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How do you develop teams?


When you put a team together, what are the first principles to start from?

And can you teach people to be effective team members?
Ben Hawes

4 Responses

  1. developing teams
    Big question! The starting point for me is always structure and purpose.
    Structure is about the real value of teamwork in the context of the organisation. Many organisations call work unit teams because it sounds good but really it is just a structural issue, making it easier to manage. Think of sales teams for example: often they have individual targets with little if any co-operation or interdependance. Teams,crowds and groups. A team is where there is a high degree of interdependance leading to some synergy. A crowd is a largely unstructured collection of people with some sort of unified purpose eg demonstrating against the war with Iraq! A group is where there is little interdependance between team members but often limited mutual support and is really just easier for the organisation. Purpose is the next issue: what is the team there for and why have the particular individuals been put in into the team? If you don’t have a sense of a common purpose and that individuals bring different and coherent skills, experiences and abilities there is little to bring the players together and get the real benefits of teamwork. Then the real fun starts, when issues such as roles, communications systems and strategies, performance management, planning and and a whole host of other issues need addressing.

  2. My ongoing experience
    I am in the middle of working on bringing two existing teams together to form one new team.

    Although both share the same common goal neither recognise these and view themselves as different and challenge why there is the need to form a new team. This I have looked to view as positive as I wouldn’t want them to do something just because they were told to.

    I believe that the first principle is therefore to recognise the benefits of working as a team.

    I have organised one team event so far which prompted a great deal of discussion and debate both during the day and after. Most noticeably when the teams shared their perceptions of the other, an eye opening exercise given that neither could understand why the other saw them in the way they did.

    I do believe you can teach people how to be effective team members and that the first step to doing this is to recognise and accept that people are different. By recognising this you can then begin to understand how two people can complement each other.

    I would recommend a book called ‘Team Based Learning’ written by Howard Hills ISBN 0 566 08364 7 on the subject. People interested should also note that Howard is working on a training programme to accompany the book and my team were the first to experience it. I am pleased to report encouraging first results, but I recognise this is only a start and we have a way to go.

  3. Increasing awareness
    I start from the stand-point that the members of the team have the functional skills to contribute effectively to the team performance.

    Therefore, I have been using a very powerful psychometric to work with teams at all levels in Organisations to explore the realtionships in the team. The profile produced increases their individual self awareness and the impact their behaviours have on others. It also gives team members a language they can use to describe each others behaviours. The breakthrough in these workshops comes when individuals begin to realise and articulate that they value the differences between team members rather than the comfortable similarities.
    The changes in group dynamics and the working relationships that follow are quite remarkable at times.
    John Allen

  4. Building effective teams
    In my experience first principles start with the size of the team.

    Generally speaking teams larger than 10-12 people don’t function as effectively as smaller groups.

    Then, perhaps more importantly, the mix of the team needs to be congruent with the aims of the project the team is being asked to achieve.

    And as a business coach – yes, I firmly believe that people can be coached to become more effective team players.


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