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What Makes Teams Succeed?

March 1, 2008 by Jill Geddes, Partner, Trillium Teams Inc

Teamwork is the single most important reason why organizations succeed or fail. One of the biggest barriers to building a successful team is the lack of investment by an organization in team development, whether that investment comes in the form of time or money. Building a thriving team is hard work and time consuming, which can pose a challenge for business leaders today as they want a return on their investment too quickly. It takes the commitment of the organization, team leadership, and team members to build winning teams.

The Organization

Upper management needs to understand and be fully committed to the time and resources it will take to build teaming skills and the proper level of trust within the organization. Companies must set a plan to continuously invest in their people and persevere to implement and evolve this plan as the organization grows. Many companies claim they invest in their employees, but the direct impact felt in the trenches is often much different. The gap happens between making the plan and actual follow through.

It is also important for management and teams to understand that success doesn’t happen overnight. In order to convert a working group into a successful team, the organization needs to take the time to invest in team building to prove their commitment to the employees. Team building plays an important role in the organizations plan to increase productivity, customer satisfaction, and differentiate the organization in the marketplace.

Team Leadership

Managers make all the difference in the success of a team. Effective managers have a variety of qualities, including the ability to foster good communication, create a collaborative climate, set goals and priorities, demonstrate adequate technical know-how, and manage performance.

The roles for managers are continuously changing as teams go through the evolutionary process and various team stages. In the beginning managers are expected to provide direction, and the team members are very dependent and sometimes even fearful of the unknown. As individuals get to know each other and learn more about the process and expectations, trust begins to grow and self-confidence builds. Managers begin to do more coaching, sharing and delegating responsibilities, and ownership begins to shift.

Eventually the team becomes confident and efficient. The manager lets go of more and more responsibility and continues as a role model to support and encourage the team, providing the necessary resources as the team performs at higher levels.

Team Members

The most important ingredient of a successful team is the mix of people. In order for a team to thrive, all the necessary skills and experience should be present, and everyone should have a good understanding of the work and communication style of others on their team. Hard skills are easy to identify through evaluating past work experience and education. It is the soft skills that are difficult to detect and teach. The heart of most team problems stems from miscommunication. Teams are most successful when managers take the time to invest in understanding the working and communication styles of each team member.

Like any successful relationship, building a winning team requires everyone to be committed to learning how to deal with one another and adapting their style to work well together. A team is always greater than the sum of its parts.

Working as a Team

Teams succeed when they are set up right. Three things that are needed for team success are:

  • Set Clear Goals: Efficient and effective teams always have a clear understanding of the vision and team goals of the organization that everyone can articulate and commit to. Successful teams have informed managers who are committed to creating a clear process and guidelines.
  • Capitalize on Each Team Members Strengths: The best managers do not try to change the style of their employee. They are aware that their people differ in how they approach problems and challenges, how they deal with others, how they handle change and pace in their work environment, and how they work with procedures set by the organization. The best managers recognize, capture and utilize the unique style each person brings to the team.
  • Set a Plan to Measure Team Success: There must be measurement tools in place that drive desired behaviours and performance. There must also be a rewards and recognition program that addresses what is in it for me?

Rate Your Team

Take some time over the next month to evaluate your team, whether you are an executive, manager, or team member. Ask yourself the following questions to determine if your team is reaching its maximum potential:

  • Does your organization invest in developing their teams?
  • Does the team produce consistent results to their full potential?
  • Does the team leader tailor their management style to suit the working and communication style of each team member?
  • Do team members have a good understanding of one another?
When organizations start to invest in developing teams, employees feel energized and excited about what they are doing. People will contribute and make improvements in everything they do. Productivity will steadily increase. Quality and customer satisfaction will also improve and eventually become the key drivers and key measures of success.