viii) Eleven Characteristics Common to Successful Teams


1 A sense of urgency - all team members need to believe the team has urgent and worthwhile purposes, and they want to know what the expectations are. Furthermore, the more urgent and meaningful the rationale, the more likely it is that the team will live up to its performance potential.

2 Teams work best in a compelling context - that is why companies with strong performance ethics usually form teams readily.

Teams to be most effective they need to be based on the concept of trust, integrity, honesty and respect. Trust is the pivotal one, ie with trust you have integrity and honesty, and respect for each other. Trust means that you do what you say.

3 Members are selected for attitude, more than skill and skill potential - people can be taught skills but it is harder to teach attitude. A team with the right attitude can successfully meet its purpose and performance goals - without possessing the full range of skills. In fact, teams figure out the skills they will need after they are formed. It is, therefore, best to choose people for their existing attitude and their potential to improve existing skills and learn new ones.

4 The first meeting's actions provide appropriate positive signals - initial impressions always mean a great deal. When potential teams first gather, everyone monitors the signals given by others to conform, suspend or dispel assumptions and concerns. They pay particular attention to those in authority: the team leader and any executives who set up, oversee or otherwise influence the team. What they do is more important than what they say. For example, if a team leader leaves the session early and does not return, people get the message, ie the team is not that important

5 Some clear rules of behaviour or conduct to be established early. All effective teams develop rules of conduct at the outset to help them achieve their purpose and performance goals. Some important rules include

- attendance/attention (no interruptions to take phone calls, etc)

- discussions (no sacred cows)

- confidentiality (the only things to leave this room are what we agree upon)

- analytical approach (facts are friendly)

- end-product orientation (everyone gets assignments and does them)

- constructive confrontation (no finger pointing)

- contributions (everyone does real work)

6 Furthermore, the team is challenged and stretched. For example, use new facts and information for the team to improve its performance and redefine its common purpose, set the goals and improve each other's performance. Conversely, teams err when they assume that all information needed exists in their collective experience and knowledge.

7 Team members to spend significant time together (scheduled and un-scheduled), especially at the start.

8 Creative insights and personal bonding often occur via impromptu and casual interactions such as informal discussions in the lunch room, etc. Furthermore, successful teams maximise their time together so that they learn to be a team (this can include electronic, fax and phone time).

9 Positive reinforcement is important, especially to shape new behaviours critical to the team's performance. In particular, introverted team members should be encouraged to speak up and contribute.

10 Reward systems focus on team, and not individual, performance (there is a degree of bitterness towards the current bonus system and the way it is allocated - this may be a good opportunity to reward the team on its performance as a team, ie each team has the chance of receiving a bonus based on the team's performance - reaching agreed-to milestones within set time schedules).

11 Team members' attitudes have a focus on "we as a team" and not on "I or me", ie "your problem becomes our problem". Need to get away from an "us and them" attitude

All the above characteristics need to be kept in mind as the teams develop.

(source: Jon Katzenbach et al, 2001)

Or another way to express this is 6 points for effective team development

i) high-level team goal(s) that are owned and shared by the team (this involves communications, ownership, commitment, accountability, transparency, expectations, trust, etc

ii) team is working on the team's and individual goals (the latter must be aligned with the former)

iii) only bring relevant (personal) activities/business into the team (include sharing the personal dimension of the team's and individuals' work; involves self-reflection, ie the mirror test)

iv) strong collective commitment and motivation to improve ('if one of us fails, we all fail'; to create greater team cohesiveness)

v) individual learnings are encouraged by the social fabric of the group (usually in change, people are initially keen and work hard, then it can trail off - especially if it becomes too-hard or too easy; the former results in the change being put in the too hard basket while the latter involves complacency setting in as goals are achieved easily)

vi) the learning structure is suitable to the learning needs

("...different learning needs require different amounts of time, quality of space, and the types of materials and resources. Conceptualising and planning the nuts and bolts of time, place, and materials..."
Robert Kegan et al, 2009

"None of us is as Smart as all of us"

For example, it has been demonstrated in problem-solving exercises

. 57% of teams scored better than the best team member

. 96% of teams scored better than the average team member


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