Experience has demonstrated that successful teams are empowered to establish some or all of a team's goals, to make decisions about how to achieve these goals, to undertake the tasks required to meet them and to be mutually accountable for their results. There are several characteristics of an effective team. These include:
- Clear purpose - The vision, mission, goal or task of the team has been defined and is now accepted by everyone. This is an action plan.
- Informality - The climate tends to be informal, comfortable and relaxed. There are no obvious tensions or signs of boredom.
- Participation - There is much discussion and everyone is encouraged to participate.
- Listening - The members use effective listening techniques such as questioning, paraphrasing and summarizing to get out ideas.
- Civilized disagreement - If there is disagreement, the team must be comfortable with this and show no signs of avoiding, smoothing over or suppressing conflict.
- Consensus decisions - For important decisions, the goal is substantial but not necessarily unanimous agreement through open discussion of everyone's ideas, avoidance of formal voting or easy compromises.
- Open communication - Team members feel free to express their feelings on the tasks as well as on the group's operation. There are few hidden agendas. Communication takes place outside of meetings.
- Clear roles and work assignments - There are clear expectations about the roles played by each team member. When action is taken, clear assignments are made, accepted and carried out. Work is fairly distributed among team members.
- Shared leadership - While the team has a formal leader, leadership functions shift from time to time depending on the circumstances, the needs of the group and the skills of the members. The formal leader models the appropriate behavior and helps establish positive norms.
- External relations - The team spends time developing key outside relationships and mobilizing resources, then building credibility with important players in other parts of the organization.
- Style diversity - The team has a broad spectrum of team-player types, including members who emphasize attention to task, goal setting, focus on process and questions about how the team is functioning.
- Self-assessment - Periodically, the team stops to examine how well it is functioning and what may be interfering with its effectiveness.
Further support is available from your local Small Business
& Technology Development Center to help business management issues.
- Rick Sparks, MO SBTDC. For Creating Quality Newsletter, Apr. 2002.