Tips for Building a Great Team

In his new book Smarter, Faster, Better, Charles Duhigg looks at what makes a great team. One case study looks at Google where a group of innovative thinkers spent four years trying to answer this question. First, they looked at who was on a team and could find no pattern. It was only when they looked at how teams worked that they found the magic.

teamworkWhat do the most productive teams have in common?

  • The team has a clear goal.
  • Members believe the work they’re doing is important and that their role on the team is important.
  • Everyone gets to talk.
  • Everyone listens.
  • Team members know they can depend on each other.

If you’re part of a team that’s struggling, here are a few ideas to help get you back on track.

  • Make sure your team has a clear goal, a defined outcome, and an attainable schedule, to give the team direction and momentum.
  • If you’re on a team where someone isn’t contributing, try to bring them into the discussion. Maybe they need to feel more supported to open up. Or maybe they don’t know how important this work is. Or maybe they shouldn’t be on this team. How many times have you found yourself sitting in a meeting wondering why you’re there? Teams works best when everyone contributes – so make that a goal.
  • Does your team struggle with over-talkers, where one or two people do most of the talking? To counteract this, be a wonderful listener. Don’t interrupt. And repeat back or summarize key points made by others. We all want to feel listened to. A great way to do that is by listening.
  • On productive teams, everyone voices their opinions and feels safe taking risks. Maybe the team you’re on doesn’t feel like a safe place to bring up mistakes. If so, try offering some of your own. Admit to what you don’t know and others will follow suit.
  • Or maybe the team you’re on has a trust problem. Sometimes teams pretend to get along and then bash the ideas once the meeting breaks up, leaving everyone feeling distrustful. You want to know that team members have your back. So have their back! No post-meeting bashing, please. If tensions arise in a meeting, try to call them out and get issues resolved while you’re all together.

Being part of a winning, productive team is awesome. It’s worth your time to help make it happen. Lead on, fearless organizers!

Janie Downey
Co-founder Catalog University
Founder of the blog Organizational Habits
207-233-3339

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