Forming an Effective Team

Much has been written about the characteristics and practices of a functioning effective team, but what does it take to form an effective team? How does a working group become an effective team? There are some foundational issues that need to be addressed before a team is formed in order for the team to be effective.  These issues are addressed by Katzenbach and Smith in their classic book, The Wisdom of Teams. They suggest that the single most powerful engine for teams is a clear, compelling performance challenge. Performance is the primary objective while a team remains the means, not the end. Teamwork encourages and helps teams succeed; but teamwork alone never makes a team. So the first step in forming an effective team is to establish a compelling performance challenge.

Secondly, the team must be made up of the right people. In Jim Collins’ book, Good to Great, he found that one of the things that distinguishes good organizations from great organizations is what he calls “First who, Then what”. He describes this as getting the right people on the bus, and the right people in the right seats, and then figure out where to drive it. Too often there is a presumption that existing job status automatically warrants team membership. However team members should be selected based on skill and skill potential,  not personalities.

The Strengths Wheel is a powerful visualStrengths Wheel tool to help you see the natural strengths of a team as measured by the Leading From Your Strengths profile. The wheel is divided one way with a task or people oriented axis and the other way with a fast or slow pace axis. Plotting a whole team on the wheel can give us a powerful picture of a team. It is a good way to scrutinize where team members line up and what is missing.  An effective team should have a balance of strengths.

Thirdly, potential team members must we willing to take some risks and make some commitments.  Because of deep-seated values of individualism and natural reluctance to trust one’s fate to the performance of others, the team choice demands a leap of faith. Effective teams do not emerge unless the individuals on them take risks involving conflict, trust, interdependence, and hard work.

Lastly, the right team leader needs to be selected. Effective team leaders realize they neither know all the answers, nor can they succeed without the other members of the team. Any person who genuinely believes in the purpose of the team and in the team itself can lead the team toward higher performance. According to Katzenbach and Smith, the leader needs to be someone who is able to:

  1. Keep the purpose, goals, and approach relevant and meaningful
  2. Build commitment and confidence
  3. Strengthen the mix and level of skills
  4. Manage relationships with outsiders, including removing obstacles
  5. Create opportunities for others
  6. Do real work

In conclusion, the forming of an effective team should be done carefully and intentionally with purpose. Potential members must have a clear understanding of the basics of an effective team and be willing to commit to the team. For additional related articles, visit

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