Leading Effective Teams

Elements of creating professional teams

Diversity

A factor to consider when creating professional teams or work groups is diversity. According to Frigotto and Rossi (2012), a higher level of diversity in a team increases “knowledge amplitude” and “knowledge variety,” meaning that a more extensive breadth of knowledge is available to teams with greater diversity and “this provides a basis for integrating the variously diverse beliefs of their teammates.” In other words, a diverse team’s access to different information in conducive to more creative problem solving when compared with a group with lower diversity.

Strengths

Another factor is considering the unique strengths of each team member. Hakala-Ausperk (2014) states that “in a highly effective team, skills are complementary. Everyone brings something to the table that makes the whole bigger than the sum of the parts.” Connecting professionals with complementing strengths facilitate synergy and can result in high-quality outputs.

Communication

Finally, how team members will communicate is critical to consider when creating a group. For example, consider a team of graduate students who are working on a group project and only chat virtually online. To complete their goal, they need to coordinate their activities. Video conferencing, email, and project management software are examples of tools that teams can use to keep connected and stay on track.

Practices that help build trust among team members

Shared Leadership

Team members who practice shared leadership build trust. Wise (2013) explains: “Shared leadership means that as project milestones are met, and new milestones come into focus, the team member, or members, with a direct stake in the milestone-outcome step up and take charge.” Team members have clear responsibilities in commitment to a common goal, and their consistent progress toward the goal facilitates trust between members.

Tracking Progress

Tracking progress using a project management tool like Clickup, Trello, or Flow can transparently track team members’ development. This way, everyone has accountability and a clear understanding of responsibilities and the pulse of the project. Also, members who are not meeting their obligations are identified and pose an opportunity to resolve conflict.

Implement Quality Assurance Practices

Furthermore, teams can implement quality assurance (QA) practices to identify and assure “compliance to the activities, artifacts, and actions needed to fulfill process commitments” (Wise, 2013). Such methods provide a birds’ eye view of the status of the project and identify gaps in achieving the end goal. QA practices offer another way to hold team members accountable for their role.

How structure impacts team effectiveness

Teams need structure to be effective. For example, a group of online graduate students constructs a self-directed structure where each member is assigned a specific task that contributes to the outcome. Stewart & Barrick (2000) “define team self-leadership as the extent to which teams have the freedom and authority to lead themselves independent of external supervision.” While one team leader can motivate and help coordinate the rest, members of the self-lead team have autonomy and choose how they will complete their assigned tasks — self-directed teammates who are committed to a shared goal work together to realize their vision. However, toxic members who do not take responsibility for their role can undermine the success of the entire team, so it’s essential to work with other professionals who align with a common goal.

Strategies for clarifying the purpose of a team

Sharing a Common Goal

One strategy for clarifying the purpose of a team is setting a common goal. For team members to share the same purpose, they “must have a clear and common definition of what constitutes success as well as agreement on values, roles, and priorities” (Bendaly, 2018). A common goal can eliminate confusion around a team’s efforts.

Opening Meetings with a Statement of Purpose

The common goal becomes the reason why teammates work together. Therefore, another strategy for clarifying the purpose of a team is for the team members to open meetings with a statement of intent. According to French & Simpson (2014), “purpose has the potential to structure and support group life rather in the way the central pole supports a tent. Attention to purpose can, therefore, act as a touchstone to evaluate whether or not the activity of the group is on track.” By stating purpose at the beginning of a meeting, members focus their attention on the reason why they are there and start working with a specific goal in mind.

How individuals can use power and influence to achieve team objectives

Individual team members who subscribe to the authentic leadership style facilitate intra-team trust correlates with increased team-helping behavior (Lyubovnikova et al., 2017). In other words, members who authentically and constructively share their ideas tend to influence the team toward achieving a common goal naturally. This is because an authentic style increases “team reflexivity, whereby team interactions involve deliberate reflective discussions about alignment of and progress toward shared goals, and are characterized by balanced processing of information and transparent discussions about the team’s true values, motives, strengths, and weaknesses” (Lyubovnikova et al., 2017). 

How the strengths of individuals can help achieve team objectives

Diverse teams whose members are distinctly aware of what they bring to the table leverage “their unique strengths while overcoming their distinct limitations” (De Vries et al., 2014). For example, a team may consist of one relationship-oriented person and another who is more analytical. This hypothetical team might assign more logical tasks like bookkeeping and market analysis to the analytic, while the relationship-oriented member might take on sales and marketing responsibilities. In this way, individual team members’ strengths are capitalized on, and their weaknesses mitigated, to achieve team objectives.

How technology affects communication in virtual teams

Communication Tool Competency

According to DuFrene & Lehman (2016), “traditional face-to-face communication is frequently replaced with technology-mediated communication methods including phone, email, fax, synchronous chat programs, and video conferencing” for virtual teams. One way that technology affects communication in virtual teams is necessitating the choice of a virtual communication tool and members’ subsequent competency of using the tool. If a team member is incompetent, they undermine the communication and success of the team.

Ability for Teammates to Work Remotely

“The power of information technology and the speed and reliability of communications networks have made it easier for organizations to organize, motivate, and manage remotely located employees” (DuFrene & Lehman, 2016). Therefore, team members can work remotely from different locations, even different time zones, without compromising communication because of the reliability of the technology.

Teams Cannot Rely on Technology Alone

The convenience of technology can provide a false sense of security that it will not cause communication issues. However, “managers are discovering that technology alone, even with the most dazzling gadgets and software, does not build teams,” and that “strong interpersonal skills are the secret to the success of highly effective virtual teams” (DuFrene & Lehman, 2016). Technology, in combination with interpersonal connection, facilitate a virtual community.


Zoe’s Skills and Behaviors Demonstrated:

  • Leadership
  • Management
  • Organizational effectiveness
  • Culture and diversity

Citations

Bendaly, N. (2018). Sparking Exceptional Performance Consistently Across The Organization: The 7 elements of a high-performance team. Leadership Excellence, 35(10), 9–10. Retrieved from http://search.ebscohost.com.wgu.idm.oclc.org/login.aspx?direct=true&db=heh&AN=135252305&site=eds-live&scope=site

De Vries, T., Walter, F., Van Der Vegt, G., & Essens, P. M.D. (2014). Antecedents of Individuals’ Interteam Coordination: Broad Functional Experiences as a Mixed Blessing. Academy of Management Journal, 57(5), 1334–1359. https://doi-org.wgu.idm.oclc.org/10.5465/amj.2012.0360

DuFrene, D. D., & Lehman, C. M. (2016). Managing virtual teams. New York, New York (222 East 46th Street, New York, NY 10017) : Business Expert Press, 2016. Retrieved from http://search.ebscohost.com.wgu.idm.oclc.org/login.aspx?direct=true&db=cat07141a&AN=ebc.EBC4388939&site=eds-live&scope=site

French, R., & Simpson, P. (2014). Attention, Cooperation, Purpose : An Approach to Working in Groups Using Insights From Wilfred Bion. London: Routledge.

Frigotto, M., & Rossi, A. (2012). Diversity and Communication in Teams: Improving Problem-Solving or Creating Confusion? Group Decision & Negotiation, 21(6), 791–820. https://doi-org.wgu.idm.oclc.org/10.1007/s10726-011-9250-x

Hakala-Ausperk, C. (2014). Build a Great Team: One Year to Success. Chicago: ALA Editions.

Lyubovnikova, J., Legood, A., Turner, N., & Mamakouka, A.. (2017). How Authentic Leadership Influences Team Performance: The Mediating Role of Team Reflexivity. Journal of Business Ethics, 141(1), 59–70. https://doi-org.wgu.idm.oclc.org/10.1007/s10551-015-2692-3

Stewart, G. L., & Barrick, M. R. (2000). Team Structure and Performance: Assessing the Mediating Role of Intrateam Process and the Moderating Role of Task Type. Academy of Management Journal, 43(2), 135–148. https://doi-org.wgu.idm.oclc.org/10.5465/1556372

Wise, T. P. (2013). Trust in Virtual Teams : Organization, Strategies and Assurance for Successful Projects. Farnham, Surrey, UK: Routledge. Retrieved from http://search.ebscohost.com.wgu.idm.oclc.org/login.aspx?direct=true&db=edsebk&AN=531804&site=eds-live&scope=site

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