In today’s world, it is more or less impossible to achieve results all by yourself. Nowadays, it is more or less standard to work with others, and oftentimes this group of people working together is referred to as a “team”.
In the book ”The Wisdom of Teams”, Jon Katzenbach and Douglas Smith define a team as:
“A team is a small number of people with complementary skills who are committed to a common purpose, performance goals, and approach for which they are mutually accountable.”
To create and lead successful teams is a difficult task, which can take a long time to bring to perfection. However, a stable platform for a well-functioning team can be established by putting four simple components in place.
1. Clear objective for the team
In the world of sports, the objective for the team is oftentimes very obvious. Games and tournaments shall be won, and results shall be improved. At work, however, the objective is not always as obvious. Therefore, it is of utmost importance that the objective for the business or the project is clearly communicated to everyone involved. There can be no doubt whatsoever about what the team shall accomplish together.
2. Clear roles for the individuals
Having a clear objective, the next step is to define clearly the different roles in the team. Just as in any soccer team, every single required role must be clearly thought through, and specific individuals must be appointed to the various roles. No team will be successful with eleven strikers, no matter how skilled they are. In a well-functioning team roles complement each other.
However, it is important to emphasize that people help each other in a well-functioning team, irrespective of what role a single individual has been appointed. Just as a defender helps the goalkeeper by defending the goal line when the need arises, team members cover up for each other. The focus is not on the individual, but on the team. The team succeeds and fails together. There is no “I” in team.
3. Immediate feedback on good and bad
In a well-functioning team, everyone strives to make each other better. Everyone gets the opportunity to improve by being told what has been done well, and being told what can be improved. In a well-functioning team, feedback is given and taken continuously and immediately. The earlier feedback is received, the faster the behavior can be reinforced or improved. Feedback is given in order to give the opportunity to reinforce what is good and improve what could be better. However, many of us seem to believe that annual feedback is the best way to develop individuals and team members. Can you imagine a successful sports team waiting to give each other feedback until the annual performance review, after the season?
4. Immediate feedback on right and wrong
To ensure that team members behave according to expectations, it is imperative that everyone in the team praises desirable behavior, and clearly highlights undesirable behavior as soon as it is detected. If team members arrive late for meetings or fail to share acquired knowledge without anyone pointing it out, a de facto standard is soon created, where it is not important to be on time or to share knowledge. Thus, desired behavior may be viewed as, and eventually become, optional.
Just rounding up a bunch of people into working groups and expecting that these individuals will accomplish miracles, is hoping for too much. Clearly describing the objective for the team, and appointing individuals to clearly defined roles is an absolute prerequisite for the team to perform. Thereafter, immediate feedback on good and bad, as well as right and wrong, are required to maximize the capabilities of the team, and to continuously help each other to improve.
How do you help your colleagues to get better? In your organization, have you agreed upon what “good” is?