These days when fewer people often must do more, it is crucial to know the characteristics of each team member and how they work. Assembling a group of people may make the team but getting the team to work effectively toward achieving something is often a tall order.
Think of a team as a small collection of people whose skills complement each other, working toward a common goal. A common goal is an operative word in this case.
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Failing to Communicate
Having a common goal and clear direction is undoubtedly important but failing to communicate openly and honestly is another crucial aspect required when working in a team setting.
When the requirements change or something is not working, constant communication and willingness to exchange ideas freely and honestly helps determine how effective a team will be.
In a team environment, the exchange of ideas means the active practice of both listening and speaking. When done correctly, the freedom to exchange ideas without fear of retribution will help the team move forward.
Think of what goes on before and during competition team shooting at your local range. Successful results at the range depend on many things. Even before the match, each team member assisted in the takedown of their AR-15 rifles.
The upper receivers were checked and cleaned, and all team members checked each square inch of each other’s rifles. Magazines were inspected and loaded, and after a final check, the team headed to the range.
During the match, the spotter’s responsibility is to recommend adjustments to the shooter to improve effectiveness. Failure of the spotter to quickly communicate the proper adjustments to the person firing the rifle often results in a loss.
For a match shooting team to be effective, every team member must share a common goal and exchange information freely and honestly.
Common Goal and Direction
Everyone on the team needs to have a clear direction on what the team needs to accomplish, the timeline for achieving the goal, and, more importantly, the outcome when the group reaches its destination.
Suppose two of your team members believe their job is to create cup holders in the car. That’s great, except when you factor in the rest of the team believes their job is to design and build an entire vehicle.
The entire group needs to understand the expected outcome to function effectively. When that happens, the result should be a safe, fully functional automobile with extra sets of cup holders.
Everyone is Accountable
Like the communication example above, every team member should consider themselves accountable for the outcome of their mutual efforts. An effective team accepts success or failure as one single entity. To be a genuinely efficient team, no team member should attempt to justify or explain their actions. Neither should any team member attempt to blame a particular team member.
An efficient team can only happen if each member is willing to share the accountability of either a huge win or an epic failure.
Everyone is Different
Working on an efficient team does not require hive assimilation. Although each member’s skillset should be complimentary, it doesn’t mean each member is precisely alike.
Even on efficient teams, team members may have opposing views on how to undertake a task. Divergency of thought, when coupled with open and honest communication, brings about new and imaginative thinking.
While the saying “thinking outside the box” is a worn cliche these days, a team that fosters imaginative and fresh ideas can and will undoubtedly build a better mousetrap.
You Have to Trust Me on This
Whether you are a team member working on a software development project, or a member of a football team, trust is the glue that binds all the traits of an effective team together.
Failure of one or more team members to trust that another will properly execute their assignment will always lead to compensation by the other team members.
When each team member begins to compensate, it constantly changes how a team member executes their tasks. It quickly becomes a ripple effect that can derail what the team is attempting to accomplish.
A perfect example of this is the quarterback of a football team. If a quarterback doesn’t trust the running back to handle the football properly during a play, the quarterback may decide to keep the ball and run, which typically occurs in a loss of yardage.
Say, for instance, that this same quarterback doesn’t trust the members of his pass receiving team. Instead of passing to where the receiver must be, the quarterback throws the ball directly at the receiver. The result is typically an interception.
Taking a Risk
Even though lack of trust can cause adverse outcomes, sometimes the entire team must choose to take a risk and try to accomplish a task in a manner they’ve never done before.
While the idea may not pan out and prove successful, the mistakes help the team learn. This mindset of supporting change helps each team member grow their skillsets, knowledge, and expertise and often produces outstanding outcomes.
Putting it All Together
Working effectively in a team environment is often a difficult task, especially when one or more of the previously mentioned mindsets are missing. A collaborative environment without trust is truly a house built on constantly shifting sand.
A risk-averse team mindset rarely achieves exemplary results. Failure to engage in open and honest communication will hinder team progress and stall a project or initiative.
When team members refuse to accept accountability regardless of the team’s success or failure, the result means that several, if not all, of the team members end up working in a vacuum. When this happens, the results are erratic, and the outcome usually is of inferior quality.
Putting each part of working as an effective team together is challenging, but it is achievable. Many companies have experienced success because they utilize teams that have demonstrated over and over their ability to work effectively.
Most times, it’s a simple mindset change that can be the difference between disjointed efforts or a single purpose. It is only when a team can combine all the practical aspects of working effectively in a team environment that they succeed.