Teamwork Guide - How To Build An Effective Team

Four puzzle pieces that are all connected, like the perfect team. This image is being used as the header image for a blog that describes How To Build An Effective Team.
Four puzzle pieces that are all connected, like the perfect team. This image is being used as the header image for a blog that describes How To Build An Effective Team.

Behind every big win is a team that enabled the way to victory. Success stories are built by teams, especially in the area of driving the goals of a high-performing business.

It’s the difference between a well-oiled machine and one that fails to work because parts are incompatible. When everyone is a good team player and works well with others, teams are better able to overcome conflict, maintain productivity, and move the business forward.

Knowing the value of great teamwork is one thing; building a solid team within your organization is quite another.

Here’s how you can transform your individual performers into a synergized team of winning professionals.

Smiling team having a discussion.

Table of Contents:

What Makes an Effective Team in Business?

Answering the question “What makes an effective team?” is a lot like choosing who you should include in your team. The real answer is that it varies by team.

Different teams have different dynamics. A virtual team will interact much differently than those that have in-person team meetings, for example. It’s very much like a puzzle--where one piece fits on one team, that same piece might be a poor match for another team.

We can look at teams in a generalized sense to find some common denominators. Let’s look at some characteristics of an effective team:

Leadership

Good leaders anchor the team. They provide direction, communicate the team’s mission and vision, and ensure team members have the resources they need to do their jobs. Great leaders listen to their team, give and receive constructive feedback, and make decisions in the best interest of organizational goals. They’re also powerful delegators – because no one person can do it all themselves.

Communication

Communication skills are essential to every part of teamwork. Without it, team members risk having different ideas about what they’re supposed to accomplish.

Many issues in a project can be traced back to poor communication. Unclear expectations lead to conflict, wasted resources, and lots of rework. Every team member should strive to become a good communicator for the benefit of those around them.

Ownership

Great teams are those who not only contribute to a goal but also take ownership of their work. When they make a mistake, they step up to fix it. They don’t waste time pointing fingers or not picking up the slack. These are hallmarks of a great team player.

Ownership isn't just about assigning team roles. It also means taking pride in your work. You’ve got skin in the game and want to see the project succeed, and you do what it takes to see it through.

Support

Successful teams foster an environment where everyone feels valued. Everyone should have the opportunity to share their thoughts, opinions, and ideas. This is how new ways of thinking that can ultimately lead to better project outcomes are created.

Trust

Teams without trust often struggle to meet objectives. A lack of trust deteriorates relationships. This can lead to unnecessary conflict, a lack of ownership, and a lower sense of morale.

But when trust is high, so is employee engagement. Trust is essential for all members of the team. It fosters a positive attitude, creates a place of psychological safety, ensures all voices are heard, and leads to more successful teamwork.

The Benefits of Building an Effective Team

Team following a leader.

As the old saying goes, “Two heads are better than one.” But what exactly do you gain from teamwork?

Let’s outline the benefits of effective team working:

Creativity Thrives

Whether you’re working on a new social media brand campaign or developing a comprehensive digital strategy, it takes a heaping dose of creativity to stand out online.

Brainstorming as a team can let new concepts take flight. Shared input can result in turning good ideas into great ones. Combining experiences from multiple team members lets you see things from perspectives other than your own. As your team discovers new ideas, the shared enthusiasm can help drive those ideas forward.

Strengths Multiply

Teams are often greater than the sum of their parts. When teams combine their skills and energy, each individual’s strengths multiply. Teammates build on each other’s talents to improve their own approaches. In the end, everyone can walk away from a project knowing more than they did at the beginning of the project.

Conflict Resolution Improves

Conflict resolution will always be a welcomed skill in business. But employees that don’t have the opportunity to engage in conflict won’t be able to develop this skill. The ability to resolve conflicts amicably and productively comes only from experience. Working in teams, conflict is bound to occur. This creates new learning opportunities for everyone involved and can make individuals more resilient and open to feedback.

Goals are Reached Faster

Whether your goal is to become a better social listener or grow your brand reach, you can achieve your goals faster with more hands on deck.

More hands allow you to work on more objectives simultaneously. You can tap into the unique skill sets of each team member, allowing them to do what they do best and get the most for their efforts.

How to Build a High-Performing Team

Teamwork infographic.

Effective teams and good teamwork skills don’t just “happen.” Sometimes, you’ll get lucky and certain pieces will fall perfectly into place. But if you want to rely on more than just luck, you will want to put forth an effort to create a high-performing team.

Here’s how you can build an effective team from the ground up:

Establish Clear Team Goals

Teams need to be on the same page from Day 1. Establishing clear goals upfront lets every team member know what they’re working toward. Setting goals early also gives team leaders a way to hold each person accountable for their contributions.

Assign Duties and Gain Consensus

Once the team understands the main objective, start breaking down the work into individual parts. This might be assigning each person tasks related to their strengths. Or you might create micro-teams of twos and threes.

Each person or group should have a clear understanding of what’s expected of them. This means establishing deadlines, offering access to resources, and setting parameters when necessary.

Set Ground Rules for the Team

As teams are working on their tasks, it’s important that each person consider the team as a whole and the shared goal they’re working toward. Setting ground rules for the team can help each project move efficiently. This might be as simple as asking each person to be punctual for meetings. Or it might be as complex as using a Kanban board system so everyone can keep track of team progress.

Enforce Team Expectations

Team success depends on everyone’s commitment. When someone is not meeting deadlines or is turning in lackluster work, it affects the group as a whole. The team leader should be prepared to enforce expectations for the project and take corrective action when necessary. Accountability is key when one person can affect the entire group’s performance.

Create a Feedback System

Continuous feedback allows teams to adjust their approach on the fly and maintain their momentum. Don’t just wait for feedback to happen, though. Team leaders should frequently ask for feedback to find ways to become more effective. Then, they should be prepared to act on any key takeaways from the feedback.

Evaluate Team Performance

As a team project progresses, it's important to evaluate the team's performance as a whole. Are you meeting deadlines? If not, what are the challenges that are holding you back? Is it friction between team members or a lack of resources?

Both success and failure are shared between all team members. Evaluating team performance often can help to pinpoint issues and fix them before they derail the entire assignment.

How to Improve Teamwork in Existing Teams

Connecting blocks.

It’s always a good idea to look for ways to improve how team members work together. Knowing how to work well in a team is a skill that will serve each person for the rest of their career.

Here are some tips on how to improve teamwork if you already have a seasoned team in place.

Do a Team Health Checkup

Teams that have worked together for a while might look like they have it all figured out. But don’t take their longevity for granted. There’s almost always room for more effective teamwork.

One way to work more effectively as a team is to do a team health checkup. This is your opportunity to speak with individual team members about their experiences. Ask tough questions, such as who is the most difficult to work with, their biggest challenges, and what they like least about their team.

Sometimes, problems can be swept under the rug in the spirit of teamwork. Team members put differences aside to keep making progress, but small problems can turn into major issues if they’re not properly addressed. If there’s a way you can make these problems truly disappear, the entire team will benefit.

Review Team Processes and Procedures

Take the time to review the mechanics of how your team works together. Are there any communication barriers? Could you use a better organizational system for assigning tasks and tracking progress?

Communication is the root of great teamwork. Reviewing processes and procedures can help to give everyone clarity around team goals and leave no room for guesswork.

Encourage Social Activities

Teams work better together when they trust each other. One way to enhance this trust is by encouraging teams to socialize beyond work. Help them get to know each other so they feel comfortable sharing their ideas. This lets team members understand each other's tendencies, communication styles, and other characteristics that build respect and familiarity.

Why Effective Team Communication Is Key

When building strong teams, the best place to start is focusing on effective team communication. How teams communicate affects everything from the work performed to the final project outcome (and everything in between).

It reduces the chance of errors, which in turn reduces the risk of wasting resources and having to rework certain tasks.

When teams have a clear, consistent way to communicate assignments, feedback, questions, and concerns, each team member can work as a group member and not just as an individual.

At Meltwater, we’ve designed our tools to keep teams working in sync toward their goals. Contact us today to schedule a demo.

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