Maximising team effectiveness requires several related components. If any of these are missing or not functioning correctly, a team is likely to experience problems. If you have this right, then the team should run like a well oiled machine.
The best teams are able to perform without being distracted by too many internal team issues. Great teams are those that work well together, where all parts of the team just seem to click. This doesn’t happen by accident.
Essential factors to improve team effectiveness
The best team environment encourages team members to learn and grow. It also incorporates positive short-term stress to encourage team members to strive for achievable, meaningful goals. Maximising team effectiveness involves consequences for poor performance, as well as rewards for good work. Team effectiveness also requires that the right resources exist to accomplish the job at hand.
An effective team environment also needs external pressure to function effectively and to keep the team improving. Take the sun, in our solar system. It can be a destructive force, but is also essential to sustaining life on the planet. External pressure fulfils the same role in maximising team effectiveness.
1. The importance of external pressure in improving team effectiveness
You cannot overstate the importance of external pressure on improving team effectiveness. External pressure on a team and its leader is fundamental to the team being successful and improving. A team environment with external pressure helps to improve team effectiveness:
- Time pressure forces your team to try to hit deadlines set by people outside of your team environment.
- Budget pressure forces your team to operate efficiently. It helps to avoid scrutiny from the financial functions of your organisation.
- Quality pressure forces your team to deliver services or products to a high level of quality. This is to avoid the repercussions of bad work.
Without external pressure operating on the team, there is no need to work efficiently, effectively or to a high standard. The next time your top leadership puts the pressure on you and your team, be sure to thank them for it!
When do you see a lack of external pressure on a team?
A normal team environment will usually involve some sort of external pressure affecting the team. However, there are a few instances where external pressure may not be apparent, such as in an organisation which is:
- Performing well financially, reducing the need to monitor costs too closely.
- Fractured, distributed and disjointed, where feedback on team performance and quality is not easily able to be collated across the organisation.
- Dominating their particular industry, meaning that customers have few options of competitors to switch to; or
- Free from powerful external stakeholders, such as shareholders, regulators or a board of directors.
External pressure on a team is the starting point. Once this is in place, the rest of the components of a good team environment become critical for success.
2. Improving team effectiveness using rewards
Rewards are important for showing team members that what they do matters. Team members should be rewarded in some way for good performance. The most important factor here is that the team should be rewarded with something of value. This does not always have to mean providing financial rewards.
Some examples of rewards for team member performance are:
- Additional learning or skill development opportunities, such as working on interesting or prestigious projects
- Structured learning opportunities such as attendance at courses or conferences
- Additional responsibility, such as leading a team or initiative
- Financial rewards, tied to performance
- Public recognition for good work.
Without any sort of reward for good work, you are relying on your team members to be intrinsically motivated. Ideally, all of our team members would be internally motivated, but this isn’t always the case.
An absence of rewards can mean that team members do “just enough” to get the job done. This is likely to result in an average, rather than high, level of performance.
3. Improving team effectiveness using consequences
On the flip side of the coin are consequences for poor performance. I’ve written before about the importance of consequences in the workplace. Without consequences, poor performance becomes normal.
Before you know it, the status quo is that your team puts in a minimal amount of effort. Once this happens, you need a major cultural change to convey that poor performance is unacceptable.
Even worse, your good team members will have to pick up the slack for those that aren’t performing. This increases frustration and will eventually reduce morale.
Introducing consequences to a team doesn’t need to be a draconic measure. It may simply mean having a way to measure performance and to provide specific feedback to team members. As with rewards, team members need to understand that there is a link from their performance to the outcome they see.
I have seen too many team environments where poor performance is tolerated, sending frustration levels sky high. People perceive leadership in these organisations as weak because leaders fail to address poor performance.
4. Improving team effectiveness through suitable resourcing
Maintaining the right balance of resources is important to maximise team effectiveness. The right mix of resources enables a team to run efficiently and effectively. Team effectiveness is about doing the right things, which is all about having the right people in the right roles. Efficiency is about doing the work with a minimum amount of effort by having the right amount of people and working the right way.
External budget pressure sometimes forces a team to be “right-sized”. This is why hiring the right people for specialised roles is extremely important.
If there aren’t enough people to fulfil your team’s workload or you have people in the wrong role, your team will become a breeding ground for stress and frustration, leading to low morale. When the external pressure mounts, your team needs to have the resources to handle it.
5. Improving team effectiveness through learning & development
Learning and development is critical in improving team effectiveness. It helps to ensure that team members have the appropriate skills and knowledge to perform their role. External pressure on the team will require it to improve to maintain high levels of quality and performance, and to reduce costs.
Without improving the tools and methods of a team, a common solution to improving performance is simply to hire more people. However, this usually doesn’t solve performance problems in a sustainable way.
Learning and development opportunities are a way that you can improve efficiency and team effectiveness. It is a way for the team to satisfy increasing demand for services and handle the external cost and performance pressure that effects it.
6. Improving team effectiveness through motivation
Motivation in the team environment is important for maintaining team performance. Team members who lack motivation will generally show poor performance. Unmotivated team members put in less effort and generally do “just enough” to do the job. You can’t expect everyone to show high motivation levels every day. However, continued lack of motivation will cause quality and performance issues within your team.
Lack of motivation in a team can be an outcome of imbalance in other team components. A team with inadequate resources will experience more stress and lower motivation. A team with limited learning opportunities will feel that they aren’t developing in their roles. A lack of consequences will see poorly performing team members survive. Finally, a lack of rewards will signal to a team that there is no benefit to working hard.
Motivation is key because even if all the right team components are in place, it is the factor that will prevent your team from performing at a high level. If team members don’t really care about their work and don’t strive to achieve milestones, what you have is an average team.
Simple ways to improve motivation in your team:
- Communicating a team vision that makes team members feel a part of something bigger than themselves
- Ensuring that the physical working environment is suitable for performing good work
- Understanding what your team members value and providing it where possible
- Acting decisively to solve team issues as they arise
- Supporting team members when they require help.
To maximise team effectiveness, you need to ensure that the six components are in place. Don’t forget that external pressure is *good* for your team, not bad.
Maximising team effectiveness isn’t an easy task and will require compromise and balancing of priorities. After all, you are dealing with people, and everybody is different.
How you satisfy these components will be unique to your team, but if you have the components in place, you have the best chance of achieving great team performance.