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Increasing Team Effectiveness

Teams are an integral part of any business environment. How can any business owner or manager make their team more effective? Simply- by improving three cornerstones of the team. Why is this important? Because it creates tangible benefits for any business.

First, this article will explain what the three cornerstones of high performance teams are, and how to improve each one. Then, it will discuss the issues that I encountered during my past management assignments, and what I did to make teams more effective.

Groups vs. Teams
A word about the difference between groups and teams. Both can be of any size. A team though, holds a specific objective that they are focused on achieving. For example, a classroom of students can be either a group or a team. A class in which each student has an individual goal of a passing grade, is a group. But a class where if one person fails, the whole class fails, is a team.

The Three Cornerstones
The three cornerstones of high performance teams are:
- Productive Climate
- Clear Roles
- Principled Leadership

Climate is best thought of as the intangible environment that the team works within. A productive climate will have collaboration and resource-sharing. It will also have clear communication across all levels, building a climate of trust. Productive teams therefore must be high in collaboration and communication.

Roles of team members should be clear, as well as balanced. Regardless of the size of the team, various skill sets will be needed, from technical expertise to coordination roles. Having a mix of all skills is important, but ensuring clear paths of accountability for tasks and sub-projects is paramount. Effective teams therefore must have clear roles and fair accountability between members.

Leadership is necessary for any project, but the more successful projects have pro-active stewardship. A highly skilled leader can encourage the right climate of collaboration, and set clear milestones for all members. Effective teams therefore must have principled motivators who focus on achievable goals.

My Learning Points
I learned how to make teams more effective through my past experiences.

While I managed a portfolio of Midwestern properties for Cohen-Esrey, I oversaw a team of twenty-five employees. Each property within the portfolio had individuals on-site managing the day to day operations. I met often with the teams for two reasons:
- To collaborate on the business objectives for the property.
- To ensure that these objectives were clearly communicated.
I rarely involved myself with decisions that directly affected the day to day operation of the building. This allowed the manager to have a clear sense of their role and accountability. Finally, I encouraged these managers to communicate within their professional peer group; this encouraged joint problem solving and knowledge sharing. These actions led to the tangible result of lower employee turnover.

While at Reuters in London undertaking a Customer Relationship Management project, I led a team of five individuals. Each of us had different skill sets and internal reporting lines, which made for a complex situation. Early in the project, we clearly defined the roles of each participant, and the deliverables of the project. Communication was extensive, but we still experienced a lack of trust at times. This was resolved through impromptu, non-confrontational face to face meetings, and short, weekly progress meetings. Despite the challenges to the project, the team implemented the CRM deliverable, resulting in higher customer loyalty.

While I worked in Singapore, I worked with a culturally diverse team. Our task was to develop more business for HSBC from the Asian region. To do this, Americans, Australians, and local Chinese needed to communicate clearly. Surprisingly, I found that the best way to develop a cohesive team was to dine out together as a group. Once we all understood each other on an informal basis, our communication and collaboration improved dramatically.

In summary, effective teams have three aspects in common: Productive climate, clear roles, and principled leadership. Although developing each aspect can be challenging, the rewards of higher profits are worth the effort.

About the Author
Adam C. Park is a business development consultant based in Chicago, USA. He has written articles concerning Improving Customer Loyalty, Effective Risk Management and Deeper Cultural Understanding. He can be reached at

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