12 Characteristics of Effective Teams

Effective TeamsHave you ever asked what the characteristics of effective teams are? Well, this is a common – and legitimate – question by any manager of any type at any level, and for any type of team, being a regular formal work team, self-managed team, project team, and so on. Team effectiveness (also referred to as group effectiveness) is the capacity a team has to accomplish the goals or objectives administered by an authorized personnel or the organization (Aube & Rousseau, 2011). In fact, the characteristic feature of effective teams is the interlocking of functional and social factors. The more these two areas can be aligned, the more effective the team’s performance will be.


On a professional level, the team members share a common objective that can only be achieved when they work with each other. Their work is therefore goal-oriented and characterized by interdependence. As a social group, the team depends on mutual contact and communication as well as a clear division of roles and clear rules, in short: structured relationships. It defines itself as a common social unit within the company. The attitudes and behavior of the members influence one another. The motivation of each member depends on the extent to which his personal needs are satisfied. These include, for example, financial security, a good working environment, or personal respect.


A mature, efficient team only gradually develops after it has solved some problems, deepened relationships and clearly defined roles. According to Francis & Young in their book “Improving Work Groups: A Practical Manual for Team Building,” effective teams are characterized by the 12 characteristics. I am discussing them below for their importance in building and developing teams that are capable of achieving outstanding results.


1. Qualification

Effective teams have members who are qualified for their tasks and able to apply their skills within the team in order to achieve a balanced mix of talent and personality. The contrasting and complementary talents are one of the main advantages of an effective team.


2. Engagement

The members identify with the team goals and objectives. They‘re willing to invest in building the team and to support the other members. Even outside the team, the members feel connected to each other and are able to represent the interests of their group.


3. Climate

There‘s a team climate that makes the members feel comfortable. They can speak openly and directly with one another and are willing to take on risks. The established rules define the life of the team. After a while, these rules become practice and are passed on to new team members. This interaction of traditions, habits, relationships, practices, rules, beliefs and attitudes gives each team its distinctive character, referred to as “climate.” And believe me positive and constructive climate is one of the important characteristics of effective teams.


4. Proficiency

The team knows its goals and considers them as something worth striving for. These might require some effort, but are still achievable. The team members mainly focus their energies on achieving results. They are able to critically review their work to determine where and what improvements are needed.


5. Role in the Organization

The team is involved in the overall planning and has a clearly defined and useful function within the overall organization. The team identifies itself as part of the whole organization. It considers itself a necessary ingredient for successful achievement of organizational goals.


6. Work Methods

The team has found practical, systematic and effective ways to collaboratively solve problems. It has efficient means to achieve its goals. The design of work roles and the assignments of people to them determine how efficiently the team carries out its work. Performance will suffer if a team has talented people but they are given tasks for which their skills are irrelevant, or if the team uses performance strategy that is not consistent with members skills. Team performance also depends on the extent to which the interdependent activities of different members are mutually consistent and synchronized.


7. Leadership

The team leader considers managing the group a collective task. He/she has the talent and willingness to work closely with the team and invest time in its development. Not only the supervisor assumes leadership functions; each team member has the chance to do so if his specialized knowledge and talent are needed to achieve the common objective. Experienced teams that precisely know the strengths of their members, reorganize themselves for each new task and assign leadership responsibilities according to their specific skills.


8. Organization

A team‘s fundamental pillars are clearly defined roles, a good flow of information, and administrative support. Team performance will be higher when members have the knowledge and the skills necessary to do the work; and they understand what to do, how to do it, and when it must be done. Effective teams have clearly explained members’ responsibilities and relevant procedures for performing specific types of activities. A high level of coordination is especially important when the team performs a complex task under rapidly changing conditions. Believe me, this high degree of synergy and coordination is what makes a high performing team.


9. Criticism

In effective teams, criticism is welcome and encouraged. When discussing mistakes and weaknesses, members refrain from personal attacks – the main focus is to learn from the criticism. This capacity for constructive criticism furthers the development of the team. A climate of appreciation makes it easier to accept criticism. In fact, mutual trust is an important determinant of team performance where member roles are highly interdependent.


10. Personal Development and Collective Learning

Members are consciously looking for new experiences and bring in their personality. A mature team ensures that each member can develop his own personal skills and strengths. Everybody feels valued for his individual strengths, and his skills benefit the team as a whole. This process leads to collective learning within the team. Collective learning emerges because of interactive mechanisms where individual knowledge is shared, disseminated, diffused, and further developed through relational and belonging synergies. It is this characteristic that makes teams, effective, successful, high performing, and long-lasting.


11. Creativity

Through its interaction, the team has the ability to develop new ideas, promote innovative risks and accept and implement new ideas from within or outside of the team. This characteristic can be the result of personal development and collective learning discussed just above. This high degree of coordination, collaboration, synergy, and collective learning will lead to creative and innovative ways of achieving the tasks effectively and successfully.


12. Relationships With Other Groups

The team has systematically established contacts with other groups, thereby developing open and personal relationships that ensure optimal collaboration. Through regular contact with other teams, it coordinates the jointly developed priorities or those stipulated “from above.” Team members have a personal interest in maintaining contact with colleagues in other teams and to collaborate with them. In fact, team performance depends upon adjusting their activities to be consistent with the activities in other parts of the organization. And the importance of this external coordination increases as interdependence increases.


So these were 12 important characteristics of effective teams that I believe are essential to have in any type of team. They ensure success and high performance with high degree of effectiveness and efficiency. I encourage anyone who manages a team to build and develop these characteristics in their teams.


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