Leading effective teams


Tip 8: Maintain relationships.
• Encourage positive interactions.
• Deal with disruptive influences.
• Provide opportunities for building relationships.
• Tip 9: Develop communication skills.
• Be an example.
• Provide feedback.
• Stress advocacy and inquiry.
• Tip 10: Support the team.
• Remove obstacles.
• Defend the team against undue criticism.
• Celebrate accomplishments
Some team leaders begin with team relationships, erroneously believing
that a team that is congenial will ensure results. Others neglect this area,
believing that it doesn’t matter how well people work together as long as
they focus on their task. Successful team leaders develop effective teams
with a balanced approach, and building teamwork is essential.
Where should you focus in building teamwork? You want to create a team
that shares responsibility, communicates openly and fully, and has a high
level of trust. To develop these three qualities in your team, you should
Tip #8: Maintain relationships.
Tip #9: Develop communication skills.
Tip #10: Support the team
Developing Team Responsibility, Communication, and Trust
Responsibility, communication, and trust are characteristics that form the basic
definition of teamwork. Yet, they are difficult to influence directly because they
are the results of consistent behaviors developed and practiced over time. Even
as a team leader, you cannot directly create teamwork, but you can help shape
the consistent behaviors that result in teamwork
As the leader, you have four powerful tools for helping the team members
develop the behaviors that lead to teamwork.
The behavior you model
• The expectations you communicate
• The feedback you provide regarding how they meet your expectations
• The support you provide
All of the skills you are learning in this module will help you lead your team in the
development of these important characteristics.
TIP 8: Maintain Relationships
One thing you can count on about teams is that all the members will be
different—different in how they view getting work done, how they process
information, and how they communicate. These differences can be disastrous.
Or when there’s the presence of acceptance and understanding, differences
can be viewed as gifts that complement and enrich the work of the team.
The leader has the role of facilitator, coach, and role model. Like a symphony
conductor, the leader needs to develop the harmony that every team is
capable of creating. As the team matures, leaders can expect team members
to assume some responsibility for maintaining the team relationships. An
effective team leader will:
Encourage positive interactions.
Deal with disruptive influences.
Provide opportunities for building relationships
Encourage Positive Interactions
Positive interactions form the
foundation of a number of essential
characteristics, one of which is
trust. Trust among team members
is critical to the success of a team.
So what constitutes positive team interaction? One area is the ability to
provide each other both positive and negative feedback. A second area is
honesty and openness in word and deed. A third area is reliability in task
follow-through and behavior.
Leaders encourage positive interactions, first by example and then by
creating a safe atmosphere. Next, providing training in how to give
feedback and deal with conflict shows your commitment to positive team
Sometimes we insist that the other person first earn our trust. (“I’ll trust you
after I get to know you.”) At other times we give trust first. (“I’ll trust you until
you give me reason not to.”) If you want people to trust you—and even more so,
if you want people to trust each other—then you must set the example by
trusting them. Give people responsibilities that they both understand and accept.
Ensure that they have the necessary resources, and trust them to perform. One
of the skills that good team leaders must develop is that of accurately gauging
what a team member is capable of doing, and then growing that person by
expecting (trusting) him or her to do a little more.
Often, trust has to be earned. One thing is certain—trust will be challenged
Deal with Disruptive Influences
Usually, the team has the primary responsibility for dealing with problems that
develop within its own internal dynamics. Whether it is unresolved conflict
between two team members, a disruptive member, or broken team processes
(such as ineffective team meetings or flawed decision making), you should first
push the team to identify and take corrective action.
For any number of reasons, the problem may be beyond the team’s problemsolving
capabilities. While your most preferable approach is to develop the team
to do the task, you must know when the team is failing in such a way that the
task or the team itself is in jeopardy. In those instances, you have to step in. In
essence, the process is:
Gather data that identifies where the team is and where it needs to be.
Diagnose the team to help identify the obstacles inhibiting the team’s
Plan how the obstacles can be resolved.
Take the necessary action to get the team back on course
Dealing with a Disruptive Team Member
One particularly touchy problem is a team member who is so difficult that the
team cannot deal with him or her effectively. First, you should coach the
individual, laying out definite expectations and providing clear feedback
regarding that person’s performance. Do this initially on a one-to-one basis. If
that is unsuccessful, involve other team members, or bring it to the entire team
as an issue. (Recognize that this may be an extremely difficult, almost
impossible, task for most teams.)
Ultimately, if you determine that the cost of coaching exceeds the potential
return and the team is unable to deal with the situation, you may have to take
the responsibility and remove this person from the team. Although you certainly
have an obligation to work with and develop individual members on the team,
your primary responsibility is to protect the integrity of the team as a whole. In
this situation, you need to demonstrate both solid judgment and firm courage
based on the well-being of the team
Provide Opportunities for Building Relationships
Relationship building is an ongoing
process, not a single event. If a team
is naturally working effectively
together, there is little reason to
organize relationship-building
opportunities. However, if the team is
not cohesive or the team is just
beginning, then it is important for the
leader to step in and start the
relationship-building process.
Structured relationship-building opportunities are best when the team has
a retreat away from the workplace, where distractions are minimal.
Informal potluck lunches, after hour parties, or formal off-site teambuilding
sessions can all have significant payoffs in improved interpersonal