How to know if your teams are working effectively

A team is a group of people working together toward a common goal. The beauty of teams is that they can accomplish far more than the same number of people working independently.

This is another way of saying that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.

But not all teams are equal. Some accomplish less than others. Some have more internal conflict. Some have less satisfied members.

Working EffectivelyWhat makes a team effective? How do highly effective teams differ from average and below average teams?

First, we have to clarify what we mean by “effective.” To be effective, a team has to be successful in meeting the goals that have been set for it.

Goals can be related to high sales, customer satisfaction, customer retention or low rates of error. In other words, effectiveness means getting results, not just assembling team members who get along well or like their jobs.

A landmark study of 80,000 managers by the Gallup Organization identified 12 questions that, together, comprise the most powerful measure of the effectiveness of a work force or team. The researchers found that teams that gave positive responses to all or most of these 12 questions earned higher profits, were more productive as business units, retained more employees and satisfied more customers.

A wise manager will read these questions carefully and seek to create a work environment where employees will answer them in the affirmative:

  1. Do I know what is expected of me at work?
  2. Do I have the materials and equipment I need to do my work?
  3. Do I have the opportunity to do what I do best every day?
  4. In the last seven days, have I received recognition or praise for doing good work?
  5. Does my supervisor or someone at work seem to care about me as a person?
  6. Is there someone at work who encourages my development?
  7. Do my opinions seem to count?
  8. Does the mission/purpose of my company make me feel my job is important?
  9. Are my co-workers committed to doing quality work?
  10. Do I have a best friend at work?
  11. In the last six months, has someone at work talked to me about my progress?
  12. This past year, have I had the opportunity at work to learn and grow?

The same study also identified characteristics of the most effective managers. Some of these may surprise you because they go against common wisdom.

The most effective managers hire employees for talent, which can’t be taught – not for skills or experience, which can. Then they train for skills and experience.

These managers define the desired outcomes but let employees choose the steps to reach those outcomes. In other words, effective managers don’t micromanage employees.

One of the more surprising findings is that effective managers don’t waste time trying to correct employees’ weaknesses. Instead, they seek to pull out and build upon their strengths. They know that a person’s temperament and personality do not change much or easily. Someone who does not like public speaking is not likely to become a charismatic spokesperson for the team.

Someone who hates math is not likely to become the team’s financial or statistical expert. But perhaps that employee excels at something else and can become a highly valued team member by developing that talent.

Finally, effective managers try to help employees find the job that is the best fit for them, not necessarily a promotion. Remember the Peter Principle? It is the observation that companies tend to promote successful employees until they reach a position for which they are not well-suited and in which they don’t perform well, and that is where they stay.

Effective managers understand this dynamic and try to avoid it by matching employees to the jobs they are best suited for so they can succeed. A promotion is not always in an employee’s best interest. We should reward employees for getting better in their current positions so they don’t feel pressure to seek ill-suited promotions.

By applying these findings regarding effective teams and successful managers, chances are you can significantly improve the effectiveness of your own team or teams.

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