Continuing the focus on team building from my last two blog posts, here are further approaches to strengthen your team – as a leader or as a member:

a) Be careful of team building exercises that promote “teaminess” as an end in itself. Lasting teamwork comes from getting everyone focused on the issues outlined in the team effectiveness framework in 12 Steps to Building Highly Effective Teams.

b) Build a series of small wins. Celebrate and recognize all team progress to build energy for continued efforts.

c) Use the 85/15 Rule to look at teamwork issues. Research continually shows that “people problems” or poor team dynamics are most often (85 – 95%) symptoms of deeper problems with structure, systems, or processes.

d) Make sure group leaders and members are given the processes and skills to become true teams.

e) If you lead a management team, before you seek to improve “their teamwork,” look at your own team. Is your team a role model? How do you know?

f) How’s your own team leadership behavior under pressure? Do you revert back to command and control? Is that sending inconsistent signals to your organization? How do we know?

g) Effective teams meet frequently. Are you meeting often enough? Have you checked in with your team on this question lately? Are your meetings purposeful and focused or have they fallen into the ruts of routine?

h) Well run, productive, effective meetings take less time. Do all your meetings have:

  • Clear agendas with timeframes, objectives, and desired outcomes for each agenda item?
  • Flexibility to add or delete agenda items/issues?
  • Clarity about whether decisions/actions for each agenda item will be by command, consultation, or consensus?
  • Ground rules everyone agrees to and follows?
  • Skilled leaders that know how to keep things on track and focused?
  • An atmosphere of openness and trust?
  • Processes for dealing constructively with conflict and disagreements?
  • Clear action plans and next steps for each agenda item?
  • Documentation and communication follow through for this team and beyond?
  • Regular evaluations of effectiveness?

i) Wrap up your meetings with a short team reflection and learning session. This can be as simple as asking everyone, “What went especially well today?” “What could we do to make our next meeting even more effective?” Or it could be asking what should we keep doing, stop doing, and start doing/do more to strengthen our team?

For more on meeting effectiveness see “Deciding How to Decide: Three Levels of Effective Team Decision Making,” “Nine Simple Steps to Make All Your Meetings More Effective,” and “Twelve Ground Rules to Keep Meetings and Conference Calls on Topic and Productive” in the April issue of The Leader Letter.