Developing an Effective Team

“My model for business is The Beatles. They were four guys who kept each other’s kind of negative tendencies in check. That’s how I see business: great things in business are never done by one person, they’re done by a team of people.” – Steve Jobs

“Talent wins games, but teamwork and intelligence wins championships”  – Michael Jordan.

These quotes from sporting and business successes highlight the relationship between the individual and the team in any human endeavour, and a small business is no different.  The objective is not simply to build a team, but an effective team, as an ineffective team is worse than no team at all.

According to Richard Branson, “I have to be good at helping people run the individual businesses, and I have to be willing to step back. The company must be set up so it can continue without me”.  If your team can’t function at optimum level without you, then your team is ineffective

In this article, I want to share with you the most essential characteristics of an effective team.   Self-awareness is a key trait of many successful leaders. The Europe Base centre for organisational research identified that teams that ‘click;’ always have a leader who establishes the principles and values that are conducive to high performance.  The foundation of an effective team therefore is effective leadership.

1:  Clear vision
Clarity inspires confidence in a leader, and this clarity starts with having a clear vision, and being able to share that vision with others. Henry Ford had a vision of a simple, reliable and affordable car that the average American worker could afford – the Model T. Steve Jobs’ vision was making great computers for people to use which sparked the PC revolution. He was quoted as saying, “we started out to get a computer in the hands of everyday people, and we succeeded beyond our wildest dreams.” A compelling vision with passion has power. It inspires and motivates people.

2: Learn the values of each and every member of your team
Your value system shapes the type of leader you are, directs the decisions you make and explains why you do what you do. Each of us has a unique set of values, which are with us at birth and stay with us throughout our lives. A study by the Harvard Business Review on how to retain key employees, found that throwing financial incentives at people was not the solution, but that offering a mix of financial and non-financial incentives tailored to their aspirations and concerns –  in effect their values – was much more effective. James Cathcart the author of the “Acorn Principle, talks about the seven natural values: sensuality, empathy, wealth, power, aesthetics, commitment and knowledge, which help to explain how to intrinsically and extrinsically motivate yourself and others. When you understand an individual’s values profile, then you are in a strong position to know how to motivate and develop a high performing team.

3: Communicate, communicate …communicate
Lead by example and create an environment of open communication where there is clear respect for everyone‘s views. Leading effectively is about being able to listen and develop your skills at reading a person or group by sensing the moods, dynamics, attitudes and concerns of those being communicated with.  Develop the habit of encouraging feedback and openness without reprimand. If you as the leader see any negative comments as an attack on your sense of self-worth then don’t expect to receive honest feedback. Tell people what you expect of them clearly with honesty and integrity and they will do their best to meet and exceed those expectations.

4: Play to your strength and the strengths of the team
Marcus Buckingham in his book, “Break All The Rules”, talks about a Gallup survey of workers in organisations around the world, to find out what makes teams and organisations great. When they asked employees if they have the chance to do what they do best every day, only 2 out of 10 said yes.  As you develop your team, look for people whose strength’s compliment yours. Working to your strengths is a great way of saving time, reducing frustration and creating a sense of empowerment. This would allow members of the team to perform in a role or position where they are likely to perform at their best.

5: Gratitude and appreciation
Be committed to recognising when someone does something right. A recent study by Bersin & Associates revealed that companies that “excel at employee recognition” are 12 times more likely to enjoy strong business results. Develop a culture for saying “thank you”. Little things mean a lot and people are motivated by a sense of appreciation and value. Quite often this does not need to be a big gesture, just heartfelt ones.  A simple genuine thank-you or small, handwritten notes of appreciation can make the world of difference.

6: Pick your team carefully
Team dynamics is much more important than aptitude. The behaviours, mannerisms and overall interpersonal skills that a team member displays with fellow colleagues or your clients will play an important part in customer and team relationships.  Select the people that can contribute, challenge and add value.

7: Commit to helping the team develop their personal and business skills
Soft interpersonal skills are very important in business and in life in general, but you must have the aptitude for the role and the ability to complete the task at hand.  Create an environment of learning and development where staff have the opportunity to learn and grow. If team members express a weakness or fear regarding a task, then mentor, coach or provide appropriate training and support to help them succeed in the role.

Here are three suggestions that you may want to consider in the process of creating an effective team

  1. Complete a values profile of your team to understand their values and learn how to motivate them by understanding what is important to them.
  2. Develop your communication skills particularly your listening and feedback skills. Practice listening. Resist the urge to interrupt the speaker and focus on what is being said no matter how uncomfortable this may feel.
  3. Learn to balance the conflicting interests of all members and stakeholders while fostering a commitment to client satisfaction and results.


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