The Puzzle - Building Effective Teams

Building an effective team is like putting together a complex puzzle.

Your method for doing that might be putting all the pieces of one color together; others may choose to put the edges together to create a framework.
Some puzzlers choose to start in a corner and build from there, and I am sure there are many other techniques that people swear by.

It is the same for builders of teams. Some leaders focus on interpersonal relationships and skills to build trust, others on vision or chartering, and others on performance goals and workflow. Some concentrate on selection and building diverse skills, while others are participants, watching as the team dynamics unfold.

In this piece, I would like to offer you a pathway that shows how to encompass all of the strategies for building and sustaining a High Performing Team. I will split the journey into two phases: the planning and designing phase and then the building and sustaining phase.

Step 1: Know Characteristics of a High Performing Team

Know the characteristics of a High Performing Team (see my previous blog on PERFORM). With a nod to the Cheshire cat: "if you don’t know where you are going, any road will get you there. Knowing how your team measures up against PERFORM will help you to know what to aim for."

Step 2: Charter

A charter is a set of agreements that designs and defines your team. A complete charter includes a clear purpose, values, norms and the key initiatives with specific goals and roles people must play to reach them. It also focuses on how the team will interact. Ask yourselves the following:

  • With whom will we communicate and how?
  • How will we make decisions?
  • What decisions are within our boundaries to make?
  • How will we hold each other accountable?
  • And finally, What resources are needed to get the job done?

Even if the team were to last only a couple of days, they need a mini charter comprised of a clear purpose, values, norms, roles and goals. If the team already exists, it’s always useful to review the charter and take action to keep the team on track.

Steps 1 and 2 are part of phase one, now let’s move into phase two, building and sustaining.

Step 3: Stages of Team Development

Identify the stage of development the team is in. Teams go through predictable stages as they journey from a collection of individuals to a high performing system.

  • Stage 1 - Orientation
  • Stage 2 -Dissatisfaction
  • Stage 3 - Integration
  • Stage 4 - Production

As teams end there is a 5th stage called Termination. Each stage has its own set of predicable needs that must be met before the team can move on. This is the heart of the team building process. Knowing these stages and their needs helps you decide what the appropriate interventions should be to help the team move swiftly on its journey to high performance.

Step 4: Leadership Behavior

We use the Situational Leadership ll model in conjunction with the Team Stages of Development. These 2 models put together result in the most practical tool you can have. The tool created by the two models allows you to step back from what might seem like chaos or dysfunction in a team and not take it personally; it allows you to predict what will happen next and it provides the framework for intervening. It allows you to meet the team where it is and determine the right amount of direction and support to guide the team. The ultimate goal of the leader is getting the team to be self-managing. This is when it is most efficient and effective.

Step 5: Strategies for Higher Performance

Without continued challenge, even a High Performance Team will slip back or stagnate. These challenges or stretching goals could be new projects, continued training, skill building and/or self or team development endeavors.

Step 6: Team Dynamics (Ongoing Throughout)

Continually develop your skill at being a participant observer. Engage in what the team is doing while watching the overt and covert dynamics that are occurring all the time. This will guide you in your interventions. Teams are fascinating; there is so much happening, even in silence. There is no need to ever be bored again in a team meeting.

I do not believe the approach to team building has to be haphazard and inconsistent. There is a pathway and if followed it will increase your chances of success.

EDITOR'S NOTE: Eunice, along with her co-authors Ken Blanchard and Jane Ripley, will be conducting a webinar on the power of collaboration across all levels of an organization.

It will be on October 14 at 12:00pm ET. We hope you can join them.

To register, please go here to reserve a space.

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