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Karen Dwyer: What You Need to Know to Build a Successful Team

Here are six simple steps that will improve the effectiveness of your team and get results.

Building a successful team can be a challenge. As businesses realize the importance of people working together as a team to accomplish company goals, it’s important for managers to have the knowledge to build one.

To build an effective team, managers must first know the difference between a group and a team. A group is often defined as several people who come together for a specific purpose but work independently from each other. For a group to be considered a team, certain characteristics must be present.

According to Meredith Belbin, a British researcher and management theorist who spent nine years studying team behavior, the most effective teams have the following characteristics: an understanding and commitment to their role within the team, a shared sense of purpose and the ability to share and contribute to team goals, strong leadership with the ability to manage conflict when it arises and make decisions, trust and support among members and communication between team members.

• Knowing and understanding team roles. To help determine roles among staff members, managers need to place employees according to their strengths into three categories: action-oriented, people-oriented and idea-oriented. Once management determines roles and communicates them to the team, each member will know how they affect the team’s success, resulting in a higher level of commitment to the team.

• Clarifying team goals. After management has determined team roles, it’s important to create a clear understanding of what the goals are for the department so there is a shared sense of purpose among the team. Managers who explain the team’s direction and goals will have more effective teams. To keep members focused and motivated, goals need to be challenging and “SMART” (specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and timely).

• Defining responsibilities. Managers should clearly explain what each person’s responsibility for each goal is and why achieving that goal is important. Many times, there are different projects and tasks required to reach team goals, so team members might have different responsibilities depending on the task. For example, one employee might be a support member on one project and a project leader on the next, depending on their strengths. If there’s more than one person competing for a certain role on a project, divide the responsibilities and make each person accountable for his or her section.

• Establishing leaders. Management must assign strong team leaders to ensure a team’s effectiveness. Team leaders serve as supervisors, assistant managers or project advisers. These individuals must be able to make decisions, resolve conflicts among team members, delegate tasks and ensure that team goals are being met. Team leaders are responsible for driving the team’s success, and they must also be able to encourage, motivate and support fellow members.

• Building trust and support. Effective teams must trust and support each other. Managers can develop this by allowing team members to take full responsibility for projects and tasks, and then standing by them through their progress. Team leaders and upper management need to provide continual support and loosen the reigns on projects. This will show employees that leadership trusts their judgment and values their expertise.

• Encouraging open communication. Another key component in building a successful team is encouraging employees to have open communication. Open dialogue, both formal and informal, allows team members to contribute ideas and suggestions on projects. Team meetings should be held on a regular basis to give members the opportunity to report progress and share success stories on projects. This is also a great opportunity to allow team members to speak freely about personal interests or weekend plans, which encourages employees to engage in more communication among the team.

Whether managers or supervisors are building a new team or trying to strengthen an existing one, following these tips will help leaders develop more effective and successful teams.

Karen Dwyer
Karen Dwyer is the owner of Express Employment Professionals, 9 W. Figueroa St., Santa Barbara 93101. Click here to contact her or call 805.965.6900.

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