High-performance teams don’t just appear; they are developed and nurtured. By themselves, leaders with vision cannot guarantee the development of such high-performance teams, nor can members who desire to be part of such teams. The development of high-performance teams takes the combined efforts of visionary leaders and motivated team members. In addition, facilitators with expertise in team building are needed. The following lists the characteristics that comprise high-performance teams.
- The team has a common focus, including clear and understandable goals, plans of action, and ways to measure success.
- Roles and responsibilities are clearly defined for each team member.
- Each member has clearly defined expectations of other members.
- The team fully utilizes its resources—both internal and external.
- Members value each other’s differences in healthy and productive ways.
- Each member is able to give, receive, and elicit necessary feedback.
- The team members manage their meetings in a productive way.
- The team is able to reach goals by achieving the necessary results.
To build an effective team, a leader needs to establish an organizational environment in which individual team members can reflect upon and analyze relationships with other team members. A leader should encourage the resolution of any conflicts through healthy, professional confrontation, and willingly and openly negotiate necessary changes. In short, effective leaders are cheerleaders for the team; they encourage and support members who are committed and actively involved with their teams and engage those members who aren’t participating.
Several factors within an organization itself influence team effectiveness, including its organizational culture, level of autonomy, and types of feedback mechanisms. But the factors that influence the effectiveness of a team most directly stem from its internal structure and processes.
- Structural factors include team or group type, size, and composition of skills and abilities.
- Team processes include stages of team development, cultural norms, roles cohesiveness, and interpersonal processes such as trust development, facilitation, influence, leadership communication, and conflict resolution
To judge the effectiveness of their teams, leaders need to examine their teams’ performances and personal outcomes. Performance outcomes may be measured by products made, ideas generated, customers served, numbers of defects per thousand items produced, overtime hours, items sold, and customer satisfaction levels. Personal outcomes may be measured by employee satisfaction, commitment, and willingness of members to stay on the team. Both outcomes are important for the long-term viability as well as the short-term success of the team.