Ways to Increase Team Effectiveness
Some teams develop naturally the way friendships develop; some need help along the way. The most effective teams are characterized by leaders who:
- Recognize the strengths and weaknesses of team members
- Set realistic goals that are prioritized, so as not to overwhelm or distract the team
- Communicate clearly and often
- Embrace flexibility
- Make technology and resources available as needed.
- Are themselves a good example
Knowing Your Team
An effective team starts with members who respect each other, are qualified for the task at hand, and understand how to communicate. As a leader, your responsibility for team development begins with team selection, includes establishing the roles of the team and the rules of interaction, and continues by handling conflict, training, and mentoring.
Setting Realistic Goals
By setting and recognizing frequent milestones, a leader helps a team to mark progress toward a larger goal and stay motivated. Individual roles must be suited to the strengths of the team member, setting the team up for success. A leader increases team effectiveness by periodically checking that progress is being made, the workload is still reasonable, and that individual goals are, in fact, achievable.
Communicating Clearly and Often
Effective leaders communicate the team’s goals in a way that engages the team; and are clear about individual and team roles, to prevent the team from stepping on each other’s toes, wasting time off-task, or finding themselves competing with other teams for resources. An ineffective leader provides confusing information or no information at all; duplicates assignments; uses milestones as a reason for negative comments about performance and the need for greater effort; and allows the team to struggle without any help.
The team should know how the leader (or upper management) measures effectiveness: by the money or time saved, by the quality of the results, by the ability to take on more and more difficult projects, by the way the project helps the client or effects the marketplace? That knowledge enables the team to stay focused on the actions that will benefit the team in the long run, from project to project.
Using the same methods with every team ignores a fact that teachers quickly learn out about their classes: every group is different. Some teams need more supervision, some less. Some teams are highly creative in the ways that they solve problems during a project; others are thrown by obstacles. Some team members work best with frequent meetings; others thrive by working remotely or independently, with only periodic contact with the team.
A leader who is flexible in response to the team also encourages flexibility in the team’s method of reaching a goal, adjusting rules, techniques, procedures, or work spaces to increase the team’s effectiveness.
Effective project and time management by the leader and the team depends on access to the resources—from people to technology—and on adequate training and supervision. An under-resourced or under-trained team is going to flounder no matter how intent it is on delivering quality results, on-time and on-budget.
Setting a Good Example
Part of effective leadership is to ensure team members are accountable for their own actions and receive their fair share of responsibility and credit. Team leaders who are self-aware about their own strengths and weaknesses are more likely to take responsibility for their own actions, ask for help, and give team members an opportunity to develop their strengths.
A team also looks to their leader for guidance in how to achieve its goals: how members should be kept accountable, how to meet performance metrics, and how team members can support each other. Research into team effectiveness stresses the importance of fairness in all the decisions the team leader makes and all the interactions of the team. A lack of fairness may increase team adhesion against the unfair leader or team member but it is more likely to tear it apart. In any case, team effectiveness suffers.
Leaders and teams who have trouble with fairness and self-awareness may need outside help in changing their style.
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