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What creates a successful team?

September 15, 2017

Teamwork is said to “divide the tasks and double the success.” Teamwork can add greatly to the effectiveness of any communication endeavor, but can also be the source of much frustration if handled improperly.

 

I have led and been a part of many “teams” – teams of coworkers, teams of volunteers, short-term teams, long-term teams, small teams, large teams, teams that work elbow-to-elbow, and teams that work virtually across time and space, even sports teams long, long ago…

 

I have also taught college students how to work in teams and coached them through to completion. As a result, I have observed and learned several strategies that help teams thrive. As I approach the onset of coordinating 48 fellow authors in writing a book on behalf of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, successful teamwork is front and center in my mind.

 

The first chapter to be completed was written as a team with Sonja Stetzler, MA, RDN, LDN, a gifted nutrition communicator. Part of the chapter covers effective teamwork and describes the characteristics of successful teams. See if this list, which is an adaptation of what we included in the book, resonates with your experience working in teams.

 

Essential Characteristics of Successful Teams:

  • A common vision – assures that the entire team is aware of the “why” for the team – and is able to clearly and concisely define the team’s purpose and goals.
    If team members have separate agendas - teamwork won’t happen.

     

  • Trust – is essential. Trust is built through empathy and communication. Trust promotes security, sharing, collaboration, risk-taking and innovation, and productivity. Build trust.
    Without trust -  there is no team.

     

  • Effective communication – allows teams to work productively and joyfully together. No one feels left out. Effective communication builds trust, which further enables open and effective communication. Ideas and concerns are shared and listened to without judgment. Feedback is given constructively.
    A breakdown in communication - anywhere in the team - leads to problems.

     

  • Accountability – and shared responsibility is what “divides the tasks and doubles the success.” When team members know their role in the team and are provided with the tools, skills, and support needed to fulfill their roles, they can be held accountable for accomplishing all they are responsible for.
    Team members who don’t fulfill their responsibilities - bring down the entire team.

     

  • Conflict resolution – is a necessary skill for team members because conflict is inevitable. In fact, constructive conflict is desirable. It can make a team stronger by preventing “groupthink” and encouraging diverse ideas. Resolving differences with open communication and respect is critical for successful teams.
    When conflict remains unresolved - teamwork is undermined and productivity diminishes.

     

  • Recognition – and appreciation for progress and achievement promotes more effort within a team, especially for ongoing or challenging projects. Regular encouragement and well-deserved praise can be more appreciated than award certificates or prizes.
    When team members don’t feel appreciated - they are less likely to do their part.

Which characteristics of successful teams have you experienced that really made a team you were a part of work well? Would you like a future blog to tackle one of these characteristics in more depth? Post your thoughts in the comments.

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