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4 Tricks Highly Effective Teams Use

A self-aware team is an effective team. These four steps will help you get there.
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Want to get your team working more effectively? It turns out that teams, like individuals, need self-awareness to be really successful.

"The issue of the team becoming one and bonded around an identity is something I've found very useful," says Vincent D. O'Connell, Asia regional director at Globecon Institute, a training and performance firm that services the financial industry. He's also co-author of 9 Powerful Practices of Really Great Teams. "Teams are very productive when people share a sense of identity separate from that of the organization itself."

How do you get a team to bond around an identity? Here are some steps O'Connell recommends:

1. Give the team a name.

The name might simply describe what the team does, such as "Customer Service Team at Widgets, Inc." Or it can be more whimsical: "The Superhero Team." "An actual name gives the team an identity," O'Connell explains.

2. Give the team a mission statement and credo.

The mission statement may simply say why the team was formed, who its customers are, and what they want from the team, O'Connell says. It's useful to have that written down and shared among the team so all team members agree on what they're there for. "The credo is more of an 'I believe' set of statements," O'Connell says. "As a team we believe that when someone is speaking we should listen attentively. We believe that every meeting should have an agenda that everyone knows in advance," are some examples.

3. Do a self-assessment.

A team self-assessment is similar to an individual self-assessment, O'Connell says. "What is this team good at? What are we not as good at? What does the team need help with? How do we survey our customers to assure ourselves that we're as good as we think we are?"

Part of the self-assessment should be making sure that everyone on the team has a role he or she is well suited to perform. "If someone is unilaterally assigned a role on the team because they're free or you need to find a place for them, that's not a way to build trust within the team," O'Connell explains. "Trust grows exponentially when people are in their right roles, and other team members don't feel like they have to second-guess or double-check what that person does. It allows them to build the kind of synergy that will let them take on difficulties when they arise."

4. Develop listening skills and empathy.

This is important during meetings and brainstorming sessions, as well as self-assessment exercises, O'Connell says. "Rather than saying, 'We're trying to reach this milestone, who has ideas about that?' and then listing the ideas on a whiteboard, an effective team first makes sure it understands all the issues involved. Einstein said solving a problem is 90 percent understanding it and 10 percent finding a solution."

The best teams take their time arriving at solutions and ideas rather than rushing to make a decision and take action, he adds. "You don't make decisions until you know the full story. Letting the story unfold is an attribute of an empathetic team."

IMAGE: Nikada/iStock
Last updated: Apr 8, 2013

MINDA ZETLIN | Columnist | Co-author, 'The Geek Gap'

Minda Zetlin is a business technology writer and speaker, co-author of The Geek Gap, and former president of the American Society of Journalists and Authors. Like this post? Sign up here for a once-a-week email and you'll never miss her columns.

The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.



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