What An Effective Team Looks Like

“What we must decide is perhaps how we are valuable, rather than how valuable we are.” F. Scott Fitzgerald

Sorry. I goofed. A couple of weeks ago I gave you seven of the twelve characteristics of an effective team. I promised to give you the remaining five characteristics … and then sent you a different “Tuesday Tip” instead. I messed up.

So let’s get back on track. As I was writing before, “Teamwork” and “Team Building” are two of the most important trends in organizations today. Teams are being used everywhere, but they’re not being used very well in most places.

Part of the problem is the fact that most people don’t even know what an effective team looks like. They’re simply put into a group of people and told that they’re a “TEAM.” And they are expected to perform.

Well it doesn’t work that way. You’ve got to know at least two things before your group will ever turn into a peak-performance team. First, you’ve got to know the characteristics of an effective team, and that’s one thing that Michael Van Horn of The Boeing Company learned when he attended my program, The Journey To The Extraordinary.

Michael said: “Dr. Zimmerman’s Journey To The Extraordinary experience was literally life-changing. I always thought of myself as a great communicator. As a corporate trainer for Boeing, graduating Summa Cum Laude with a degree in Communications, holding membership in the International Association of Business Communicators, and serving on the current Board of Directors for the Amelia Earhart Society, I thought I was a great communicator. I was wrong. Dr. Zimmerman’s program gave me the skills and techniques to increase my proficiency, strengthen my abilities, enhance my communication skills and literally intensify my life. Thank you for giving me a new view of life and teamwork. The valuable skills and techniques taught in this intensive two-day conference were extremely useful, very revealing and absolutely enlightening.

Once you know the characteristics of an effective team, you need to know how to get those characteristics INTO your team. That’s what Allan Hermson, an accounting manager at Seedorff Masonry learned at The Journey To The Extraordinary Experience. Allan reported: “I improved my listening skills tremendously, and I learned a great deal about attitude. As a manager, I found out how powerful it is to keep things in a positive frame of mind. And people are responding so much better in our new positive team environment. I was able to go back to work and turn a non-performer into a real performer because of your Journey To The Extraordinary Experience.”

You should consider sending some or all of your team to the next “Journey To The Extraordinary” program I offer. In fact, every time I offer the “Journey” program, there are always two, five, even eleven people coming from the same team in the same organization. And there are extra discounts when two or more people come to the program together. I suggest you take a free GUIDED TOUR of “The Journey” by going to http://www.journeytotheextraordinary.com/

So you’ve got to know the characteristics of an effective team. I’ve already given you the first 7 characteristics. Let’s go over the other five.

=> 8. Responsible Participation.

In a good team, each person knows what his/her job is, and each person must do it. No one sits back and says “I’ll just listen” or “Do whatever you think is best.” No!!! Everyone has a role to play or a job to perform. And everyone takes responsibility for doing his/her part.

Of course, what you think is “responsible participation” and what your fellow team members think is “responsible” may be quite different. That’s why you’ve got to gather and give feedback to one another once in a while.

Try this questionnaire. I find it quite useful when I’m delivering my program on “Teams That Win: Tips and Tactics for Scoring Major Victories.”

Make up a sheet with these questions, and ask each team member to answer each question by filling in the names of two other team members. Collect the sheets and put some time aside to share the feedback at one of your team meetings. And then decide on what changes each team member might make to improve his/her performance.

Here are the questions.
*Which two team members can most easily influence others to change their opinions?
*Which two are least able to influence others to change their opinions?
*Which two have clashed most sharply in the course of the meetings?
*Which two are most highly accepted by the group at large?
*Which two are most ready to protect and support members who are under attack?
*Which two try to keep themselves in the limelight as much as possible?
*Which two are most likely to put team goals above personal goals?
*Which two have been most ready to discuss topics not directly related to the team?
*Which two have shown the greatest desire to accomplish something?
*Which two have wanted to avoid conflict in the group discussions?
*Which two have sought to help in the resolution of differences when they have arisen between others?
*Which two tend to withdraw from active discussion when strong differences begin to appear?
*Which two have wanted the team to be warm, friendly, and comfortable?
*Which two have competed the most with others in the sense of rivalry?
*Which two have tried to do the most to keep the team on the ball?
*Which two would you choose to work with on a project?
*Which two do you usually talk to the least?

=> 9. Shared Leadership

Leadership in an effective team is seen as a shared function. Individuals other than the “designated leader” are given the opportunity to exercise leadership when their skills are appropriate to the task at hand. As Human Dynamics International says, “Everyone to some degree needs to become a leader; and the leaders of the leaders need to know how to empower others to bring out their leadership skills.”

In a sense, everyone takes responsibility for meeting the team’s needs. It’s not the leader’s job; it’s everyone’s job to get the job done … because if the team fails, everyone fails.

=> 10. Style Diversity

The most successful teams have members with different skills, personalities, and styles. They think and work differently to bring out the best in each other.

And there are four general team-player styles, each of which contributes to the team’s success. Contributors, for example, are task-oriented. They push the team to get the job done and done well.

David Ogilvy, the advertising agency empire builder, demonstrated that in the way he welcomed new executives with a gift of five wooden dolls, each smaller than the other, one inside the other. When the recipient got to the fifth little doll, the smallest doll, and opened it, he found this message: “If each of us hires people who are smaller than we are, we shall become a company of dwarfs, but if each of us hires people who are bigger than we are, we shall become a company of giants.”

Collaborators, a second style, believe commitment to the team’s goals is paramount. They want to make sure the team has a clear mission.

Communicators are process-oriented. They’re most interested in how the team goes about completing its tasks. They believe they must have great communication skills to stick together.

And Challengers question the team’s goals, methods, and even ethics. They want to make sure they are doing the right thing in the right way.

=> 11. Self-Assesment

Good teams always want to know how they’re doing and how they can improve. So they talk about their effectiveness once in a while — whether that be with an outside consultant, a formal assessment, or an informal discussion.

I refer you back to the quiz up above. It could be a very valuable assessment tool for you to use.

=> 12. Task Accomplishment

An effective team actually gets something done. They make decisions, and they carry out those decisions. They don’t just have meetings with nothing to show for it.

In fact, one of the most frustrating things about many team meetings is the lack of implementation. Too often, there’s no formal action plan with a key person to “champion” it, corresponding milestones, and expected outcomes.

If these 12 benchmarks are evident in your team, you’ve got an effective team.

But another way of saying it might be this. If you have any of these signs, your team is in trouble. You’ve got to go back and figure out which of the 12 benchmarks needs additional work.

Signs of Team Trouble

* You can’t easily describe or agree on the team’s mission.

* Meetings are formal, stuffy, or tense.

* Broad participation produces minimal accomplishment.

* There is talk … but not much communication.

* Team members air disagreements privately after meetings.

* The formal leader makes all the decisions.

* Members are confused or disagree about roles or work assignments.

* Key people outside the team aren’t cooperating.

* The team has not assessed its progress and process.

I hope your team stacks up well against these 12 benchmarks. And if you’ve discovered that you need some additional team building, feel free to give me a call. I’ve worked with hundreds of teams over the years, and we’ve always gotten very positive results.

Action: How would you grade your team’s overall effectiveness — A – B – C – D – or F?

And how would you grade the 8th, 9th, 10th, 11th, and 12th characteristics of an effective team — as they apply to your team?