At a recent employment conference, I asked 300 executives and human resources professionals to identify:
- The most effective team they have ever worked with
- What made the team effective
Rather than cite a work team, the majority of attendees identified sports teams or public service organizations from their youth as being the most effective team.
Less than 5% of attendees identified the most effective team as being at a former employer. More surprising, perhaps, is that only 2% identified a team at their current organization.
Why did so few attendees identify their current employer, or any work group, as their most effective team?
- Most organizations have not recognized the need to build strong team environments
- Due to limited resources or economic forces, organizations are simply not able to train their leaders, managers or supervisors on the importance of building effective work teams
- Managers and supervisors are not being trained on the benefits of being seen as ‘coach’ to their direct reports instead of simply a manager or disciplinarian
Benefits of building effective teams
Research has long shown that when organizations focus on training their leaders and building effective teams, organizations will reap significant rewards or returns on their investment. Such rewards or ROI apply not only to the individual work teams, but also to the organization as a whole.
Leadership development is linked closely with high-performing organizations. In BusinessWeek.com’s 2013 Best Companies for Leaders survey, 94% of the “best companies” said their organizations are actively involved in leadership development programs for “mission-critical roles,” compared with about two-thirds of respondents from other organizations.
Benefits to building high-performing teams
For teams, benefits can include:
- Better communication
- Equal stakes in outcome
- Increased trust
- Greater efficiency
- Greater productivity
- Increased engagement
For the organization, high-performing teams can bring the following benefits:
- Motivated employees
- Knowledge and independence
- More delegation
- Greater flexibility
- Better client service
Characteristics of effective teams
Let’s move on to the second part of the exercise mentioned earlier: “What made the team effective.” Conference attendees shared common themes and specific examples of what their team leaders or coaches did to help build and foster an effective team environment. The common themes attendees shared included:
- Building trust and collaboration between team members
- Identifying common objectives and goals
- Not playing favorites
- Holding everyone accountable for meeting objectives
- Not micromanaging team members
- Having fun
The average organization should do more to teach and reinforce all of the abilities in the list above. It’s not that business leaders consider these skills unimportant, it is just that many organizations are not allocating time or resources to train leaders on how to develop these very important skill-sets.
Building effective teams is hard work. Over the many years we have been conducting leadership trainings, these common themes have not changed. For example, building collaboration and trust between team members is a learned skill and one that can pay dividends if leveraged.
For more information, contact us.