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  • Writer's pictureWilliam Gorman

Teams Can Make or Break You

Mastering the Art of Building Cohesive Teams




When working in the field of homelessness it is hard to find time to tackle significant projects. Collaboration is key. Frequently, this reality calls for the creation of teams as part of the organization's operational strategy. If they are run properly a good team can increase productivity, be more creative, solve more problems, and increase job satisfaction through improved morale.


But as much as we want our teams to be cohesive, it's not always easy to achieve. In this blog post, we will delve into the strategies you can utilize to master the art of building cohesive teams.


Creation of Teams


Wanting something, like high-functioning teams is easy. Actually pulling it off is another thing altogether.


Within this blog post you will find information and strategies to help you create a cohesive team. These teams have the potential to make good decisions, be effective, and be self-managing. Cohesive teams are not built overnight and require time and patience. Leaders need to focus on:

1.     The need for teams

2.     Team outcomes

3.     Creating powerful teams

4.     Team performance


Need for Teams


It is hard to get by without teams. Every organization depends upon them to help end homelessness. Teams concentrate on skills, experience, and perspectives while working towards a common goal. By tapping into the collective wisdom of the team members an organization will be more innovative and come up with better solutions. This, of course, also helps foster a more collaborative and positive culture.


Do We Need a Team for This Particular Effort?


Nonprofit organizations frequently have limited resources and ample budget constraints. With these limitations, it is important to evaluate whether a team is necessary for specific tasks within the organization. While it may seem like having a team is always beneficial, it may not always be the case.


In fact, working more efficiently and ensuring the right person is assigned to the work that needs to be done can sometimes produce better results. When considering whether a team is needed, there are two primary decision points to consider:

1.     The complexity of the work.

2.     If the work requires more than one person to accomplish.

In some cases having better cooperation can be enough. There are times when there is low complexity and low level of cooperation, and in these cases, there may not be a need for a team at all. However, there are also times when the work is complex and requires a high level of cooperation, making it necessary to have a team in place.


Ultimately, it is important for nonprofits to carefully evaluate whether a team is necessary for each job.


Team Outcomes


The use of teams can bring forth both positive and negative outcomes. Guiding the outcome of a team’s work can be strengthened through understanding how to best work together.

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Increased Collaboration and Creativity


A key outcome of teams is increased creativity and collaboration. When a diverse group of people come to the table their combined skill set may be greater than any one skill set. This can improve processes, solve problems, and introduce innovation.


Division of Labor


Dividing work is helpful as it can be parsed out to the most appropriate person. This can be related to their core skill set and ability to work efficiently. Thankfully, the proper division of labor enables the sharing of work duties in a way that recognizes how much each person has on their plate. Team members supporting each other, especially when one of them is in a pinch, is good.  


Not Everyone is (or should be) a Team Member


Every workplace has people who like to work alone. Many of these people crank out considerable amounts of work but prefer to do that on their own. I believe that you can have a team-based workplace and not have everyone super excited about participating on numerous teams. Also, some work does not easily lend itself to teams.


For example, there are small nonprofit organizations aimed at ending homelessness have one person that handles accounts payable and that takes 100% of their time. Pulling them off that task to put them on a team that has nothing to do with paying people is likely not a good idea.

 

Be Mindful of Potential Challenges

Leadership and management need to be attentive to the teams that exist. It is not uncommon for conflicts and challenges to arise when working as a team that stems from personalities, work styles, and communication issues. Leaders need to be ready to step in to address these matters before the focus of the team is lost.  


CREATING POWERFUL TEAMS


Forming new and excellent teams requires both thoughtfulness and a focused approach to staffing each team. Understanding how teams are formed and work is key.


Teams are Made Up of Individuals


Organizational leaders must understand the needs of each team member. Every person has different:

1.     Strengths

2.     Weaknesses

3.     Ways of communicating

4.     Preferences


In light of the above points, empathy towards people can create a more cohesive and productive team. In the end, it is important to have the right people populating the team to ensure success.


Forming, Storming, Norming and Performing


A team building model that is proven over time has four stages relative to the life cycle of a team. There are four key stages – forming, storming, norming, and performing. This model was designed for the “business world” but is also appropriate in the nonprofit sector.

1.     Beginning with the formation of the group, team members initially are uncertain about what their role is within the team.

2.     In the storming phase communication and willingness to compromise becomes critical since conflicts surface and differing opinions emerge.

3.     After coming out of the initial storm the group “norms” where an authentic shared vision develops and professional friendships come about.

4.     In the last phase the team performs at its highest level.


Understanding this model can help nonprofit organizations build stronger and more successful teams. However, groups do not typically grow in a linear fashion.


All these phases occur but they rarely move from phase to phase like clockwork. In fact, the group may move back and forth between the phases over time depending upon the projects undertaken and changes in team membership.


Supporting Teams for Success


All groups need support periodically. Teams with strong personalities and complex work may need more attention. Lower performing groups definitely need additional support.


Clarity of Purpose


New teams are a blank canvas and provide an opportunity to begin anew and hammer out the purpose and goals of the group. Clarifying the purpose is critical and is best done at the outset of the project. This clarity provides direction and focus for everyone involved. So, it is good to take time in the beginning to make sure everyone is aligned.


Develop Processes and Ground Rules


Processes and ground rules need to be ironed out early as this will help prevent conflicts and misunderstandings. Areas to develop guidelines include communication, decision making, resolving conflicts, and both individual and group accountability. Solid rules and structure set a good environment in which people are confident.


Define Roles


Clearly defining roles within the team can help prevent confusion and overlapping responsibilities. This allows each member to focus on their specific tasks while also understanding how their role contributes to the overall success of the team.


It also promotes a sense of accountability and ensures that everyone is working towards the same goals.


Everyone should know what their job and responsibilities are at all times. This enables team members to focus on their tasks and contribute to the larger good. Having a defined role also helps with accountability as everyone knows what they are supposed to do.


Continual Improvement


What gets measured gets done and this includes the performance of teams. It is not uncommon to measure the intended outcome of a team but not so much how the team is performing itself. This is especially important for new teams who are still finding their way. Better yet, a continual review of how the group is performing if done charitably, will lower defenses and allow for authentic conversation. For this to work open communications needs to be promoted so people feel free to share their thoughts and ideas on issues that might arise.


Build capacity of the Team


New teams can mean new people – or even new starts for time-worn team members. New backgrounds, skills, and experiences all surface and allow teams to start strong. Professional development is needed for entire teams or at least its leaders. Investing in team growth pays dividends today and into the future.

 

Productive Meetings


Are meetings, productive or useless? For all teams, and especially new teams, it is important to have clear agendas, time limits and time for encouraging others to participate. Since meetings can be less than effective it is good to be attentive to this matter.   


Types of Team Performance


All Star Team Performance


All-star teams are at the top of their game. These are teams everyone wants to be a part of. Trained and skilled members working together can achieve their goals. On the team, there is a high level of trust, and each member brings their strengths and expertise to the group. All-stars are high-performing and consistently exceed their goals.  


Acceptable Performance


Acceptable teams are just that – acceptable. They are not as exceptional as the All-Star team but they get the job done. Teams such as this have high performers and a few average performers. While they only meet the minimum acceptable work threshold they do meet the company’s objectives.


Teams in Turmoil


Teams in turmoil are struggling to function effectively due to various internal or external factors. This could be caused by conflicts among team members, lack of clear direction or leadership, or external challenges such as budget constraints or changes in company policies. These teams often experience low morale, high turnover rates, and decreased productivity.


As a leader, it is important to address these issues promptly and provide support to help these teams overcome their challenges and become more functional.


Conclusion: Bottom Line Results


Teams provide considerable advantages to organizations when they are properly devised including:


Increased Creativity and Innovation: When people from varied backgrounds, perspectives, and experiences come together to work on projects and solve problems they are more likely to find inspiring answers.


Improves Efficiency and Productivity:

People working together can divide tasks based upon skillsets and bandwidth which will lead to faster completion rates. Plus, the camaraderie and support that comes from teams can lead to more productive work and overall job satisfaction.  


Learning Together: Team members who work together will, over time, learn to listen actively to one another, share ideas, and learn to compromise and make decisions together.


Builds Stronger Relationships: By working together team members get to know one another and their trust grows over time – which leads to better communication, collaboration, and building professional friendships.


Encourages Diversity and Inclusion: A good team is a diverse team. Bringing people together from varied backgrounds, genders, ages, etc. allows for a wide range of perspectives and ideas to be shared.


Fosters Learning Opportunities: Teams with employees of varied experiences and education exposes others to new perspectives and ways of approaching the work to be completed.

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