What does it take to build an effective team?

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There’s no doubt that teamwork matters. Even the greatest leader can’t succeed without the help of a team. Any group of people can call themselves a team, but an effective team is a whole other entity.

At Creative Facilitation, we have experience collaborating with all types of teams from all over the world. We understand that every team is different, but what does it take to embrace these differences and build an effective team that will take your organisation from strength to strength?

The principles of an effective team

A team that gels, works well together. Teams that tackle matters big and small tend to perform better than those guilty of poor communication.

Within a team, each person should find a high level of support, meaning ideas can be cultivated and team members supported to achieve individual and group goals. Trust is also an important component of an effective team as Science for Work details:

“Conversely, when there is a lack of trust on the team, and feelings of vulnerability and uncertainty are higher, the theory is that people tend to focus their effort and energy on defending their personal interests, rather than supporting the collective goals of the team (de Jong, 2016).”

Diversity is another key quality that effective teams should embrace. Every team member is an individual with their own knowledge, skills and qualities. These should all be nurtured to ensure great ideas can be sparked and are given time to grow.

Understanding the value of diversity in teams as a theory is just the beginning. Making it work in practice is another thing entirely.

Building an effective team

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Teamwork needs facilitation to ensure processes are managed, performance is improved and productivity is guaranteed. As facilitators we use a variety of formats to cater for the many different personalities you can find in a team.

Using quieter and slower processes to create space for more reflective participants is just one of the methods we call upon. At the other end of the spectrum, livelier and more conversational approaches can be used to facilitate teamwork with more extrovert types. It's too easy for meetings to be presentations mixed up with small teams writing post-it notes. We aim to get people moving by going for walks, creating micro-dramas together, and playing with sounds and images.

Sociometry, the process of measuring individual relationships in groups, is another method that can be used to build an effective team.

Sociometry can be used as a warm-up, needs assessment, evaluation, team building, communication, review, or closing exercise. Simply ask people to form a single line according to specific criteria. This could be the length of time they’ve been working with the company, their birth date, the amount of experience they have of a particular topic or even how long it took them to travel to the meeting.

You can also use two lines to create a matrix on the floor of the room. For example, you can place introvert/extrovert on one axis, lots of experience/little experience on the other. Through sociometry individual opinions and experiences can be identified and honoured within the team to ensure better collaboration all round.

Why we don't force agreements

Whilst working towards a shared vision is often pushed as the way to build an effective team, we believe that agreement cannot and should not be forced. Too often getting everyone to agree on everything in a single meeting leads to ‘commitment ceremonies’. These ceremonies are one thing we’re keen to avoid when facilitating.

Not everyone agrees in the real world, and that’s ok. As a team member you don’t have to say “yes” at every turn. Action shouldn’t be the only focus of a group meeting. A productive group meeting is also about listening and understanding the responses of other team members, responses that will naturally differ thanks to each individual’s varying opinions and experiences.

Utilising strategy facilitation will ensure the ethos for effective teamwork can continue whatever challenges are encountered, whichever direction your business goes in and no matter how diverse your team is.