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Teamwork Success Tips

Teamwork Success Tip #1: It is important for people to know where the effort is going.

Unfortunately, we often make a lot of assumptions when we are working with groups. We assume that we are all “on the same page,” that we all know where we are headed and how we are getting there. We also too often assume that we all share a similar world view, that we will see problems—and solutions—similarly.

Our experience working with teams across the country on a variety of collaborative topics suggests that groups should invest time in explicit conversations about these issues. Assuring that all members are, in fact, “on the same page” about the team’s purpose, the values underlying the work, and the specific work activities the team will undertake, will take your group a long way toward a truly collaborative relationship.

Need help in this area? Explore the following section of this Web site, which includes additional information about these topics and tools to help guide your team.

Click here for additional information on Vision and Values.

Teamwork Success Tip #2: It is important for people to understand what is expected of them.

Most people strive to do what is right, what is expected of them. We often take for granted that people know intuitively what we need or want from them. Have you ever experienced a group member that has so much to offer but seems to give so little? Quite possibly this person simply does not know what you need or want from them. He or she might not even understand why you have them involved in your group to begin with.

Typically when we form new groups, someone—whether one person single–handedly or a small sub–set of persons—considers carefully the assets, skills, experience, and knowledge needed on the team. But when it comes time to actually invite the chosen few to participate, we neglect to tell people why we are asking them, as if they would understand automatically.

Need help in this area? Explore the following section of this Web site, which includes additional information about these topics and tools to help guide your team.

Click here for additional information on Roles and Responsibilities.

Teamwork Success Tip #3: It is important for people to be held responsible to the group. This won’t turn them off. Instead, it will turn them on.

It is very likely that your team will include the most talented and resourceful people you can assemble on a given topic. They are therefore likely to be busy and you will consider yourself fortunate to have secured their participation on your team. You might fear placing too much burden on them. You may quietly hope they will volunteer to undertake certain tasks or gingerly suggest their involvement in a specific area or on a subcommittee. Because you consider their involvement—which is most likely a voluntary assignment on top of all of their other responsibilities—a gift, you may be reluctant to expect too much and especially to establish any form of accountability for agreements made.

Consider this issue from another dimension: people appreciate being associated with successful efforts, especially if those efforts tap into their own passions and interests. But successful efforts grow out of commitment, and commitment generally translates to effort. Busy people have time, if it is time well spent. But time is wasted when concrete actions that advance the group’s efforts aren’t taken. High performance groups are clear about their expectations of the group—that it be productive and action oriented—and therefore about their expectations of one another.

Need help in this area? Explore the following section of this Web site, which includes additional information about these topics and tools to help guide your team.

Click here for additional information on Ground Rules.

Teamwork Success Tip #4: Every meeting results in a product.

It is important that team meetings are productive—team members should leave each session with the sense that something important has been accomplished. Meetings that fail to be productive may leave team members resentful because they are dedicating their limited time and resources to an effort where there is no identifiable product that results from their hard work. Therefore, it is critical that each meeting be action oriented and result in a concrete product.

As such, meetings should be well organized, leaving no participant confused about their role or what is expected of them; should be driven by a structured agenda; and should be facilitated by an individual who can ensure that the meeting stay on topic and that the team develop products as a result of each meeting. Products might include a work plan or timeline (updated periodically to show the team’s progress), a meeting record or other documentation of the team’s decisions, or other written work products developed during or as a result of the team’s meetings – the important thing is that some tangible product is created as a result of each team session. Insisting that this occur helps to reduce the occurrence of unnecessary meetings: if during the planning process, a product cannot be identified, then there does not need to be a meeting!