How to Become an Effective Team (Part 2)

By David W. Hasenbalg

In an earlier post we showed how critical it is for team leaders to get their teams talking about how they work together as a team to achieve their common purpose. No matter the kind of team you lead (a project team, a department, an executive leadership team, or a board of directors), it is your responsibility to ensure this important conversation is happening.

So what do you talk about as a team leader? Let’s start with the most important part of the conversation: commitment. Teams are created when each member has made a personal commitment to the team and to how you are going to work together. This includes a mutual commitment to produce the outcomes you have promised to your customers (your team’s purpose).

Once you are in agreement about why the team exists and your desired outcomes, the conversation should expand to things that will help you deliver those results. Things like:

  • Who is fulfilling which role?

Answering this question helps each person to know where their role starts and stops and how their role interacts and supports others. This is akin to showing everyone the picture on the puzzle box so they know how their piece fits with the others.

  • How will we work to continually build an environment of trust?

This is important, particularly if people on your team are also on other teams (which almost always happens). We call this “fractionalized resources.” How will you trust one another to follow through on commitments made to this team as well as on commitments made to other team(s)?

  • Who has what authority to make which decisions?

Sometimes it’s the most junior member of the team who has a perspective that everyone else needs to hear. How will you make sure that that happens? How will you empower each person on the team to engage in challenging conversations?

  • How will decisions be made? 

When there’s a difference of opinion or a disagreement, how will we handle that?

  • What are the standards by which we will determine if we are successful?

What does success look like and how will everyone know when we see it?

  • How will we deal with things when they don’t go as planned? 

When requirements change or your assumptions prove to be incorrect (and they will), who is supposed to recognize it? When and how will these issues be addressed?

  • What will you do to create a mood of success and possibility?

Because teams are comprised of people, you will always be operating in an environment where you interact with the elements of being human (emotions, moods, language, stories, etc.). How will you speak to one another? When morale drops, what are you going to do about it?

No matter the kind of team you are leading, the building block of team effectiveness is conversation—the right conversation.

As a team leader, what are you doing to make sure your teams are having the conversations that will make them truly effective teams. More importantly, what is the next conversation you are going to have?

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