to fully understand the situation. In identifying the Target, reach consensus on ultimately the best solution to target. Then, generate the Proposals that address the situation and reach the target.

  1. Conduct regular debriefs! Teams that conduct regular debrief activities perform on average 20 percent better, according to Dr. Scott Tannenbaum, president of The Group for Organizational Effectiveness. Debrief activities do not have to be long or complex.

    An easy-to-remember two-step debrief is to ask the team: 1) What did we do well? And 2) What can we do differently next time? Sometimes human nature is to focus on the negative so always start with asking what went well. Then give people the chance to talk about changes. Also, as the team leader, let the group speak first. You’ll find most of their observations are spot-on and you can use your comments to build the team up for the next task.

    Whether you’re a team member or a team leader, these strategies can improve the effectiveness of groups and committees. It can make the team more focused and productive. And as team members learn these methods and strategies, they can take them to their next team leader opportunity.

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