Have you ever been a part of a team – an athletic team, a staff team, a mission trip team, etc. where everyone’s attitude and performance was absolutely necessary to the success of the team?
Fellow teammates worked sacrificially and unselfishly toward the common goal. It may have been hard, but you bonded together and you seemed to bring out the best in each other. And now, when you look back at that team you feel a sense of deep satisfaction.
If so, you have experienced the power and fulfillment of being a part of a team.
The Advantage of Teams
- Teams bring together skills and experience that exceed those of any individual on the team.
- Teams provide a sense of community and belonging.
- People learn to respect one another and one another’s abilities in the context of working as a team.
- People do not mind hard work if it is meaningful and they are doing it with others they love and respect.
Traits of High Performance Teams
- Everyone knows what they are trying to accomplish and why: the goals are clear and shared by team members. They are committed to a common purpose, goals and approach.
- They have made a commitment to be a team. The single most important ingredient of a high performance team is that each person wants to be part of the team. They have anted up and declared themselves to be “in.” They want to be part of the team because they realize the task is worth doing and there is no way they can do it alone.
- Everyone takes some responsibilities for leadership. They do this not just because it seems like a good idea but because no one person could possibly do the job by him/herself.
- Everyone feels appreciated and supported by others. Team members genuinely value one another’s contribution, abilities, skills and track record.
- Team members develop their skills to become better contributors.
- Everyone does roughly equivalent amounts of “real work.” Everybody must have real responsibilities and results for which they are accountable.
- The team holds itself mutually accountable as a team.
- The team spends lots of time together, scheduled and unscheduled.
Stages in the Life of a Team
Every team or group will pass through four different stages of development on the way to becoming a productive team. In Kenneth Blanchard’s book, The One Minute Manager Builds High Performance Teams (William Morrow and Company, Inc. 1990), he defines the four stages in the life of a team.
- Orientation. Team members come to your team asking “Where do I fit in?” and “What is expected of me?” At this stage the morale is high, people are generally excited (and maybe a little anxious) because of the potential accomplishment. However the production is low because they have little knowledge of what needs to be done or how to do it. During the Orientation Stage the team decides:
- Decision making: How the team will make decisions – majority rule, consensus, or unanimity?
- Conflict resolution: How is it perceived and handled?
- Leadership: Who influences whom?
- Goals and roles: Who does what and what it is that you are trying to accomplish? What are the expectations?
- Norms: Set some clear rules of behavior regarding attendance, confidentiality, contribution, etc.
- Problem solving: identifying the problem, generating and evaluating solutions.
- Dissatisfaction. The team begins to discover that their goal is going to be more difficult to reach than they imagined. (If a team doesn’tt reach this stage it may be because the team isn’t attempting anything difficult.)
False assumptions and expectations begin to surface through growing tension or conflict. Team members become frustrated, angry or insecure. They may also fight for power or attention. Group members may be vying for power or attention.
Knowing that every team has to pass through this stage will help you work through this phase.
- Resolution. This is where the team turns the corner. They have been through the storm and seen that they can weather it. They feel more confident of what they can accomplish as a team. The discrepancies between expectations and reality have been resolved. They are moving toward harmony, trust, support and respect. Some of the best ideas are developed in the Resolution Stage.
Production. The team is performing well. There is camaraderie between team members. Moral and production are both high. Leadership is shared.
How to Become a Team
Teams just don’t happen.
- Clarify your mission and purpose. The very activity of talking about your purpose will help align your team members towards a common purpose.
- Establish your specific goals in view of the mission. Goals help a team keep track of the progress. Such specific goals might be: “To bring 10 students to Winter Conference.” “To have 5 more students in a small group by the end of February.” You probably should not have more than two to four team goals.
- Establish your strategies that will help you reach your goals. Strategies are the “What,” “By Whom,” and “By When” part of your plan.
- Feedback, recognition and celebration. Did we do what we set out to do? Everybody wants to know how they are doing. Telling people the truth helps people move forward or move out. Often as Christians our highest value is “no conflict” which ultimately leads to peaceable self-destruction.
Unless there is accountability and consequences you will sink to the level of mediocrity with everyone. The high-performers will think, “What difference does it make?” For the low performer, lack of accountability reinforces two things… someone else will do it for them and they will never get asked again. What a deal!
Don’t forget to celebrate your accomplishments and victories.
The Importance of Goals
More than any single element, a strong performance challenge, along with specific and measurable goals serves as the catalyst to molding a team.
Teamwork, team-building seminars and other efforts fail to galvanize a group of people like a strong performance challenge. Without specific team goals, team members become confused and revert only to what they like to do or want to do.
Goals that motivate always contain a “stretch element” to them. In other words, they go beyond what you did last year and cannot be accomplished by simply plugging in last year’s methods and strategies.
When your goals are clear, you can discuss and focus on how you can achieve them or even modify them if necessary. This is part of what it means to be effective.
The right kind of goals are motivating. People are excited by the opportunity to be a part of such a challenge and languish at the thought of being left out. Real teams flourish on achieving results– on winning, not just playing. Goals allow a team to know where it stands–it is either fulfilling its goals or it is not.
To be effective you just need one thing that you are together trusting God to do that you together are working toward.
Adapted from content by Eric Swanson.