Characteristics of Effective Teamwork

... think synergy

Characteristics of Effective Teamwork

... think synergy

There are numerous characteristics of effective teamwork. Whilst every team and context is different, identifying and building on these characteristics is essential for any team leader.

Think about how you might create a team that not only performs, but that sustains high performance, consistently. This article begins by identifying some key characteristics of effective teamwork. Then it examines what we think is an often overlooked key: a focus on the value of synergy.

Key characteristics of effective teamwork

High performing teams will probably have most, if not all of the following characteristics. They:

  • Jointly set and agree the vision and purpose of the team
  • Agree the way the team will operate to achieve its goals.
  • Commit to succeed, often going the ‘extra mile’ to reach personal targets and support other team members to achieve theirs.
  • Communicate freely, honestly and continually, offering and receiving communication in a positive spirit.
  • Trust in each other to deliver what they promise.
  • Maintain positive attitudes, providing support and encouragement where needed.
  • All pull their weight, based on individual strengths, and (crucially) pulling in the same direction.
  • Commit to consensus building and effective, speedy, conflict resolution.
  • Monitor performance against targets and commit to seeking remedial action where necessary.
  • Strive to achieve high performance and high standards.
  • Enjoy and celebrate being part of the team.
The value of synergy

Often overlooked, one of the crucial characteristics of effective teamwork is the value of synergy. Synergy, according to the Cambridge Dictionary, is:

the combined power of a group of things when they are working together that is greater than the total power achieved by each working separately:

Team work at its best results in a synergy that can be very productive.

Characteristics of effective teamwork: castellersThis is well illustrated in the example of Spain’s castellers. These are teams of ‘human tower’ builders, competing in annual cultural performances. Literally building on each others’ strength to assemble and dis-assemble a human pyramid, as quickly and safely as possible.

The festival competitions are both spectacular and clear examples of the power of synergy. No individual in the team could possibly achieve what the team creates together. High performance in more ways than one!

Typically team synergy is demonstrated when:

  • The team finds new ways of working.
  • Team members initiate change.
  • The team sets fresh challenges.
  • Team members spread good practice.
  • Team members coach and support each other and start to do so with other teams.
  • Team members take the lead more often in their area of expertise.
  • Connections are made across team, more widely across the organisation and with customers which bring increasing value to what the team does.

To encourage and build on the benefits of synergy, team leaders should consider:

  • Focusing on bringing things together – ideas, people, skills, other teams – so that they combine in a way that delivers much more than if they were apart.
  • Encouraging the team to take on fresh challenges.
  • Supporting new skills development or the renewal/growth of existing strengths.
  • Encouraging individuals to experience flow (the sense of working at peak performance, where skills and level of challenge are matched) in what they do.
  • Promoting innovation.
  • Seeking opportunities for individual and team strengths to be disseminated both within the team and beyond.
  • Encourage the team to be outward looking: connecting, encouraging, finding potential.
  • Releasing team members to lead themselves.

By this stage of team development, it will be increasingly managing, if not leading itself, as the maturity and capability of team members becomes more evident. The leader’s role then becomes one of serving the team by helping to create the conditions for high performance.

Synergy is one of the distinguishing characteristics of effective teamwork, but it is not always easily found. There does need to be a sense of vigilance and determination to reap the rewards of a team that is performing for the wider benefit of the organization.

STAR Teams

This article is part of our series on stages of team development using our STAR team modelWhat is Teamwork?This model illustrates that effective teamwork in the workplace happens when four elements (Strengths, Teamwork, Alignment and Results) are in place:

  • Individuals flourish as they use and develop their Strengths
  • People come together building relationships that result in effective Teamwork
  • The team leader Aligns the team through effective communication of purpose, so that individual strengths combine with teamwork to deliver the teams results
  • Together everyone achieves more as performance flows and Results that are meaningful and rewarding to the team are achieved

A different emphasis and focus for each of the STAR model elements is needed at different stages of the team’s development. But whatever stage your team is at, too much emphasis on the individual can cause significant problems.

Putting the characteristics of effective teamwork into practice

This is one of the articles in our teamwork series. But for some practical team building techniques, look at our great-value e-guides here.

Teams e-guidesIf you want to put our teamwork concepts into action, you’ll find more information and a wealth of practical resources, in our colossal Team Building Bundle.

Containing 240 pages and 50 tools, these are the 8 key guides we recommend to help you do more than define teamwork, build it!

Why is Teamwork Important
Build a Better Team
The Problems with Teams
Team Health Check
Team Building Exercises
Leading with Style and Focus
What’s the Problem?
Making Better Decisions

These are fantastic little e-books, very thorough, easy to follow

We’ve used [the guides] as support tools for learners on our talent management programmes which has saved me a lot of time and a lot of money. I’d definitely recommend them.

Kieleigh - United Kingdom

Looking for more teams resources?

Try our great value e-guides

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