How to build a great team

Great teams rise and fall on the back of their leadership.

High-performance teams are an asset in any organisation. Craig Gowan reveals what these teams have in common and what they need to grow.

By Craig Gowan

“Let’s work as a team!” It’s the catchcry of a generation of leaders who have abandoned the autocratic leadership styles of the past. Project teams, expert teams, cross-functional teams, self-managed teams and virtual teams – all are attempts to harness the power of collective effort. Teams that perform well together provide organisations with tremendous power, so how do you build a high-performance team? 

Leadership

Great teams rise and fall on the back of their leadership, and in my experience teams need leaders with the following skills:
  • Role modelling: As a leader, you must walk the talk and consistently display the values and behaviours expected of the team.  
  • Clear goals: In every conversation, during every meeting, a leader should constantly provide input to the team on what is needed from them; how the team is tracking in achieving its goals; and what will come next. 
  • Balance: You must allow time for team members to perform their work, gain new knowledge and skills, and enjoy themselves. You also need to balance your own focus between individuals, the team’s performance and results.
  • Know what’s needed: Sometimes a team needs direction; sometimes team members need space. Judging what’s appropriate, and when, is key to a team’s success.
  • Know where your team is at: Psychologist Bruce Tuckman’s model of team development identifies four stages: forming (agreeing on team goals), storming (developing team relationships), norming (establishing group identity and cohesion) and performing (working together successfully with little supervision). Teams go through stages, sometimes regressing before performing. This is natural, let it happen, but adjust your leadership approach accordingly. As a leader, you must help your team move through these stages before they can become high performing.

Professional Development: Leading teams - motivating and optimising performance: learn how to optimise team performance and effectiveness through assessments and feedback.

Membership

High-performing teams are built on people who want to be there. Call it morale, motivation or engagement; successful teams draw people in and keep people going. People give more of themselves, because they want to be part of the team.

Individuality

Great teams accept that every person is different; that each has their particular skills, insights and styles. Yet, as in a sporting team, it’s how members combine their individual skills that is the key to success.

Common ground

Members of a high-performing team share similar approaches to:
  • Problem solving
  • Dealing with conflict
  • What is acceptable behaviour
  • The freedom to take risks, innovate, and yes – to fail. 

When all these aspects align, a high-performance team follows. It echoes the TEAM acronym – together, everyone achieves more. 

Craig GowanCraig Gowan

Craig Gowan runs the “Creating high-performance teams” course for the Australian HR Institute (AHRI). AHRI has a wide range of training and education options for professionals and leaders. See www.ignitiontraining.com.au or email customlearning@ignitiontraining.com.au

Read next: Develop a high-performing finance team.


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