How To Build Great Work Teams

Which qualities and characteristics lead to high performing teams?

Posted Jun 09, 2015

Today, the majority of the work that we do is in teams.  Good teams can be amazing, both in terms of what they can accomplish and the positive experience of working with the best people who share your goals and values.  Bad work teams can be a source of stress and pain, and can easily self-destruct and fail to get anything done.

How can we ensure that we build good teams, with capable, qualified workers, who are rewarding to work with?

Selection.  It is critical to select individuals who have the right capacity and experience to work in teams.

We want:

            Team members who are Committed, Cooperative, and Conscientious

We want to avoid:

            Team members who are Self-Centered, Conflict Prone, and Non-Communicative

How do we determine whether applicants for a team have the right characteristics?

Ask about past team experiences (“What do you like most about working in teams?” ”Tell me about an experience working in a team which was particularly successful.” “Tell me about an instance where working in a team was a negative experience.”).  In applicant responses search for instances of cooperation, sharing, and understanding of the value of working collaboratively with others.  Too much focus on what “I did” may indicate self-centeredness and lack of sharing. 

Training and Development.  Don’t expect great teams to naturally emerge.  Ensure positive team creation and development with training.

Develop good individual and group communication skills.  Spend time focusing on the collective mission.  Train team members in conflict management skills.

Create a learning environment where team members want to develop their skills and are motivated to do so.

Management of Teams.  Team leaders should make sure that each team member contributes his or her strengths and create interdependencies and redundancies so that if a team member is missing, someone else can pick up the slack.

Establish concrete goals and provide clear and constant feedback about individual and team performance and goal accomplishment.

Use both individual and team-based rewards to recognize performance, but also to strengthen the team unit.

Here is more about what makes a good team player and how to lead teams.

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