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  • Writer's pictureNeela Ahmed

Improving team effectiveness

Do you have ambitious goals for your team? Are you concerned that these goals may be a little too stretching or even out of reach? Will your individual development plans for team members be enough to bring the whole team up to where they need to be?

If you can relate to these inquiries, then Aristotle’s wisdom that “the whole is greater than the sum of its parts” may ring true for you. So what, besides working on each person’s growth individually, can be done to bring about a collective growth and performance uplift in your team?

The 'Offsite'

The go-to solution for enhancing team effectiveness is the classic ‘Offsite’ event. Typically no expense is spared on these events; a swanky location, an expensive external facilitator, travel and accommodation and so on. There are some obvious benefits, including refreshed motivation and direction for the team, but the effect tends to be short-lived. Teams who wait for their offsite meetings to do the necessary work of team growth, risk their long-term growth and potential.

The Water Cooler Fantasy

What about providing the proverbial water cooler (or team social) to encourage team members to spontaneously gather, deepening their bonds and sharing information? If only it were that easy! The idea that providing opportunities for people to merely gather together informally is the magic ingredient needed to produce team effectiveness is tempting, but simplistic.

So what does work?

What is the missing piece of the puzzle? According to the research, it turns out that those teams who schedule regular and deliberate reflective time consistently improve upon their team performance. Why is this so? Partly it is because teams are complex systems, they have different moving parts, team members all have different needs and aspirations. To coordinate and harness the best parts of a team, and to manage the other parts takes sustained effort! The growth observed in these team’s performance and effectiveness is brought about by their consistent, disciplined and focused team practices. When teams habitually get together to reflect on their previous actions, learn lessons and plan future actions based on their learning, their levels of team cohesion increase and they start to act in more synchronous ways. If they were dancers, their ‘dance’ would become better choreographed, if you like. This enhanced team cohesion in turn drives up team performance.