Seven characteristics of strong teams

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The essence of leadership is found in team building and development where leaders apply specific skills to the task of bringing a diverse group of individuals together into an effective working team.  

Leadership is ultimately an act of faith in other people. Adhering to their personal vision, leaders apply specific skills and abilities to energizing, motivating and guiding the action and direction of their teams. Additionally, leaders use their ability to delegate authority and empower their teams to implement and execute the specific strategies developed within the team environment. However, it is a mistake for leaders to assume that teams can totally operate on their own without guidance, direct ion and intervention from their leaders.

Within the team environment, leaders need to exert specific skills that allow them to share their vision and develop cooperation that ultimately creates a synergy that energizes the team and makes it thrive. Without active leadership, many working groups and teams will ultimately become lost and ineffective. It is important for leaders not only to cheer and motivate their teams, but also to guide and direct them.

Leaders must understand that they cannot simply label a group of individuals as a team or working group and then expect them to automatically blend themselves into an effective working unit. Rather, leaders must be actively involved and exert direct leadership upon their teams in order for them to develop and build the strength that energizes their actions and direction. The elements that build team strength and energy include:

Shared Vision

One of the hallmarks of effective leadership is a personal vision defining where it is leaders think the organization should be heading. One of the first tasks leaders should focus on when developing effective work teams is that of communicating their personal vision to their team. However, communication alone is not sufficient; leaders must also sell their teams on the vision so that it becomes a shared driving force for the entire team.

Mutual Goals

When teams and working groups are ultimately established, individual team members bring a diverse group of goals and objectives to the table. Leaders must blend those goals and objectives so that all team members share those that best fit the interests of the team. As this occurs, individual team members will set aside their personal goals and agendas for those of the team.

Shared Purpose

People are naturally driven to work toward something larger than themselves. As teams d evelop and blend, they create a shared purpose that motivates and energizes individual team members toward the accomplishment of collective goals and objectives. These individual members understand that accomplishment of a shared purpose is greater than what they can achieve on their own.

Mutual Respect

One of the hallmarks of effective teams is the mutual respect that individual team members have for one another regardless of their divergent viewpoints and perspectives. When destructive personal behaviors that sap team strength are eliminated and people understand the value of the feedback and contributions made by all team members, mutual respect is developed and cultivated. A critical aspect of the team culture, this respect is nurtured by team rules, roles and boundaries. Any undermining of mutual respect within the team is corrosive and destructive to the future actions of the team.  

Embedded Best Practices

As organizations change and evolve and teams are developed and dismantled, specific best practices that have evolved and been proven over time should become crystallized and embedded within the organization. These best practices eliminate the need for each and every team to "reinvent the wheel" and allow them to get a jump start on their programs and projects. However, over time some "best practices" can become outmoded and outdated, used only because of their duration and implementation by other teams. Leaders should observe and review their best practices to assure that they are both effective and productive and do not hinder the performance of their teams.

Time to Develop and Grow

Team development must be fostered by allowing teams the time to go through various stages of development, and grow into effective working units. As each team is unique, development time will vary according to the experience and expertis e of its members. Experienced and seasoned individuals who have worked together previously can appreciably shorten the time required to build team strength and develop into a working unit.

Setting Their Own Direction

Teams build strength, energize and motivate themselves when they are given the space to set their own direction. While leaders play an active role in guiding and directing their team, they should allow it the latitude to create its own rules, roles, boundaries, goals and ultimate direction.

Within some organizational settings, effective teams can become self-managing with minimal intervention by leaders; in other environments, active leadership intervention, direction and guidance is required. The degree of guidance and direction will depend on the maturity and responsibilities of individual team members. The overall goal of leaders should be to incrementally surrender more of their authority to their teams. As teams grow and demonstrate their effectiveness, leaders will develop increased confidence in their ability to assume specific roles, authority and responsibility.

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