Many organizations are moving to flatter team-oriented structures, so it's essential to understand what makes a team cohesive and productive. An effective team is one that's performing well and contributing to the overall success of the company. Teams should also provide people with an environment where they can do their best work, develop, and feel a sense of belonging and pride.
Culture Amp created Team Effectiveness to help organizations nurture teams. Team Effectiveness assesses the essential factors of effective teams, including psychological safety, interpersonal sensitivity, and dependability.
In this article, we share three ways you can get started building a foundation for effective teams.
Three ways to build the foundation for an effective team
1. Establish trust
The best exercises for building psychological safety and interpersonal sensitivity are those that increase trust between team members. Activities that focus on building emotional intelligence, in particular self-awareness and awareness of others, are a great place to start. A group discussion exploring team preferences and styles can be of great value. Understanding your own preferred ways of working and how they might differ from those of your teammates is incredibly helpful to build understanding and empathy.
In a group, each team member answers the questions in turn, and others simply listen (or take notes if they like).
Questions might include:
- When (and how) do you prefer to give and receive feedback?
- What is your preferred method of communication?
- How do you prefer to disagree?
- What time of day do you feel most productive?
For more tips, Amy Edmondson has an excellent TEDx talk covering how to build a psychologically safe workplace.
2. Build dependability
Establishing ground rules of engagement can help foster both psychological safety and dependability. Ground rules don’t have to be lengthy or elaborate, but they should fit your unique team’s situation and be accepted by all members.
Examples might be:
- Speak your mind during meetings, not after
- Have at least one other team member review reports before submission
- Prioritize customer-related tasks before internal tasks
- Debrief projects within one week of completion
Another strategy for building dependability is having well-run daily or weekly team stand-up meetings. This facilitates visibility and support for team members’ current projects, challenges, and successes, rather than "keep tabs" on members. This way team members hold each other accountable as a collective and help are more likely to be offered and requested. Stand-ups can be used in conjunction with a team Trello board if your team would like a written version of tasks to reference.
3. Strengthen communication
Something that can be done on an ongoing basis is maintaining awareness of the verbal communication within your team. Practice avoiding phrases that assign blame such as “Why did you do this?” and instead focus on solutions “How can we work together to ensure this goes more smoothly next time?”
It’s also important to be aware of what your non-verbal communication is saying by focusing on body language. Non-verbal cues such as eye-rolling, folded arms, or even subtle scowling (which many of us are unaware we do) can send signals to teammates that their contributions are being judged or not valued. Try using open body language and giving your full attention by not using your phone or laptop during conversations. These simple (and often missed) gestures can rapidly build trust in a team.
Building effective teams is an ongoing process
Understanding what factors make up an effective team makes it easier to improve how people work together. As you’re working to build trust, dependability, and communication in your team, create a regular cadence on which to gather feedback to track progress.
Using a survey that measures team effectiveness will highlight where you’re making great strides and where there should be more focus. You should also look at the ways you're enabling teamwork within your organization – things like developing team-based goals – to further support effective teams.