I have always asked myself: what are the prerequisites for effective team performance? That is a legitimate and important question to be asked by any manager or any team leader. In my previous post: “12 Characteristics of Effective Teams” here, I have discussed what distinguishes effective teams from non-effective ones. And I want to discuss with you what those prerequisites for effective team performance are, those determinants that help develop effective teams. So let’s find out.
Prerequisite 1: The team requires clearly defined tasks and roles.
Team performance will be higher when members have the knowledge and skills necessary to do the work, and they understand what to do, how to do it, and when it must be done. It is important that each team member is assigned a specific function and role, or is able to assume them himself. Additionally, individual members should not only be accepted by their colleagues regarding their role and task, they must also accept themselves in these roles. Otherwise a productive collaboration won‘t develop. An unclear division of responsibilities or a poor understanding of roles makes it impossible for the team to exploit its full performance capacity. As a consequence, ongoing difficulties might develop (communication problems, disputes over matters of competence, etc.). This in turn means that the team deals with its internal group dynamic problems on a factual level, so that optimal decision-making is no longer possible.
Therefore, at appropriate times in the performance cycle, leaders can assess the skills of current members to identify any deficiencies, provide constructive feedback and coaching, and arrange for members to receive necessary instruction in other ways (e.g., from more experienced members, or in workshops and courses). Continuous communication with team members about who is responsible for what, when, how, and why is very crucial effective team performance.
Prerequisite 2: The team needs commitment to objectives and strategies.
Members commitment to task objectives and performance strategies for attaining them facilitates cooperation, innovation, and extra effort to accomplish difficult tasks. Whether the objectives is set externally or the team sets its own objectives itself is not important. But it is critical that the members acknowledge the team’s common task, that they consider it important and accept it. In order for these performance goals to be acknowledged, the objective and subjective goals must match to some extent. That means: While achieving externally imposed objectives, the individual team member must also be able to satisfy his personal goals (such as his need for security, recognition, success and responsibility). If this isn’t possible, both the individual team member and the entire team will sooner or later turn against the overall goals, and sabotage them through loss of interest, indifference or rebellion.
So how can a leader increase member commitment to team objectives and strategies? Here are five simple ways to do that:
- The leader should articulate an appealing vision that links the team objectives to member values and ideals.
- The leader should explain why a project or new initiative is important.
- The leader should set task objectives that are clear and challenging.
- The leader should plan relevant performance strategies for attaining the objectives.
- The leader should empower members to participate in planning activities and developing creative solutions to problems.
Prerequisite 3: The team requires internal organization and coordination
The performance of a team depends not only on the motivation and skills of members, but also on how members are organized to use their skills. The design of work roles and the assignment of people to them determine how efficiently the team carries out its work. Effective team performance also depends on the extent to which the interdependent activities of different members are mutually consistent and synchronized. A high level of coordination is especially important when the team performs a complex task under rapidly changing conditions.
Here are six relevant leadership behaviors that would ensure internal organization and coordination in effective teams:
- The leader should plan how to make efficient use of personnel and other required resources.
- The leader should make contingency plans to deal with possible obstacles and emergencies.
- The leader should involve members with relevant expertise in planning team activities.
- The leader should conduct meetings to collectively solve problems and plan activities.
- The leader should plan how to schedule and sequence activities to avoid unnecessary delays or wasted time.
- The leader should actively monitor and direct the work.
Prerequisite 4: The team needs to be able to communicate.
This is one of the most essential conditions for the development and continued existence of a team. Communication is the medium that supports all social interaction. It allows individual team members to leverage the experiences of other team members, and find solutions that others might have missed.
Communication is the most important tool of the team. The team communicates to analyze problems, to reach decisions, and to coordinate individual tasks within the team in order to achieve the common goal. In addition, communication allows the team to identify and solve its internal problems and difficulties. It also serves to facilitate contact with other teams within the company, and to combine the various achievements into a meaningful whole. Information received strictly “from above” can never replace the necessary communication within each team. The larger the team, the more vulnerable it is to conflicts that can be traced to poor or restricted communication among its members. Open and honest communication among all team members is an essential prerequisite for effective team performance.
Prerequisite 5: The team requires cooperation and mutual trust
Cooperation and mutual trust are important determinants of performance in effective teams where member roles are highly interdependent. A high level of cooperation and mutual trust is more likely when members identify with the team or work unit, value their membership, and are very cohesive.
There are many ways a leader can increase cooperation and mutual trust within the team. Here are four of them:
- The leader should articulate an appealing vision of what the team can jointly accomplish.
- The leader should use symbols and rituals to make membership more unique and desirable.
- The leader should conduct team building activities on regular basis.
- The leader should make recognition and rewards contingent on member contributions to the overall team performance.
So these are five prerequisites for effective team performance I want to share with you. Always work to develop them in your team to ensure success. They help achieve goals and objectives effectively and efficiently. What do you think? Do you agree? Do you suggest other prerequisites? Feel free to comment or share your suggestion with us.
This post is inspired by the book: “Leadership in Organization” by Gary Yukl, 8th Global Edition, 2012. Pearson.
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