Fostering Excellence
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Six Principles for Building an Effective Team

Building winning teams does not usually happen on accident. Even with a team full of highly proficient professionals, it often takes deliberate effort on the part of the team leader to mold the team into an effective cohesive unit. It’s easy to get deceived into believing that because your team has been stacked with the best your company has to offer, that it will also function effectively to achieve rigorous organizational goals. Ensuring that team members are well aligned, fully empowered, have strong bonds with the team, and are highly collaborative, is a different matter entirely than being proficient at professional tasks.

As a leader of teams, you will want to take some care to ensure that your team has the best possible posture for success by following these six critical principles of team building:
Align Team Members – Your team is going to have a variety of talents, training and interests in the members who comprise it. Your team will get the most out of its members if, to the extent possible, those team members are aligned between their talents, interests and the tasks that the team needs to have performed. When people enjoy the tasks they are doing, and are good at performing them, they are much happier, far more self-motivated, and a good deal more productive. Take time to get to know your team’s abilities and interests, then organize their roles to align the strengths you find with the work that needs to get done.

Build social capital – Building social capital within the team is also important. Ensure your team is having regular opportunities to socialize and have fun together. Access to inviting break rooms or recreation rooms creates opportunities throughout the day, while team building days will get the team out of the office and away from the everyday context of the work place. You will find that enabling strong social bonds within the team will make them more effective as they perform as a cohesive unit.

Aim High – Your team will need clear goals or targets to meet in order for them to best come together as a team. Unchallenging objectives not only fail to bring the best out of your team, they fail to provide the context that encourages teams to come together in unified efforts. Set challenging goals, something worth achieving, and your team will have the need and opportunity to collaborate more closely, and support each other in their mutual efforts to realize the goal.

Empower Team Members – Once you have aligned your team, provided opportunities to create strong social bonds and they have a challenging objective to meet, your role as an enabler becomes critical. Your team will need you to make sure they have the resources they need to be successful which will require stakeholder management within and without your company. You will also need to leverage those skills to remove obstacles to your team’s efforts be they bureaucratic, training, or a lack of resources. 

Foster Team Collaboration – Team collaboration is not a given and you should not treat it as such. It is easy for your team to become so absorbed in their own tasks that they fail to collaborate and enable their peer’s success. Often, the tasks of one team member are inputs to the tasks of another. Make sure your team is meeting regularly, such as in a daily SCRUM standup. Also, ensure they have easy methods of communication, especially if you are working in a distributed team environment. Get your team talking to itself, and keep that communication flowing!

Recognize Success– Lastly, recognize your team and its members for their successes. Heap on the praise and submit them for formal recognition either in their industry or within the company itself. You want to provide ample positive reinforcement for those behaviors that made your team successful. Additionally, they simply deserve the recognition outright for their efforts for the team and organization at large.

Being a team leader is one of the most satisfying roles in organizations. Your role is critical to the success of the team and the accomplishments of its goals. You can set up your team for success by aligning your team members in the most suitable roles, providing challenging and clear objectives, empowering your team, engaging them to collaborate and by recognizing them for their successes.
Michael Farr, PMP, is a Chief Master Sergeant in the U.S. Air Force and founder of He is passionate about recognition and enabling professionals to motivate their organizations through recognizing their member’s excellence. When he is not slaying dragons with his kids, he can be found at @fosterxcellence on Twitter and @fosteringexcellence on Facebook.

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