Leading effective teams

TIP 1 & TIP 2

TIP 1: Document the Purpose
Formalizing a team typically begins with a charter. A charter documents
the team’s purpose, operating approach, goals, description of and
method for determining success, and the degree of authority granted to
the team. If your team did not begin with a charter, use the Team
Charter Template Tool. It will clarify issues that may have been causing
problems for you and your team. Documenting the team’s purpose
requires that you have discussions to:
  • Align team goals with customer needs.
  • Determine what the task is not.
  • Gain commitment from team members
A Team Charter
Creating a charter can have many benefits. Aside from defining the team’s initial
structure and identifying stakeholders, it will:
  • Show commitment to the identified task.
  • Help members retain focus of the team’s purpose.
  • Serve as a reminder of how the purpose is aligned with the mission and
    needs of the organization.
  • Help create team identity from which members will build relationships and
    move toward the goal.
The charter not only serves as a launching pad for the team, but it can also be
referred to throughout the duration of the team as a type of checks and
balances. This will help keep the team on track with its original purpose and
Align Team Goals with Customer Needs
Your team has been created because
of a need. Perhaps the need is to
improve a process, reduce costs, or
solve a problem. The customer may
be the organization, a department, or
a collective unit of users. The first
step for your team is to clearly
understand and accept its task.
Someone once said, “If you don’t know where you’re going, it’s doubtful you’ll
be very successful in getting there.” Unless everyone is aiming for the same
destination, the team’s progress will be irregular at best. Therefore, it is critical
for your team to have alignment. Without alignment, team members might
work toward different goals, misunderstand team assignments, or become
frustrated when expectations are not met.
It is very popular to talk about empowerment of individuals and teams.
Empowerment is the right to make decisions directly affecting one’s own work.
Less has been said about the essential companion of empowerment—alignment.
Alignment occurs when all team members have the same vision and
understanding of the desired results, as well as the boundaries and key issues
involved in achieving the goals. Once team members are aligned, they can be
empowered to make appropriate decisions.
Determine What the Task is Not
In defining the team’s task, it is often helpful to
talk about what the task is not. Be sure to identify
the activities that lie just outside the boundaries.
Also, do not forget to determine where the team’s
authority ends.
Sometimes leaders think that a team will be more
creative if there are no boundaries set. However,
teams know there are always boundaries.
It is better to be explicit about them. Without a fairly clear definition of what
the task is and is not, most team members respond to the uncertainty by
playing it safe. Thus, they become less creative than if they had felt secure in
their requirements.
Defining a Team’s Boundaries
You do both yourself and your team a favor by clearly defining the following
• Resource utilization (people, money, equipment, etc.)
• Decision making procedures
• Scope of work
• Utilization of support personnel
• Communication with organizational hierarchy
• Level of involvement by others
• Impact on other teams or organizations
Gain Commitment from Team Members
Find out if participants have the time, expertise,
and desire to serve as a team member. Lacking any
one of these elements could impact the team’s
effectiveness. Remember that people should not be
forced to work on a team. Be creative! If someone
has the expertise, but lacks the time to participate,
use that person as a consultant for the team on an
“as needed” basis.
TIP 2: Confirm Performance Requirements
Just as individual employees need to have clear performance goals and
expectations, so do team members. These requirements and expectations
clarify what the team does to meet the customer’s needs. Do not
incorrectly assume that each team member knows and understands these
important issues. Develop your team’s ability and lead them to:
  • Ask the right questions.
  • Document requirements.
  • Clarify reporting procedures.
Ask the Right Questions
As the team leader, you will need more skills
than just being the best technical person on
the team. However, you ought to have a
good working knowledge of the team’s area
of expertise. This is your basis for knowing
what questions the team will consider and
when to answer them, such as:.
  • What are the most critical steps the team needs to take? In what
  • What are the key support tasks, and how must they be linked with the
    team’s tasks?
  • How do the team’s tasks relate or integrate with the work of other teams?
  • When does the team need to bring in outside expert advice or support?
Document Requirements
The functional requirements of a
team are captured as part of a
charter or as a separate
document. Additional
requirements relate to the
expectations of how team
members participate. You will
need to determine.
  • Who are the key players?
  • What will be the time commitment of each team member?
  • What level of work performance is expected?
  • How will each team member’s contribution be evaluated for appraisal
  • What will the leader do to support each team member’s involvement in
    the team?
Having expectations clarified and documented provides the guidance
necessary to ensure the team’s success.
Clarify Reporting Procedures
Agreeing on how progress will be
reported and to whom is
important. In work teams, this is
usually straightforward—they
generally report to the manager
or supervisor over their work unit.
In a project or cross-functional team, reporting progress should have been
decided and documented in the team’s charter. Identify to whom status
should be reported. The guidance for setting up a project team comes from
the Sponsor, and that is probably the person who will receive reports on
status and accomplishments.
Determine if there are also functional managers who need to have status and
production reports provided. Also, you and the team need to know how
status reports will be provided. In order to meet everyone’s expectations and
needs, you should determine the status report’s frequency, format, and
information required.