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Monday, July 09, 2007


HOW TO BUILD A TEAM By Roger Darlington

Roger Darlington, Roger Darlington is a portfolio worker, specialising in the communications field:
He is a Member of the Ofcom Consumer Panel which provides independent advice to the regulator on broadcasting and telecommunications issues.
He is a Council Member of Postwatch which is the consumer body for postal services.
He is a Consultant to Connect, the trade union for professional staff in the telecommunications industry.
He is a Support Trainer with Lamont Associates, a training consultancy specialising in transformation at work.

Thought for the Week: "By three methods we may learn wisdom: first, by reflection, which is noblest; second, by imitation, which is easiest; and third by experience, which is the bitterest." Chinese philosopher Confucius (551-479 BC)


A team needs a good leader. Usually, in a work situation, the leader is chosen by people outside the team. In more social contexts, the team may choose the leader.

A team needs to be the right size. There is no precise figure here, but generally speaking one would expect a team to be around 8-12 members; smaller and supervision runs the danger of being excessive, larger and it is difficult for the leader to exercise effective control.

A team needs members with a variety of skills. The nature of these skills will depend on the organisation and the task. However, typically one might want someone good with figures as well as someone good with words, someone who is effective at getting things done as well someone who is a creative thinker. It is important to avoid the temptation to choose too many like-minded members and team members need to know and respect the skills of others in the team.

A team needs members with a variety of personalities. Again the nature of these personalities will depend on the organisation and the task. One might want an introvert as well as an extrovert and a mature person as well as a younger one. Gender and ethnic differences can also make a creative contribution to an effective team.

A team needs to bond. Some of this can be in done in the course of carrying out team tasks. However, it is good to create more specific opportunities for bonding that are outside the normal work schedule and situation, such as strategy sessions, training course and social events. One should take opportunities to celebrate successes - such as winning a new contract or fulfilling a particular project - and to celebrate occasions - such as birthdays of team members.

A team needs to be able to resolve internal conflicts. However well a team bonds, it is likely that from time to time there will be differences in the team. This should not be unexpected or even always avoided; it is an inevitable feature of creative people having different ideas.

A team needs good communications. People need to know what is expected of them, what is happening in the organisation, and how all this effects them as individuals and as a team. In many ways, the best communication is face-to-face but this can be time-consuming and may not always be practical. These days e-mail is an efficient means of communication, provided that it is not overdone or used as a way of avoiding difficult encounters.

A team needs shared values and a shared vision. All team members need to know and agree how the team is going to work and what it is trying to do. This might involve having some sort of strategy session - maybe facilitated by someone outside the team - with exercises to ensure that the values and the vision are embraced by all.

A team needs clear objectives. Ideally these objectives ought to be SMART - that is, specific, measurable, achievable, resourced, timed.

A team needs to be empowered. There are two elements to this. First, the team collectively needs to be given the resources and the authority to achieve the objectives set for it. Second, each individual needs to know what is expected of him or her but left to work out for himself or herself how best to achieve this on a day to day basis.

A team needs trust. Members need to trust each other and most especially the team leader. This requires open and honest communication, acceptance of a 'no blame' culture, and recognition that every mistake is an occasion for learning and not an excuse to criticise.

A team needs to be flexible. There are two elements to this. First, roles in the team should not be rigid - it is the team's success that matters more than who exactly does what. Second, the composition and existence of the team needs to be flexible so, if a new skill is needed, one might add a new member to the team, but conversely, if the team's project is satisfactorily completed, there might be no continued need for the team.


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