Leading a team can be complex and challenging, as well as fun and rewarding. We know that when it works, we achieve a lot more as a team than we can as an individual.  It’s important therefore that we invest in our team regularly, enabling it to be the best it can be.  This can take considerable effort since teams are evolving all of the time.  

Teams need something different at each stage of evolution and it's important to ask at various points, ‘where is my team now?’ considering what they need at each stage to optimise their potential and performance.  Strong teams don’t just happen by hiring qualified employees – they need to be built through activities designed to bring employees together.  Team building implemented in the right way encourages better communication, shared understanding, collaboration, trust and respect among employees as well as new opportunities for learning, creativity and productivity.  

Today’s employees also put a high priority on company culture. They want to work for a company they can feel proud to work for. Team building activities help establish a culture where employees enjoy coming to work every day, can connect with each other on a more personal level and help them understand more deeply their value within the team.  

Here are some ideas on what you can do to help get the best out of your team:

  • Hire a  mix  of  different  personalities and strengths.   Teams  can become imbalanced if all members have too similar ways of thinking and operating.  If team members have similar strengths for example, they may tend to compete (rather than co-operate) for the team tasks and responsibilities that best suit their natural styles.  When  recruiting  and developing  your  team,  it  would  be  good  practice  to  think  about  the skills, strengths, behaviours and gaps you have now and what would be the best fit to create more balance. 
  • Agree a shared common purpose. A team may be set up for a specific purpose, to achieve  a  set  objective,  project  or outcome.  What  is common to  all teams  is  that  they possess a shared understanding of what they need to achieve together. Ensure this is agreed and articulated clearly to everyone. You'll need everyone to buy-in and be committed to this purpose.    
  • Clear goals.  A team brings together a variety of experiences and skill sets. Setting goals as a team helps unite the group and makes problem solving a shared effort.  Team-specific goals give everyone something to work towards and these can be further cascaded into individual objectives.  You may wish to establish an annual plan or strategy.  It is important that individuals can see how their contribution supports the bigger picture and that this is regularly reinforced through team updates.. 
  • Interdependence. Effective teams are interdependent. The achievement of the team’s purpose should drive cooperation and support across everyone, with each person playing their part.    
  • Clear roles. It is important that each member of a team has a clear understanding of the role they can play in the team’s success. Everyone will have something to contribute. In effective teams there is an acknowledgment that people have different complementary skills.  Teams are at their best when team members are able to have responsibility and accountability for their share of the work and no confusion over who is doing what.  
  • Establish effective communication. Active  and  regular  listening, feedback  and  sharing  of information  will  help  the  team  to  foster  a culture  of  openness,  trust  and  interdependence. Effective teams develop processes and behaviours that ensure everyone is kept informed.

Strong teams are important in businesses of all sizes.  I'll be sharing some further ideas in my next blog on how to get your team feeling motivated and delivering to their best.

Elizabeth Hardwick-Smith is Group People & Culture Director at Pick Everard