As a team manager, you would be very aware of the fact that the output resulting from a group effort is always more impactful than any action taken by an individual contributor. That said, does a group of people equal a team? The answer is a definite NO!  Let’s break this down a bit.  When people in a group form a ‘cohesive team’, something bigger than an individual, or that group of individuals (in and of itself) comes to life. 

Teams may form organically around an exciting initiative, or as a result of leaders proactively choosing to develop and nurture a team within a group of people.  Even with action, cultivating an authentic and cohesive team is not easy. It takes a manager’s time, trust, and their direction, for bonds to be created within, before the group moves from a collection of individuals and develops into a TEAM that performs.  

Although someone in a leadership role usually takes charge, forming a team is the responsibility of every member, as it goes beyond leading through a vision.  It takes effort from everyone to create a bonded group, by creating trust, commitment, having tough discussions & accountability.  When that happens, members within a team accomplish goals, resolve conflict and work through obstacles more effectively than a non-bonded group.  The bond deepens when trust exists at a foundational level along with communication, accountability and consistency.

Group Dynamics

If the dynamics of a team are fragile, or broken, the cost will be on productivity, or engagement.  If the group has lots of positive energy, trust and healthy discussions, the team’s activities will be very impactful.  Ways the team interact form the dynamics, such as:

  • Verbal and nonverbal communication
  • Written correspondence
  • Collaboration 

Team dynamics are also impacted by company culture, structure, and the upper management’s leadership style.  The strongest influences come from within the group itself.  This is key, as the success of the team ultimately falls on the team itself.

A successful team commits to shared goals and engages with one another productively.  A dysfunctional team could include members that are content to make little effort and compete against one another.  A Team MUST be it in TOGETHER! Egos do not serve a purpose in a team.

So, how do you build a Team?

If possible, begin with each opportunity you have to hire someone, be deliberate in your choices and hire senior people, with experience.  Consider what each applicant will add or take away from the team holistically, when they join.  They should not be exact replicas. We will dig deeper into what effective hiring is in a later blog.   

First – Align the Team with the Vision

All employees want purpose in their work. When you create a strong mission and purpose and communicate it to them, they will begin to align their work to the broader vision. They will understand how the work they do, fits in with the purpose and makes an impact. The vision should be strong enough to overcome any personality differences as it drives everything by setting the foundation for where the company is going and WHY! Having a vision, also allows the team to commit to projects & tasks that deliver on that vision and you as a leader, can then keep them accountable to that commitment.

Second – Define Roles, Responsibilities and Core Competencies

All teams need direction but with new teams, guidance is especially crucial. When you assign roles and responsibilities based on the strengths of each individual, everyone understands where they fit in and they will feel more accountable for the team’s success. They will understand who the person is with the most context for any given project; who is accountable, responsible, etc.

Third – Build Trust

As a leader, it is important for you to create trust between team members. Often this is missed and managers & IC’s alike just focus on the work. The very basis of a great team is trust and if it is not there, then you will always have a group of individuals. Trust consists of two elements; Common Agreements & Vulnerability Based Trust. 

Firstly create “Common Operating Agreements” amongst the team. Examples of these are having laptops closed in meetings, to give full attention, only 30 minute and 1 hour meetings, always having an agenda with an objective, be inclusive, treat each other with respect. This establishes the baseline within the team, on how you will treat each other.

Secondly, as a leader, you have to establish “Vulnerability Based Trust” and this is more difficult than the common operating agreements; you will facilitate the team through some exercises, where they start to share and open up about their personal experiences. 

Consider creating opportunities for everyone to get to know one another on a more personal, human to human level – to play and to have FUN.  Enjoying time together is the gateway from where members of a group find common areas to build upon.  

Think about inviting the team to take part in team building activities. Sounds expensive and time consuming, right?  Not necessarily, some of the best team building activities are inexpensive, effective and easy to do, there are so many options and below are some examples.

Perhaps hold a brainstorming session with the group to uncover discussion topics, collaborative activities or games they want to participate in.  Consider an external facilitator as often bringing in a Coach to lead a brainstorming activity can be an impactful way to remove bias and allow everyone, including the leader to join in. 

Consider working on a team project, such as volunteering for a charity, humanitarian, or animal cause. Alternatively, focusing on uncovering creative solutions to existing obstacles that impact the effectiveness of the group today.  The options are endless.     

Fourth – Encourage Open Communication & Feedback

Team dynamics are strongest when every member feels that they can talk and be heard.  Communication is key.  Do remind everyone that conflict is not always a bad thing – in fact, it is healthy to have a point of view, supported by data and bring it to the table for discussion. But the goal is to support, not criticize, a person, but to focus on the work itself.

If you see any signs of poor team dynamics, it’s important to act quickly to resolve things and prevent negative approaches, or actions from spreading. Create an environment where productive feedback is expected and shared.  Co-create solutions that work for the team.

Remember, start with a Team Vision, hire well, build a foundation of trust and have FUN.  You’ll experience the impact a strong team has and one that delivers results. 

Summary 

When you want to build a successful team, the first step is to assemble a group of employees with the right mix of expertise and knowledge. Then as a leader, you build relationships with each team member, facilitating trust building exercises, identify the vision, facilitate tough conversations & feedback and create a collaborative environment where everyone can flourish. 

The strongest team dynamics happen when everyone trusts one another, holds one another accountable in a respectful manner and is willing to work collectively towards that shared vision.  We recommend reading, The FIVE Dysfunctions of a Team, by Patrick Lencioni.