by James M. Ballard III, Ph.D.
Never has building a cohesive team been more important. You’re coming off years of social, emotional, and physical isolation and distancing. Even those who were comfortable interpersonally prior to the pandemic, in many cases, are finding it challenging to reconnect with others in an effective way. Despite such, the tasks you’re required to complete, to realize success on our jobs and through our businesses, are still very much present.
Team building is the process of turning a group of individual contributing employees into a cohesive team—a group of people organized to work together to meet the needs of their customers by accomplishing their purpose and goals.
Many organizations rely heavily on the team approach to achieve their goals. Employees work in specific groups tasked with a project (Quain, 2019). Impactful group work/teamwork is critical. Consequently, it’s essential that all — from front-line to administrative staff and back — have a clear understanding of what it takes to build a highly efficient team.
As you’re reentering our work and returning to group/teamwork, it’s best that you consider the following when building and implementing group/teamwork:
• The Mission and Purpose.
o Answers must be clear regarding the question or problem the group/team is solving or addressing. These answers must be worded in ways that clearly define why the issue exists, the resources that feed its existence, the degree of urgency, the steps that need to be taken to address the issue, and the best individuals or other resources believed necessary to address the concern. Additionally, the operational definition of “address” must be made clear. The team will need to be able to recognize when their task has been completed.
• The Vision.
o A “clear, inspiring vision” is critical in that it “sets the foundation for successful teamwork, and helps guide the direction of the group when they face challenges and decisions,” according to Michael Page (Michael Page, n.d.).
• The Goals.
o According to Human Resources: Massachusetts Institute of Technology. (HR: MIT, n.d.) the best goals are S-M-A-R-T goals: Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant
and Time-bound. According to HR: MIT, “Improving customer service” may sound like a good goal for a team, but it doesn’t really meet the S-M-A-R-T criteria (HR: MIT, n.d.). HR: MIT reports that a more effective goal would be to “Reduce call-back time to customers to two hours or less within six months.” The revised goal is:
• Specific (reduce call-back time to customers)
• Measurable (to two hours or less)
• Achievable (The team would need to decide this. Maybe call-backs need four hours, or maybe the time can be reduced to 30 minutes.)
• Relevant (Again, the team will know if slow call-back time is an issue for the customers? For the team’s manager? Is reducing call-back time important
enough to merit team effort?)
• Time bound (within six months)
• Assembling the Team properly.
o Team members are to be identified, interviewed, and selected based on the degree to which their skills are expected to allow for the accomplishment of the mission. Whether a team of program managers completing a grant proposal, a 12-member Division I basketball team preparing to win a national championship, or a squadron of 15 U.S. Marines addressing concerns in a forward area, expertly trained individuals must be selected and teamed.
• Setting Expectations.
o Leadership must ensure that the mission is clearly understood, that the “why” for accomplishing the mission is fully felt, possible barriers, and ways for getting
around/over/through each barrier. Also, along with being experts in their given fields, teammates must be experts in skills most associated with high functioning teams. Teammates must be devoted, trusting, committed, humble, and sacrificial.
• Roles and Responsibilities.
o All involved with the team, to include each team member, must clearly know the role they are being expected to fulfill, the roles of their teammates, and how their roles impact each other and mission accomplishment.
• Monitoring and Reviewing.
o Michael Page (n.d.) noted how performance through team meetings and one-on-one catch-ups must occur to ensure that progress is made, and raised the following as good questions to ask along the way:
▪ How are we doing? What have we achieved so far? What have we learned? What isn’t working so well? And how can we improve?
o Michael Page (n.d.) acknowledges how monitoring and reviewing progress allows for adjustments and improvements to be incorporated along the way.
• Encouraging, Celebrating, and Rewarding.
o Encouragement facilitates attention, focus, belief in self, motivation, and trust. Also, celebrating teammates for effort and goal achievement fosters a culture of trust, thoughtfulness, and community. It also associates good feelings with expectations. Rewarding teammates also helps each feel valued and as though their presence, hard work, and commitment matter.
Heathfield, Susan. (2021). What is team building? Careers. https://www.thebalancecareers.com/what-is-team-building-1918270
Human Resources: Massachusetts Institute of Technology. (n.d.). Important steps when building a team. https://hr.mit.edu/learning-topics/teams/articles/new-team
Michael Page. (n.d.). Building an effective team. https://www.michaelpage.ae/advice/management advice/development-and-retention/building-effective-team
Sampson, Quain. (2019). Advantages & Disadvantages of Team-Based Organizations. Chron. https://smallbusiness.chron.com/advantages-disadvantages-teambased-organizations 25370.html