Team Building - How to build effective teams

Team Building
All effective teams, wherever you care to look, display the same set of qualities and attributes. No matter which arena you choose, be it sport, fire crew, surgical team in a hospital, and so on, the pattern is repeated.

That being the case, your job as a manager is to replicate these features within your team. What works elsewhere, will work for you. The most important word there, however, is work. These things do not just happen. They need to be relentlessly put into practice.


All good teams have a common sense of purpose. Without it you are lost. Try this quick activity the next time you have a team briefing, or similar. Give each member of the team a post-it note and ask him or her to write down the purpose of the team. You would hope they would all write down pretty much the same thing. You may be surprised.

Establish a clear sense of purpose. Remember that your purpose as a team is determined by answering the question, 'Why are you here?' Do this as succinctly as you can.


All good teams have a good leader. Have you ever worked for a boss who can't make a decision? What about one who dithers about and doesn't seem to know what is happening next? Then, there is the one who takes all the glory and dishes out all the blame!

Above all else, you as the manager need to be clear, decisive, fair, honest, consistent, positive, and more besides.


Teams need adequate resources to carry out their duties. If this is not the case, then the team is simply being set up to fail. A golden rule is to ensure that the team's purpose (see above) is in keeping with the resources available. If this is not the case, then the purpose will have no credibility, and consequently the team will not buy into it.


All effective teams should have a blend and balance of skills, abilities, attributes, experience, and knowledge. Too often, managers are guilty of recruiting people in their own mould, or, of shaping their existing team members to be mirror images of themselves. A creative-ideas type of person will always need a detail-conscious counterpart to balance things up and enable a pragmatic, practical solution to be implemented.


All good teams have clearly defined roles within that team. Whether you like the sport or not, take a look at a Formula 1 pit stop crew. Getting that car in, serviced, and back out on the road again in less than ten seconds, is quality teamwork by any definition. Observe the role definition in that team and copy it.

Too often at work, duplication of effort takes place due to ill-defined roles. Similarly, sometimes work is missed when one person thinks that somebody else is doing it.


All good teams communicate effectively. This has been dealt with at length here, but as a reminder, the two key elements are clear messages allied to appropriate means of communication.


This is something that does not happen overnight. It has to be worked on. As the manager, you must lead by example. You gain respect by delivering what you promise, supporting staff where difficulties arise, openness, honesty, and so on. Your attitude will spread.


Again, this is a topic so important that it merits a separate article in its own right (see motivation). Given the time most people spend at work it is beholden on managers, as a basic minimum, to make this as least miserable as possible. The avoidance of demotivation should be prime in every manager's eyes. Staff who lack motivation also lack productivity.

Positive Image

This is linked to the above but is more of a collective than individual aspect. Nobody likes being associated with failure. Within your team, make it the norm to celebrate successes. Do not let good performance go unmentioned. Do not take what your team achieve for granted.


Once more, this is dealt with as a separate issue (see Training and Development). Good teams do not become effective by accident. They work on it. The fire crew mentioned at the beginning of this article, amongst other things, practice their drills when back at the station so that they are ready to perform when the need arises.
Whilst each of the above can be separated out as a single feature of effective teams, they are, in reality linked together. Purpose without adequate resources simply doesn't work. The best skills in the world matter for nothing if there is a lack of motivation and commitment within the team. Other similar linkages can be made.

Getting all of the above in place and maintaining it is a constant challenge to managers. However, without them your team will never fulfil its potential.

If it works for all other teams then make it work for you. In management, if you see something that works, copy it.

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