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By Dr. Ron Johnson, Faculty Member, School of Business, American Public University and Ryan Leach, Graduate Student
In the world of sports, teams are created for one purpose: to win. We have all seen the split-second fan excitement when a well-thought-out play results in a score. Whether the game is won or lost, the coaches take notes about the game, reflect on the team’s strengths and weaknesses, and formulate a plan for the next encounter on the field.
Organizations should take the same kind of steps to achieve business success. Divided teams usually do not win or produce the desirable results. Instead, teams within an organization should come together to innovate processes and production, win the trust of the company and its customers, and produce benefits for clients and partners.
There may not be a crowd to cheer every time production increases by a few percentage points or a contract is renewed, but business success satisfies the hearts and minds of customers and stakeholders. That can be just as exciting as a touchdown or a home run.
Understanding the formation of teams increases the chance for success. As teams integrate their individual emotions and opinions, relationships are forged that unite the desire to succeed. Not only do team members trust each other, they trust their leaders to provide the vision and the goals. Such leaders encourage innovation to improve quality of life for customer and company alike.
The Beginning of Forming a Successful Business Team
Google has studied teams for years. It has learned that successful teams come down to one common trait: trust.
It was Abraham Lincoln who said “a house divided against itself cannot stand.” Can teams function effectively, or at all, if they cannot perform harmoniously? The answer is obvious.
While solid communication and mastery of resources carry teams only so far, it is trust among team members that forges, seals and strengthens team unity. In fact, after surveying hundreds of teams and employees, Google concluded that, above all other team characteristics, trust provided the “psychological safety” needed to take risks and protect relationships.
Besides providing tangible results and services for customers, what can trust accomplish for corporate teams and their members to ensure success? An environment conducive to trust and communication fosters:
- Minimized employee turnover
- Improved team morale
- Minimized organizational anxiety
- Better quality products and services
Sometimes, you face a situation when your team’s relationships are disjointed and communication barely exists. But according to Chron business writer Lisa McQuerrey, there are several effective steps to rebuild the trust required for organizational success:
- Hold team meetings frequently to establish a communication flow.
- Encourage team members to tackle projects together.
- Minimize gossip channels and infighting.
- Always praise exceptional work.
Forming a Successful Team Starts with Good Leaders
Solid leadership builds winning teams. Teams are not selected simply by calling out names or pointing fingers in a crowd.
If you are tasked with forming a team in your company, it’s wise to understand the makeup of your team members and your own skills and weak points. There are three valuable steps to construct your team, according to Forbes contributor Glenn Llopis:
1. Arguably, the most important step is to get to know the members of your team and encourage camaraderie. Understand their strengths and weaknesses, and how well they communicate. It is here that you can influence the big picture of mission success and encourage developing camaraderie.
2. Map out the team’s individual roles and responsibilities. As the leader, your primary responsibility is to be the approval authority for all communication, data and final analysis produced by the team. The team needs to understand that you have the final say, but that you will always accept their feedback and ideas.
Carefully assign roles and responsibilities according to members’ strengths, not according to their personalities. Accomplishments will come a lot easier from what team members can do, not from what they say they can do. You must help them to understand the group’s boundaries and limits and how each member’s position is co-dependent with the others.
3. Give the team feedback. There is nothing more important than acknowledging efforts, rewarding achievements and celebrating success with your team.
Remember: Although you may be the leader and overseer of the team, they bore the brunt of the work. They did the research, tested the results and finalized all reports. Your team will experience an irreplaceable sense of worth within the organization that will encourage them to work harder and take on new projects in the future.
Once your team is in place and operations are in full swing, do whatever you can to maintain your team’s luster or encouragement. The necessity of team-building strategies helps to keep everyone in focus and maintaining a healthy balance.
Such strategies include keeping your team engaged by not overloading them with unnecessary meetings, but limiting your meetings only to those that are beneficial and have a purpose. Also, maintaining an open line of communication with your team members at all times gives them permission to come to you for guidance, recognition and resources.
Moreover, ensuring that your members are not overloaded with work helps them to maintain a healthy work/life balance. Be sure to recognize their hard work. In fact, consider having a party after the team successfully completes its work, so management and other employees can share the excitement of a job well done.
The Role of Innovation in Today’s Teams
In order for teams to thrive, the environment must be conducive to innovation. When teams are innovative, they produce new ideas. All too often, larger organizations focus on incremental improvements to existing processes and business models.
According to Forbes contributor Robert B. Tucker, the most successful and well-designed teams focus their efforts on transformational innovation that includes “new offerings and business models.”
The most successful innovation teams avoid bureaucratic hindrances and ensure strategies are aligned with the organization’s mission. Rather than unnecessary involvement with top leadership, innovative teams tend to partner directly with key players from human resources, marketing, R&D, among others, says Tucker. These key players keep the best interests of the organization at heart and concern themselves with support and budgets, so the sole focus of the team is on innovation.
Innovative teams are at the heart of today’s forward-thinking organizations. Learning what makes a team and how to create a safe and trusting environment is crucial for success.
About the Authors
Dr. Ronald Johnson is a professor in the School of Business at American Public University. A product of the military’s voluntary higher education system, he earned his Ph.D. in Organizational Leadership from the University of Oklahoma. Ron’s classrooms were in the United Kingdom, Germany, Saudi Arabia and Bosnia. He considers it his highest honor serving military students to help them reach their academic goals.
Ryan Leach is a graduate student at AMU, majoring in management. He is a career administrative professional, working in public affairs for a defense contractor. He previously served nearly eight years in the U.S. Air Force, traveling as far as Qatar and Kuwait. Ryan graduated with a B.S. from Southwestern College and an A.A.S. from the Community College of the Air Force at Maxwell Air Force Base.
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