However, while there’s no secretly guarded formula for building effective teams, there are proven techniques that, with the right combination of focus and management discipline, will increase your chances of success.
FIVE TECHNIQUES FOR BUILDING EFFECTIVE TEAMS
- Create inspiring mission and vision statements
- Hire effective employees who are a cultural fit
- Develop a six- to eight-week orientation program
- Hold regular and consistent team meetings
- Schedule regular team social events
MISSION AND VISION STATEMENTS
Without inspiring mission and vision statements that guide the organization, building an effective team is nearly impossible. Sure, almost every company has a mission and vision statement, but so many of these statements are merely plaques on a wall rather than the foundational underpinnings of the organization. A mission statement describes the fundamental purpose of why an organization exist, and unless you hire team members who believe in that fundamental purpose, they’ll never truly be on the team. A vision statement describes an organization’s hopes and dreams for the future. If everyone on your team shares a common vision, then the team becomes much more effective.
I was working with a company and asked the team of executives if they had a mission and vision statement. Of course, two of the executives gave me two different answers – one said that they did, while another thought that they didn’t. If the executive team of an organization can’t decide whether a mission and vision statement exist, then they probably don’t.
Why do I believe that mission and vision statements are so important? If you’re going to build an effective team, then one of the key elements of team morale is to have common beliefs and a common culture. Having strong, inspiring mission and vision statements that are lived within the organization will help to build not only a common belief system, but also a culture to support that belief.
THE IMPACT OF HIRING ON BUILDING EFFECTIVE TEAMS
When you’re building an effective team, there are two questions that must be weighed. First, is the person highly competent? If so, the individual will make the team more effective. If not, that same person could grind your team to a halt. Second, and perhaps more important, is the applicant a good cultural fit? Far too many people in leadership hire for competence, but not for culture. They have a position that needs to be filled, and it needed to be filled last week.
Unfortunately, team members who are poor cultural fits often become problem employees. If you want to build an effective team, then hire for culture first and competency second. After all, you can improve an employee’s competency through training and education. You can rarely change a person’s values or belief system.
Building an effective team doesn’t end with the job offer. The job offer is just the beginning. Once the offer is accepted, the onboarding process can either enhance your team building or be an impediment to the process. Unfortunately, I see many companies, of all sizes, who don’t give a new employee appropriate or proper orientation to put them on the path to success.
Additionally, making team members an integral part of the hiring process is a great way to build effective teams. Get your staff involved in the interviewing process and ask them to provide you with their feedback and impressions of the applicant. Having them involved shows you respect their opinions and will build a much better sense of team. If they provide positive feedback on a candidate who is hired, then they’ll feel a sense of accomplishment. Even if you hire a candidate who some team members don’t like, they’ll at least feel as though they were part of the process.
The additional benefit of including your employees in the hiring process is that when the new employee starts, he or she will not feel like a complete stranger; they will have already been introduced to members of the team during the interview process.
When you hire well, it benefits the existing team in two ways. First, they’ll have colleagues who pull their weight (which they deserve) and second, the visibility of the team will be enhanced in a positive way.
CHANGE YOUR THINKING ABOUT ORIENTATION
It befuddles me that many companies don’t provide a proper orientation for new employees. The reason for this, they often tell me, is that they don’t have enough new hires to have an “orientation class.” Orientation, however, is not necessarily a scheduled, classroom event – although many large companies hold weekly or biweekly orientation sessions for new hires simply because of their size.
A more-effective orientation – not only for the new employee, but also for effective team building, is a six- to eight-week process that allows new employees to learn their job responsibilities, how their job relates to other roles within the team, and the organization’s history and culture.
So, would you like a sure-fire guaranteed way to have a more-effective orientation program? Of course you would. It’s simple. All you need to do is create a six- to eight-week plan that lays out what the new employee will be doing during that time. When they arrive for their first day on the job, have their manager review the plan with them. This not only makes the new employee feel like they are valued as a new team member, but also dramatically increases the possibility of being successful in their new role.
An additional way to build an effective team is to assign each team member a role in the orientation plan, with the goal that the new employee works for a time with each team member throughout the orientation period to learn new skills and information.
Finally, if you want to turbocharge your orientation process, then start the process at the end of the interview cycle rather than on the first day of work. It is in those last few interviews before the candidate is hired that team expectations can be described in detail so that the new employee already knows what to expect before they start.
BUILDING EFFECTIVE TEAMS REQUIRES REGULAR AND CONSISTENT TEAM MEETINGS
I worked with a manager who was concerned that his team was not performing like a cohesive unit. He requested that I conduct a one-day training program. His objective? For his team to really feel like a team by the end of the day.
Don’t we wish that effective team building was this easy?
While you can’t build a team in a day (the process could easily take 12 to 18 months, depending on barriers and obstacles that have to be overcome along the way), in a single day you can start the process of building a team bond.
Effective teams have effective team meetings. Period. How do you have effective team meetings? Try these three tactics.
First, make sure a meeting agenda is always sent to the team in advance of the meeting. A meeting agenda not only helps your team adequately prepare for what is going to be discussed, but also allows them the opportunity to add necessary and important items to the agenda. If your team has a say in shaping the content of the meeting, then they’re much more likely to buy into the meeting itself.
Second, rotate the responsibility of meeting facilitation from team member to team member. This gives each team member the responsibility and involvement of leading the meeting at various times.
Third, always encourage and foster open and honest communication among all team members. What does this mean? It means that if there are issues between team members, they must be worked out now. Also insist that people be honest with one another. I have attended meetings where there were obvious issues that were being ignored, danced around, and denied, with the result being that it eroded the effectiveness of the team.
THE IMPORTANCE OF TEAM SOCIALS
First, let’s define what a team social is and is not. A team social is a specifically defined team event, such as attending a baseball game or soccer match – or some other public event – that is sponsored by the organization. It is not a few of the staff members having a casual beer together after work on Friday night.
At a training event I conducted, the leader planned a nice dinner cruise to cap the day’s activities. Obviously, the purpose of the cruise was not to conduct business in a formal sense, but rather to provide team members an opportunity to socialize and get to know each other a bit better. The more people on your team know about each other, the more they can build trust and rapport – which are essential elements to building effective teams.
Here are my tips for effective team socials.
- First, make sure everyone is invited and included. If you plan an event that naturally excludes people – for instance, a golf outing when you know that half your team doesn’t play golf – then you’ll create a sense of exclusivity rather than inclusivity.
- Second, make sure that whatever you plan, it will not offend anyone on your team. For instance, that off-Broadway play that includes lots of profanity and partial nudity might not be your best idea.
- Third, once a year consider an event that includes employees’ families or significant others. This allows team members to not only get to know other employees at a deeper level, but also their families.