Effective Teams

Eight Characteristics of Effective Teams

by Jerry Dugan

“Individuals play the game, but teams beat the odds.” SEAL Team saying

A team is a small number of people with complementary skills who are committed to a common purpose, goals, and approach where there is mutual accountability according to Katzenbach and Smith in their work titled The Wisdom of Teams: Creating the High-Performance Organization. Teamwork, therefore, is the process, dynamic, or activity of a team used to achieve a common end-game.

Beyond the Rut episode 008 talks about the importance of networking as part of making your own path towards success. Through networking, you can build a team of people who can collaborate to help each other achieve something greater than if anyone worked alone.

Here are eight characteristics of effective teams:

  1. The team must have a clear, specific goal. Why have the training or instruction at all?
  2. The team must have a results-driven structure. What are your objectives to achieve a goal?
  3. The team must have competent members.
  4. The team must have unified commitment. This is where having a clear, specific goal is important. It is the glue that holds the team together.
  5. The team must have a collaborative climate.
  6. The team must have high standards that are understood by all.
  7. The team must receive external support and encouragement. External support would include the management or leadership of an organization, but could include technical resources like the IT Department or maintenance or custodial team.
  8. The team must have principled leadership.

It is when teams have competent members with clear and specific direction that they are able to achieve more than what any one individual could have accomplished. Effective teamwork allows for synergy of skills and exponential results of the team’s efforts.

Competent Team Members

In order for teams to experience success, it is important that individual team members have the following characteristics: communication, commitment, and responsible decision-making skills.

Open, honest communication is vital both horizontally among other team members as well as vertically with leadership and subordinates. Communication allows teams to make adjustments as information and situations change, and align the team’s efforts towards the common purpose or goal.

Lack of communication results in a product that is merely a hodge-podge of poorly connected efforts, whereas effective communication creates a finished product that is seamless.

Commitment is required of team members who are willing to set aside individual gain for the sake of the greater good and success of the team. Team members who are committed to the team are able to keep their efforts and the efforts of other team members focused on the task at hand.

A team member’s effect on a team is only as good as that team member’s ability to make sound decisions. Good communication and commitment can be undermined by a member who consistently makes poor decisions and judgments in a project (Thornton, 2009.) One example of a good, sound decision, is to complete assigned tasks as early as possible so that other project components can come together in a timely fashion allowing for any necessary adjustments, or communicating with the rest of the team early when a delay is possible.

What other key ingredients do you feel play a role in having effective teams? Comment below.


“Building Blocks for Teams.” Building Blocks for Teams. Ed. Elizabeth J. Pyatt. Penn State University. Web. 25 Mar. 2012. <http://tlt.its.psu.edu/suggestions/teams/about/definition.html>.

Larson, Carl E., and Frank M. J. LaFasto. Teamwork: What Must Go Right, What Can Go Wrong. Newbury Park, CA: SAGE Publications, 1989. Print.

This post originally appeared on EdTechJerry.

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