Secrets for mastering team-building

We have all heard the expression “Two heads are better than one” suggesting collaborative work will always achieve better results than just relying on one person. However, is this really true? In many occasions, yes, teamwork can offer new perspectives and bring new and fresh ideas to the table, helping businesses attain better results. As a consequence, capabilities such as “teamwork” or “interpersonal skills” are extremely sought among recruiters. Nevertheless, it is also necessary to mention that bad teams can do the exact opposite. Poorly built teams can hinder business objectives, decrease productivity and create poor working environments affecting the business’ development.

So, what are the key factors that ignite good results in a team? There are many factors to consider when building an effective team and, as every person and business is different, there is no step by step manual to achieve good results. Nonetheless, here, we will explain you some of the most important and effective practices used to build high-performance teams.

Build a core A-player team

Logic dictates that more people will help you achieve more things faster, however, this is not always the case and although large teams can bring new ideas to the table, more people also convey more conflicts, longer meetings, more planning, etc.

Another disadvantage from large groups is the phenomenon called “Bikeshedding” where team members will avoid difficult or more important tasks and focus on easier or “team-friendly” tasks. In other words, members will prefer to discuss trivial decisions because these are more relatable to everyone, in contrast with very specific and complex problems that not everyone might fully understand or be able to comment on. Furthermore, the more people working together, the harder it is for the manager to measure each individual’s contribution to the task. This situation creates a group mentality called “Social loafing”, where people do not feel the need to put their best effort as there are no means to accurately measure the individual work they have put into.

All of these notions proof that crowded teams are ineffective and potentially harmful to businesses. Instead, companies should focus on efficiently allocating their employees into groups that help promote team collaboration without allowing employees to hide their mistakes behind the group as underproductive teams will nourish bad result and repel highly efficient people. This is why, it is essential to focus on creating a small core team with highly efficient members as they will not only guide the rest of the group, but will also help you identify the most productive assets in the company as well as, promote better results and deter laziness.

  • Introduce A-players in every one of your teams
  • Teams that have between 6 and 8 members are the most productive
  • Avoid overloading work and allocate their tasks appropriately
  • Do not just measure group results, also consider measuring individual work

Finally, the rule of thumb of Amazon CEO, Jeff Bezos, is: “If a team cannot be fed by two pizzas, then that team is too large”

Yin-Yang Management

Without good leaders, building effective teams is nearly impossible. Good managers must identify their team members’ skills and flaws in order to properly assemble a group, even if this means occasionally taking some harsh decisions such as reassigning members new roles or giving them constructive but tough feedbacks. Nevertheless, this does not mean that managers have to be ruthless. Prosperous businesses are not under the leadership of tyrants, instead managers should be able to balance a firm-hand with an approach that promotes encouragement and growth among team members.

Leaders should be able to guide their teams to personal and professional progress, keeping employees from getting bored and pushing them into challenging situations while carefully handling negative attitudes, such as resistance. Understanding that negative attitudes might come from members expressing fear or incomprehension will help managers correctly approach their coworkers and promote a more open and inspiring work environment.
Overall, there is no single management rule that will assure excellent teams as it is an extremely complex task to achieve, however, there are some well-known practices that can greatly improve productivity and results in teams.

  • Do not be afraid to take tough decisions
  • Be direct when the situation requires it
  • Set rules for promoting positive group dynamics
  • Offer employees proper recognition for their work
  • Set aside time for interaction and communication between members
  • Promote a common identity to avoid futile competition among team members
  • Embrace diversity and build a well-balance team

The right kind of over-communication

Communication is the basis for good working dynamics. It is essential for team members to be able to directly communicate to other team members their challenges and constraints without obstacles or judgements from others, however, communication must be structured and organize as general or non-relevant conversations will only decrease a team’s output.
Achieving a good communication flow among members will considerably improve team performance, as this will enable the entire team to better understand the roles and responsibilities from their peers and be able to offer help or feedback when someone encounters a challenging situation. This is why, tools such as email are not beneficial for communication among team members, as it does not promote information flow and can become chaotic and unorganized for everyday use. Additionally, practices such as copying everyone in an email will only cause interferences in the workflow of members who are not directly involved. Moreover, this practice will result in the loss of communication hierarchy, as everyone will be constantly receiving new correspondences which might lead to targets feeling less concerned, members avoiding responsibility or skipping over the information.

Constant communication should be a habit encouraged by all managers. Nevertheless, in order to achieve the right kind of communication, it is key to offer members the proper communication tools that will allow them to communicate effortlessly, make the most out of their time and stay focus on their tasks. This can be achieved by allowing team members to filter out irrelevant information and follow the development of their projects in a transparent manner, which is why, good communication tools must offer a good organizational scheme using labels, channels or tags to avoid cluttered information. Another important feature for a good communicative tool is the ability to track and trace allocated responsibilities as the lack of transparency might cause members feel lost or to not handle tasks accordingly as it might be difficult to locate member’s obligations and which may end up causing loss in productivity. Having a transparent and easy-to-use communication platform will help members track others’ developments and involvement with the project, avoiding possible conflicts that might arise from unclear task allocation.

  • Encourage direct communication between team members
  • Avoid cluttered information
  • Promote transparent communication
  • Help members understand everyone’s roles and tasks
  • Offer access to suitable communication tools centered on transparency and good organization
  • Avoid emails for direct communication among team members

There are many aspects to consider when building a high-performance team as each company is different but these simple guidelines can help you considerably improve your team’s productivity. Remember that more people does not equal better results, so avoid double digits on your teams, always offer guidance and clear objectives, and encourage communication among members of the team.

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