1. Defining roles: One of the first tasks when building work teams is to meet with every employee to discuss how his or her role specifically affects the ability of the department to achieve its immediate goals and the organization to realize its long-term objectives.
2. Setting rules: In addition to defining employee roles, some common ground rules must be set as well. These fall into two main categories: task-oriented rules (how the workload is shared and how goals are measured) and relational rules (personal behavior, communication, collaboration, compromising, etc.).
3. Setting expectations: Your team also looks to you to communicate expectations for their individual and team performance. Make sure they understand why the team was created and how specific goals are connected to timeframes.
4. Obtaining organizational commitment: Building work teams requires the organization’s recognition that team-based, collaborative, empowered departments are catalysts for real change. The hierarchical, top-down management approach should be a thing of the past that is replaced with innovative management that rewards creative thinking and unique solutions.
5. Obtaining team commitment: The company’s commitment should be followed by your team committing to accomplishing the mission and expected outcomes. Your attitude is critical to employee buy-in which, in turn, affects morale. Employees need to be challenged and excited by the team’s opportunity to achieve an objective.
6. Empowering employees: When you’re building work teams it’s important to show confidence in your employees by empowering them to make their own decisions, while also communicating the limitations of your monetary and time resources.
7. Improving communication: Team members should understand the priority of their tasks, and must let other members of the team know the status of these tasks. Hold regular meetings to assess progress, but only when they are necessary to avoid wasting critical time.
8. Encouraging feedback: You may be surprised by how well your team performs and works together by having both a casual and formal evaluation process. Keeping an open-door policy prevents conflicts before they get out of hand, and formal evaluations let team members know how well they are fulfilling their roles, how their actions are affecting the team’s goals, and how they are being compensated for their performance.
9. Resolving conflicts: Conflicts are natural, even with clearly defined ground rules and goals. Building work teams and being an effective leader requires you to keep a pulse on the morale of the department, paying attention to emerging problems in team meetings, and proactively addressing conflicts as they arise. Remember that resolving conflicts starts with careful planning and mutual respect.
10. Maintaining a leadership role: While you need to let employees know you are part of the team, you must also make your ownership of the team clear as well. Every team needs a leader to make the tough decisions on the best way to move forward.
By Earl Bryson