No matter how well you’ve structured your business teams, no matter how skilled the members are and no matter how passionate they are about their project, it may be difficult for any team to succeed without the following six elements in place.
1. Clearly Defined Roles
Team members often play different roles on the team than they do in their day-to-day functional jobs. For example, a middle manager may be the team leader, while an executive plays a lesser role. It often helps to be sure everyone knows their roles on the team and takes seriously the importance of following the team leader’s directives and guidance.
2. Assigned Responsibilities and Accountability
Since being part of a team is only part of your employees’ daily duties, it may be especially important to make sure that team-related tasks are clearly assigned and everyone knows what they're accountable for. Project management software (Asana, Zoho Projects and Basecamp are three solutions popular with small businesses) may be a great way to help everyone keep track of tasks, deadlines and responsibilities. It may also enable team members to see how their team duties relate to and support the rest of the team.
3. Adequate Time for the Team
Handling team duties in addition to daily tasks of their regular jobs may lead to employee overload. If you want employees to be part of a team, leaders might figure out how to adjust employees’ workloads to make the team a priority in their day. You may need to set aside X number of hours per day or X days per week, or put someone primarily on the team while their regular role takes a back burner until the project is complete. Supervisors and others involved with the team members’ regular jobs will ideally know about this and can work around it. Check in with teams weekly, or even daily, to see if schedules need rebalancing.
4. Communication Tools
Daily communication is often vital to a team’s success but can become complex in situations with large teams, in cross-functional teams whose members don’t generally interact in the course of a workday, or in teams that include members from outside the business, such as customers or contractors. Choose and use a communications method that helps enable continual communication among all team members on the status of team projects. The three project management tools mentioned above include communications, or you can choose your own communications method, such as videoconferencing, IM, email or a combination. The key is typically to ensure everyone on the team uses the chosen communications tools consistently so everyone is on the same page.
Teams need regular feedback. This should ideally include both feedback to individual team members on their work, and feedback to the team as a whole on its progress. If a team has been pulled together to handle a project due in six weeks, for example, daily feedback to the individuals is ideal. A longer-term project might handle weekly feedback.
Because teams are likely to be less formal than other types of work structures, feedback should be able to come from anywhere within the team. Of course, the team leader may be primarily responsible for delivering feedback to the team and the individuals, but he or she should also make sure team members feel comfortable sharing feedback in a 360-degree fashion (that is, to everyone, higher or lower on the team).
Daily feedback may enable a project to stay on track toward completion with fewer false steps. Quick meetings each day, either online or in-person, may be ideal for delivering feedback. Weekly meetings between the team leader and the business owner and/or team stakeholders can provide overall feedback on the project.
6. A Clear Mission
Make sure team members thoroughly understand their common goal. To keep the goal in mind and keep members motivated, the team leader might remind them of it daily in a positive way. Consider keeping things moving forward by breaking bigger tasks into smaller pieces, creating daily or weekly deadlines and then celebrating the successful completion of each milestone along the way.
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A version of this article was originally published on August 17, 2015.