HR leaders and front-line managers regularly have to pull together teams to execute plans, meet goals or complete projects. There’s a lot at stake.
So you almost always need to build more effective teams.
Yet, many of us pull together a new team haphazardly, relying on who’s available, who we like, who doesn’t resist much or who’ll just show up.
While that’s convenient, it’s a recipe for failure. And it’s one of the biggest reasons 60% of teams fail at their goals, according to research from Dr. Eunice Parisi-Carew, a Founding Associate at The Ken Blanchard Companies.
“Many teams are brought together with no more thought than a general idea of ‘we need a team to do this.’ As a result, these teams get formed sloppily with no clear purpose or goal,” Parisi-Carew says in her research.
Design makes more effective teams
The bottom line is: Great teams are successful by design, not luck.
So building a team — whether it’s across the organization or within a small unit — should never be a matter of getting the most convenient people.
Here’s how managers can build stronger teams, then communicate effectively with them:
1. Assemble the talent
A great team is a combination of people who are strong in different, yet dependent, areas.
For instance, a group of super smart people might be good at problem-solving, but could struggle with implementing the ideas. A group of “doers” might be busy, but could have troubles creating a successful plan.
Depending on the size of your team, recruit at least one:
- broad thinker with expertise who concentrates on overall strategy
- creative thinker with fresh, innovative ideas, and
- practical thinker – or doer – who recognizes how the work will get done.
In addition to these key members, there is one “must” for every team: A detail-oriented, process-focused person. He or she sees the small tasks that need to be done to reach the goal, complementing the big thinkers and doers.
2. Build on the clear goal
Every team has one major goal – for instance, fix the problem, finish the project, make the plan happen. Managers must consistently communicate that one, clear goal.
The team can map out a series of smaller goals to achieve it.
Everything the team does – meeting, gathering information, executing small tasks, etc. – pushes them closer to a major goal, which the manager wants to talk about often so the team recognizes if it’s about to drift off course.
3. Define the benefit
Not only do the team’s efforts need to benefit the group and company, the work needs to benefit every member individually.
As the team forms and grows, managers need to talk one-on-one with employees to define their personal benefits of meeting goals – perhaps promotions, bonuses, new challenges or increased skills.
4. Share a sacrifice
For the team to be successful, every member will sacrifice something – time, energy, resources, etc.
Sacrifices build buy-in. When people make sacrifices, they show they’ve committed to the major goal.
As the manager, you can ask them to make specific sacrifices – come in early, take on extra responsibility, coordinate the group, etc.
Strong team members will also recognize what they have to give up – and be willing to do it – to meet the goals.
5. Foster informal communication
MIT researchers found that regular communication was the most important predictor of team success.
Team members don’t need to be friends, but they need to be social.
Managers want to help facilitate non-work discussions. They’re critical to creating a group of people who look out for each other.
Researchers said it can be as simple as making sure they all take coffee breaks at the same time.