Effective teams are more than a group of people assigned to work together. They have deep interrelationships within the group that enable them to function as one, building from the diversity and synergy within the group to work in a collaborative fashion to accomplish the group’s goals. Effective teams consist of people who know each other, accept each other, respect each other, are committed to each other, and are accountable to each other.
Rarely does such a team spontaneously form; it must be created and that requires a leader who enables and drives the team’s formation. This leader may or may not function as a member of the team, but he/she has the vision and responsibility for the team and its function. The team’s culture will generally reflect the character of the leader who establishes and empowers it.
To build a successful team requires an effective leader who has the following character traits:
Servant-leader – The team operates best, not when they are serving the leader, but when leadership serves the team by removing hurdles and providing resources and support. This requires a leader with humility to hold the team and its members in high regard.
Respectful and values others – The team operates effectively when they trust and accept each other. To build such a team, the leader must value their diversity and treat each team member with the same level of respect.
Emotional intelligence – The first levels or domains of emotional intelligence are about understanding and managing one’s own emotions. The higher levels of emotional intelligence are about understanding the emotions of others and managing group relationships. Leading an effective team requires the ability to recognize and respond to the emotions of the various team members and to maintain healthy relationships within the team.
One particular area of emotional intelligence of great importance to leading an effective team is the ability to manage conflict. An effective team is able to respectfully question and disagree amongst themselves without stepping over the line into personal conflict. A successful leader is able to foresee and to lean into potential conflict to maintain a healthy environment of seeking truth from the team while gaining the input of all team members.
Provider of effective feedback – A leader who is building a team must provide a consistent flow of feedback. This includes feedback to individuals regarding that person’s individual effort as well as feedback to the team on their combined effort. It is important to recognize the need for both individual feedback and team feedback. In both cases, feedback needs to follow the guidelines of recognizing specific actions or behaviors, identifying our reaction to these behaviors, and linking the behavior to specific results in light of organizational goals.
Encourage and facilitate relationship development – The health and success of the team is largely a function of the interpersonal relationships within it. It is these relationships that allow the team to operate as a unified and collaborative group. An effective team builder models the development of strong relationships and assures that the team makes specific efforts to build relationships that are inclusive of all of team members.
Commitment to communication – An effective team demonstrates clear and consistent communication within it. A leader who is building such a team must be committed to frequent, clear, and positive communications. A part of this communication commitment is modeling practices and values such as the importance of listening as well as speaking, the effectiveness of an iterative process combining input from the entire team, and the value of openness in both sharing ideas and valuing the thoughts of others. Of course, the other part of a leader’s communications is defining the vision and goal of the team and encouraging them on the path toward that goal.
Andrew Carnegie once said, “Teamwork is the fuel that allows common people to produce uncommon results.” The effectiveness of a team is very much a reflection of the effectiveness of the leadership that builds and guides it. A great team is the fruit that results from a highly capable leader who is willing to humbly build into the team the strengths that guide his/her own leadership.
Ken is a business strategy consultant and leadership coach. His passion is helping companies and people grow and succeed. With an engineering degree and an MBA, he spent more than 20 years working in M&A and business development in the corporate world before founding New Horizon Partners, Inc. in 2002. His consulting practice works with a wide variety of industrial companies, helping them make good decisions about where and how to compete and building their leadership capabilities. To read other articles by Ken on business strategy and leadership, visit the New Horizon Partners website.