How to build an effective team

Building a high-performing team involves more than just assembling a group of talented individuals. For a team to be effective, its members must unite behind an inspiring vision and be motivated to bring that vision to life. They must share clear, measurable goals, and be committed to playing their part in the overall success of the group.

Here are some key steps for how to build an effective team:

Assemble an effective team

High-performance teams are comprised of individuals that passionately embrace the vision, believe their contribution is meaningful and are motivated to give their best effort. They also share the values of trust, respect and support.

When selecting each team member choose complementary skills and abilities, who can offer the team a diverse range of viewpoints and ideas. Too much similarity in background leads and communication styles to very similar thinking and unconscious and even conscious bias will not be far away, weakening an effective team. Try and achieve a good balance of personality types and diverse perspectives, so the group can work together harmoniously but also challenge each other when necessary. Ensure every team member's role is clearly defined to enhance successful teamwork and collaboration.

Choose a team leader

Select a leader that will encourage team members, set the ground rules and ensure everyone is on track to meet the team's goals. An effective leader doesn't necessarily need to already hold leadership roles within the organisation and is good career development for team leaders.

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Define the purpose

Clearly define the purpose of the team, including the overall outcome it has been brought together to achieve. What do you want to create, improve or change? What is the purpose of each person’s role in the team? Providing a clear, inspiring vision sets the foundation for successful teamwork, and helps guide the direction of the group when they face challenges and decisions. An effective team becomes a successful team with a strong guiding purpose.

Determine the goals

Once the team is established and united behind a shared, compelling purpose, the next step is to break the vision down into smaller, manageable goals and tasks to better track team performance. Outline the required tasks on a schedule, with agreed deadlines, milestones and responsibilities. Decide the role that each team member will play. Be sure to also consider any resources required in terms of time, materials, space, support and money.

Set expectations

Before the team begins, ensure that each member understands what is expected of them, define a standard of conduct for the team, ideally in line with a wider culture you are trying to foster. Will communication be frequent, open, honest and transparent? Will contributions be encouraged, valued and recognised? Will conflict be handled in a constructive way? Will team decision making and feedback be respected? Setting clear standards at the start will ensure that each member’s operational and personal contributions are appropriate. Strong leadership will help to facilitate communications.

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Monitor and review

Regularly reviewing progress, including the group’s performance and impact factors against team goals is essential. This might be through obvious metrics, financial measures and member's contributions communicated back through team meetings and one-on-one catch ups so the team understands how they are tracking. But if you have set a goal, it is hard to over-communicate progress.

Reflect on questions such as: how are we doing? What have we achieved so far? Has anything changed internally or externally? What have we learned? What isn’t working well? How can we improve? Monitoring, reviewing and making progress allows for adjustments and improvements to be incorporated into team processes along the way.

Celebrate and reward

Make the time to regularly recognise, reward and celebrate both team and individual performance. This will help to build morale and bolster the motivation of the group to continue their hard work. This is also great for team building and leverages human behaviour when it comes to motivation. Find the most appropriate way to celebrate every team member and team milestones, such as a personal ‘thank you’ at a team meeting, an email copied to senior managers or a team lunch.

Ensure that recognition is consistent and that the method you choose inspires and reinforces the individual team members to continue their positive contribution to the team’s progress. Successful teams may choose to celebrate team milestones with a bigger celebration at the end of a project or on delivery of a certain budget or target and used well, revisiting this celebration or reward can be an inspiration and key motivator throughout the overall process for the entire team.

Encourage open communication

It’s equally important that team members feel they can talk to you and to each other with support and candour. Communication is a crucial element to an effective team as well as team building and the company culture overall, so you should lead by example aligning with the ground rules set initially. Make sure your team knows the importance of this by ensuring easy access to open communication lines with you.

Encourage your team to talk to each other about all aspects of their projects so everyone feels their voice is being heard. Avoid risking great ideas falling to the wayside by establishing an easy and consistent way for an effective team to communicate – an email thread, an online shared document, or even just regular face-to-face meetings to improve teamwork and employee engagement.

Strong teams possess a keen awareness of the importance of maintaining a positive attitude, and the impact it can have on their overall performance. They recognise that by fostering a positive mindset, they create an environment conducive to collaboration, productivity and making sound team decisions. Moreover, teams that prioritise the alignment of their goals and objectives, ensure that everyone is on the same page and working towards a shared vision.

Through open communication and active participation, they make collective decisions that leverage diverse viewpoints and expertise within the team. Furthermore, the presence of an effective manager is crucial in guiding and coordinating team efforts, providing clear direction, and offering support when needed. With these qualities and practices in place, strong teams are poised to achieve their goals.

For more guidance on building an effective team, check out our management advice blog.

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