Sometimes it’s good to take a step back and assess how successful your team actually is. But then comes the question, what makes a “successful team”?
For me, a successful team has three simple characteristics.
Firstly, a successful team should be satisfying demand for its services. Whatever your team does involves work to serve an internal or external customer.
Next, a successful team needs to have happy stakeholders and customers. You need the people dealing with your team to be satisfied with their experience.
And lastly, a successful team must be fulfilling its required purpose. A team can’t be successful unless it is playing the role that it needs to within an organisation.
Let’s look at each of these three factors in more detail and some actions you can take to help your team become more successful.
1. A Successful Team Satisfies Demand
Your team only exists to satisfy demand for its customers. Whether your team cleans hospitals or designs high-tech widgets, it doesn’t really make much difference.
To satisfy demand, a team needs to have the appropriate resources and to be doing the right work.
If your team gets distracted from its core work to focus on other unrelated tasks, it’s likely you won’t be satisfying the demand coming from your customers.
If your team has far too much work to do, you are not going to satisfy demand. The question is – what happens to the requests that your team can’t complete?
Are they left unfinished, or are they completed by somebody else? Both of these outcomes can be damaging for your team, because:
- Someone else is doing work that your team should be doing. This makes your team appear less effective, and less useful; or
- The work isn’t being done at all, creating unhappy stakeholders and putting extra pressure on your team.
How to Ensure Your Team Can Satisfy Demand
1. Have a Process to Track Work Requests.
If you can’t easily see what work your team has to do, you’ll be flying blind. Ensure you can see what work is complete and what is outstanding.
Make sure you can also see who in your team is doing what. Otherwise, you run the risk of overloading some team members while others do very little.
2. Get Rid of Distractions.
Once you know what work is coming in, make sure that your team members aren’t being distracted by low value tasks. This will simply take the focus off what they should be doing.
For more on this topic, read about Eliminating Workplace Distractions.
3. Get Your Resourcing Right.
Make sure you have the right experience and skills in your team to satisfy demand. A helpful tool to manage this is a Skills Matrix.
For more on this topic, read about Creating and Using a Skills Matrix.
2. A Successful Team Has Happy Stakeholders & Customers
Successful teams are well respected for the work they do. Their customers and stakeholders are happy with their performance.
Sometimes it’s obvious when your stakeholders aren’t happy. Other times, you might not hear any complaints, but then find out that your stakeholders are having issues with your team.
It might even be that your stakeholders are “going around” your team, and accomplishing their goals in other ways, without using your team’s services.
How to Ensure Your Team Has Happy Customers & Stakeholders
The answer to this is relatively simple.
As the leader of the team, you need to keep in contact with your main customers and stakeholders.
This means making sure you are networking with your peers and seniors, and asking people for feedback.
In some cases “No news is good news.” This is not one of these situations.
You need to keep your ears and eyes open, and make sure you know what people are saying and thinking about your team.
Sometimes networking can be tough because it can feel like a waste of other people’s time, to discuss your own team. The trick is to find their “what’s in it for me”, and use that to make it worth their while.
After all, if you can improve their experience with your team, then everybody wins.
3. A Successful Team Fulfils Its Purpose
If your team has happy customers and is satisfying demand, then your team is successful, right?
Sometimes, teams adapt what they do to fit their surroundings even if it’s not quite right. Consider the following situation.
Rachel runs the Marketing team for her company. Since she arrived a year ago, her team has been swamped dealing with developing the marketing strategy and creating physical marketing materials like signage and brochures.
The company website is being run by the IT team, because that’s how it has always been. However, Rachel knows that her team should have greater control and visibility of this, because it has a big impact on how customers see her company.
In Rachel’s case, part of her team purpose is to give her company’s customers a great experience. Her team is falling short because they aren’t currently handling the website. Rachel knows this is a big part of what will make her team successful.
If you know that there are core functions that your team should be handling, but aren’t, then your team may not be as successful as it could be.
How to Ensure Your Team Fulfils Its Purpose
Step 1: Create Your Team Purpose
The first step in ensuring your team is fulfilling its purpose is to create one!
This doesn’t need to be a complicated exercise. I like to keep it simple.
Determine the Top 3 things that you want your team to achieve, or be known for.
It may be good to determine your top 3 with your team, rather than doing this alone.
You can read more about this topic in this post: Does your team have a clear purpose? Here’s why you need one.
Step 2: Align Your Work With the Team Purpose
Next, you need to make sure that the work of your team is contributing to your team purpose.
This is a matter of simply looking at each piece of work your team performs and asking “Does this get us closer to achieving or living our Top 3?”
If the answer is “No”, you need to take action to reduce this type of work and focus on the work that adds more value.
“Success” will be different for every team. You may find that your “Top 3” team purpose changes over time, as your team matures and grows.
Taking stock of your team’s success is a great exercise to refocus the energy of your team and make sure that you’re helping to make your workplace and company a better place to be.
What do you think makes a successful team? Leave a comment below!
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