Remember when you played tee ball in elementary school and everyone groaned when you came up to bat? Or when another kid when would run over and catch the ball for you when it was hit in your direction?
Or maybe you were the one groaning and the one running over, knocking your teammate over?
Whatever the situation, you aren’t playing tee ball anymore and I hope you asked for forgiveness from your elementary school friend by now (I’ll wait while you find them on Facebook).
Back to business. Because that’s why you’re here now.
This isn’t tee ball anymore – this is real work (unless you’re a professional baseball or softball player, then it is your job, but I doubt you’re reading this blog if so).
And when you’re on a team or workgroup, you don’t want to do any groaning. Not because it’s not nice to make fun of others (it’s not!). but you want people you believe in and are ready to go to battle with.
That’s why hiring the right people is important to your team performance, but by no means the end all.
We all have areas we can improve on in our both our personal development, as well as the more commonly neglected team development. To keep my tee ball analogy going, it’s a delicate balance between finding and mentoring people who may be able to catch the ball one day and those that will never be able to catch anything thrown their way.
What’s Effective for Teams and What’s Not?
A group of researchers tried to answer this question for Google. To no one’s surprise, management, team leaders and team members all had different answers as to which criterion make a team “effective” or not. Some subjects concentrated on culture; others focused on sales goals.
Ultimately, these four factors determined a team’s effectiveness:
- Executive evaluation of the team
- Team leader evaluation of the team
- Team member evaluation of the team
- Sales performance
That’s great and all, but what do you do if you don’t directly impact sales? Well, as one of my old bosses liked to say, “We’re all in sales.” So, there.
Really though, whatever you’re building, developing, performing or marketing should have an ultimate impact on revenue. If not, then your group should seriously reconsider what you’re doing!
What are some of the traits and characteristics that did not define effective teams, according to the researchers?
Some may be surprising. They include:
- Sitting in the same space
- Team size
The researchers were quick to note that these could possibly make a difference at other companies, yet not at Google.
Now, let’s think about the qualities that can improve team effectiveness.
1. A Clear Purpose
If you get a chance to build your own team and recruit your own members, or if you have a mandate to shake up the way things are currently going, it’s important to understand those goals while creating your team.
And often, the business unit or department title won’t cut it. For instance, you may be in charge of a sales team, but what’s your goal? It’s more than just making sales. You may want to focus on certain core tactics, like upselling or attending trade shows as a channel. That’s a different skill set than cold calling. You may need someone who has stronger interpersonal than technical skills or vice versa. Setting clear goals will benefit everyone’s performance.
2. The Right Skills
Pretty obvious, huh? This comes down to the belief that each member on the team can and will do the job well. If your team doesn’t have the confidence or starts to lose confidence in one another, this will affect the way team interaction and the group performance. If this isn’t the case, then your team may need help with accountability or hiring additional key team members may be required to address the problem.
You’ll have to hunt for a great team member with additional skills to finish out the project.
Does the person you’re looking to hire or recruit for your team have a collaborative spirit? Or are they only concerned with their silo and getting their own work done? Don’t be fooled into thinking introverts won’t collaborate or that extroverts make the best collaborators. An extrovert could be the life of the party, but could only care about their results and their individual performance without making any sacrifices for the rest of the group. This isn’t about personality, but about team effectiveness. Each team goes through different cycles, and it’s important that a person contributes to each part, knowing where to lean in and where to step back while still helping the project productively move along cooperatively!
How does your team relate, talk and communicate with one another? Are members willing to handle feedback, offer reviews and take criticism? Or do they clam up?
If you’ve ever interacted with another human being in your life, you also know that communication isn’t always verbal. There are facial impressions and reactions too that can communicate volumes.
Back to tee ball: You didn’t have to tell the kid you ran in front of to catch the ball that he or she was bad at catching the ball, they definitely got the message when you pushed them out of the way.
Your communication can be impacted by how and what you do for your team as well, not only by what you’re saying.
An effective team will have smart, observant people who are willing to put in the extra legwork and dream up new ideas. This isn’t always quantifiable or easy to put on a timesheet. It takes a little freedom, and a little brainstorming. To ensure this innovate culture thrives, your team will need confidence that they can take risks. That they won’t be groaned at for every strikeout (how many tee ball references can I make?). That you’ll have their back through a few ups and downs, with the insight to see a solution on the horizon.
Effective teams are playing the same game. They realize the rules and mutual benefit of each individual giving it his or her all. Effective teams are being guided and coached based on the same principles. In other words, there are no secret agendas or back-office politics. Such voluntary cooperation requires genuine authenticity on the part of the leadership to remain on the same page.
As a team lead or project manager in leadership, you’ll have to provide for your team, such as the right resource allocation, budget dollars and timeframe to make sure the team has enough runway to pull off their jobs and use their skills to maximum effect.
If you’re building an effective cross-functional team, you may have to work harder to align priorities.
7. Clear Tasks and Team Process
One thing that makes a really effective team? If the team has something to do. Teams can’t be effective unless they know the process for how and when to do the work and the tasks at hand. A plan will have to be established and then followed it to make it work.
One way to do that? With a great productivity platform and project management software like ClickUp. In ClickUp, you can set up spaces, projects and lists with different tasks. Your teams can easily communicate, comment and coordinate on what to do next. These key features will help your team coordinate your work more effectively:
- Assigned Comments – Instantly create and assign action items for yourself or others.
- Multiple Assignees – Collaborate together on a single task – if your Space allows it.
- Custom Statuses – Customize your workflow with statuses to fit each individual project.
- Priorities – Create custom priority levels, and organize tasks based on their importance to a project.
- Filter Tasks – View, sort, and prioritize all tasks across the entire team and spaces
8. Review and Reflect on Metrics
This goes back to the goals part in the first point. Is your team meeting their goals? How do they know? Is your team being offered realistic, attainable benchmarks that they can strive towards? The worst is when you’re underperforming but don’t even know it. There’s no chance to improve and trust is immediately eroded.
Effective teams don’t have unwritten rules; they have written ones. Often noted as guidelines, these provide an accepted way of teams to interact and talk with one another, along with the specific goals everyone is working towards. Guidelines provide a parameter to foster a better work environment for the work goals to be achieved.
Also, effective, high-performing teams keep score (chalk up another one to tee ball!). Good teams know what they’re aiming for and then are empowered to work and make decisions that will benefit the company. Otherwise, it’s chaotic.
I like this quote from Greylock Partners Adam Nash:
“If you have a company where everyone has their own ways of keeping score, you’ll get incessant fighting and arguments, and they’re not even arguing about what to do…They’re arguing about how to keep score. They’re arguing about what game we’re really playing. That’s all counterproductive.”
9. Team Building Activities
Now, you may be groaning again. No one likes “forced fun” but team building activities have been proven to work. But to accommodate for your mix of personalities, you’ll also have to mix up the activities. Here at ClickUp, we’ve attended Tony Robbins’ conferences, dominated big tech events, and even went to Mexico and Hawaii. This helped bring everyone together outside of the normal work day. Some team members may love paintball; others may prefer painting pottery. Rotating different types of activities for your team increases the informal conversation which also influences how much each person trusts the other.
Now, What Will You Do?
After mastering those team qualities, a game like tee ball will seem a lot easier, and you can do more than you thought possible. You won’t just be trying to play the game, but you’ll excel at it.
Take what you know now and apply it to your team situation: you can do so much more. You probably know innately that a lot of the qualities listed above are important, but how often do you practice them?
Think about a few of the qualities listed above, how they affect your team and take action towards making them real.
Are you really putting them in place?
Here are a few quick specific tactics to help grow your team’s effectiveness:
- Send an encouraging note
- Schedule a brainstorming session for that nagging problem
- Actually using your project management tool
- Pursue feedback from your manager
- Set clear personal and work goals
Last thing about tee ball: it’s impossible to play by yourself. You can’t field the ball and catch it. You can’t tag everyone out or run across the whole field. You don’t groan or run in front of your group. You actually need your them.
When you find ways to collaborate and work together, you can accomplish more than you could individually. And that’s an effective team.