How effective is your team – achieve a common goal

How effective is your team?

A team is a group of people that works together to achieve a common goal. Everyone in the team has the purpose in mind and works towards it.

A team is ‘…a small number of people with complementary skills who are committed to a common purpose, performance goals and approach, for which they hold themselves mutually accountable’.

Katzenbach and Smith (1994)

An effective team needs a lot more than a clear purpose. Here are some of the characteristics of really effective teams:

Commitment to goals/objectives. Effective teams are clear about what they aim to achieve, and all members are committed to their aim. If the team is involved in setting the goal, there’s a much higher chance of commitment. As team leader, it’s your job to keep reminding the team of its goal.

Make sure your objectives are specific and measurable so you can assess your progress.
A range of skills and experience. Effective teams are able to draw on a range of skills to get the work done. They also have people who fill a variety of roles – like the ‘ideas person’, ‘challenger’, ‘bottom liner’, etc. – which help the team to function. We explore these roles in Section 2.

Trust and support. In effective teams there’s a strong atmosphere of mutual trust. This encourages team members to feel they can participate fully and support each other.
In our team we defend one another when we’re in a broader group. We support each other, for example, we sort out the rota if someone needs a day off.

Team member

Open communication. Effective teams have open communications so members have the information they need.

Positive use of conflict. Effective teams address conflict as it arises and use it in a positive way.

Clear procedures. Effective teams evolve clear, reliable methods for tasks like running meetings, solving problems and making decisions. We explore making decisions later in this unit.

Regular reviews. Effective teams hold regular ‘health checks’ to review progress towards their objectives and also to assess how they are operating as a team. They relish learning from mistakes.

Now do this

How effective is your team? Read through each pair of statements in the table below and decide which rating most closely describes your team. For example, if you feel your team has clear, measurable goals/objectives, circle 1. If you feel your goals/objectives are unclear, circle 5.
Commitment to goals/objectives  

We have clear, measurable goals/objectives Circle your rating 1   2   3   4   5 Our goals/objectives are unclear   
I can tell you now what our goals/objectives are 1   2   3   4   5 Off the top of my head, I’m not sure what our goals/objectives are   
I’m fully committed to our goals objectives 1   2   3   4   5 I’m not too bothered about our goals/objectives   

Range of skills and experience   

Team members have sufficient skills and abilities to do the work 1   2   3   4   5 Our team lacks some skills needed to do the work   
Team members fulfil a range of roles in running the team – we have an ideas person, a challenger, a doer, etc. 1   2   3   4   5 Our team lacks some roles needed to run the team   
Team members’ skills are fully utilised by the team 1   2   3   4   5 Team members have further skills the team could be using   

Trust and support   
Team members value each others’ views and opinions 1   2   3   4   5 Views may be ridiculed or torn apart   
Everyone participates fully in our discussions 1   2   3   4   5 Some people dominate discussions/some people don’t get involved   
Team members support each other 1   2   3   4   5 Team members mainly watch out for themselves   

Open communications  

Team members have the information they need 1   2   3   4   5 At times, team members are short of information   
Communications are open and above board 1   2   3   4   5 Some communications are secretive or behind some people’s backs   
People really listen to each other in our team 1   2   3   4   5 When they listen, people are mainly thinking about what they themselves will say next 

Positive use of conflict   

We address conflict as it arises 1   2   3   4   5 We put off or avoid addressing conflict   
We make positive use of conflict 1   2   3   4   5 We see conflict as negative and harmful   
We do have some disagreements in our team 1   2   3   4   5 We don’t really experience conflict   

Clear procedures 

We have evolved clear procedures for routine tasks, like meetings/online discussions, problem solving, making decisions 1   2   3   4   5 We tackle each issue as it arises, with no particular procedure   
Using our procedures is second nature to our team 1   2   3   4   5 We often have to think about how to do routine things in running our team   
We spend time as a team thinking about ways in which we could work better together 1   2   3   4   5 We just get on with the job   

Regular reviews   
We regularly review work progress  1   2   3   4   5 We rarely review work progress   
We regularly review how the team is operating 1   2   3   4   5 We rarely review how the team is operating   
We see difficulties and mistakes as learning experiences 1   2   3   4   5 Difficulties and mistakes are just a pain 
The characteristics for which you marked low scores reflect strengths of your team. High scores, on the other hand, suggest areas you could work on to make your team more effective.

Review your scores, and then use the following table to decide which of the six characteristics are strengths of your team and which you need to improve.
The six characteristics of effective teams are by no means exhaustive, so if this section has made you aware of other aspects of your team that need to be strengthened, make a note of them at the bottom of the table.

Characteristic of an effective team Strength? Need to improve?   
Commitment to objectives     
Range of skills and experience     
Trust and support     
Open communications     
Positive use of conflict     
Clear procedures     
Regular reviews     
Other characteristics   

You’ll have an opportunity to find out how effective your team members think your team is in the Into Action at the end of this section.

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