by Anthony Middlebrooks, Scott J. Allen, Mindy S. McNutt and James L. Morrison
More and more organizations are moving to the use of teams, recognizing the power and value in bringing different perspectives to a project. A group of individuals has the potential to bring more than the sum of individual contributions. This is known as synergy and can be accomplished by ensuring that the group has a shared purpose, vision, and accountability to one another. This is what makes a team different (and more than) a group.
Teams also have shared leadership. Although one person may have a leadership position, the strength of the team lies in the role each person agrees to take and then applying that role as leader when the situation requires. Teams are carefully selected to include the right mix of content, process, and people skills and strengths.
There are many different kinds of teams, each suited for a different challenge or purpose. Effective teams are characterized by a meaningful mission that is shared and understood by all members; a climate of respect and trust; clear, agreed-upon roles and processes; external (to the team) support; and attentive leadership that designs success. A sense of humor helps, too.
Individuals remain an important element of the team as each person brings his or her unique motivations, attributes, and perspective. Bringing out the best in this individual aspect requires considerable attention and ability by the leader and in return provides great return in productivity and innovation.
Being a good team member depends on one’s fit for the specific role. However, understanding your attributes and what you are capable of contributing to the team helps clarify.
The culture of a given team goes through specific stages of development: forming, storming, norming, performing, and adjourning. Understanding what each stage entails and feels like for team members informs a leader as he or she facilitates the group’s formation into a team. Numerous models help further inform leader activity, including Hill’s model that begins with asking whether action is even necessary (versus monitoring).
Teams can fail for many reasons. Preparation in designing the team and its launch is perhaps the most important preventative measure. Team leadership is a process comprised of people, and the attentive mindful leader will choose from many tools to facilitate the team to success.