Six Factors for Team Effectiveness
August 19, 2020
We’re at a point where remote working is a regular occurrence. But remote working is still a challenge, so ensuring team effectiveness is the key to remaining productive.
Do companies need to bring people back to the office ASAP? Can they continue remote work forever? Or should it be some kind of hybrid? Every company is grappling with these questions right now, but at the heart of their concerns is how they can optimize team effectiveness.
Team effectiveness has always been a big part of any company and its success. The pandemic put an emphasis on teamwork as everyone began working remotely. It required a lot more focus on companies’ visions and future. It’s been about surviving as a business. But the biggest challenge may be sustaining that focus and vision, especially in remote environments.
Everyone has emotional needs at work, but remote workers have some unique challenges. They struggle with feelings of loneliness and isolation, difficulties communicating and collaborating, and distractions. Without solid leadership, these challenges hurt team effectiveness, ranging from lack of productivity to burnout.
So how can we ensure team effectiveness as we continue working remotely? There are six team effectiveness factors that contribute to keeping your employees engaged and focused:
1. Reinforce a shared purpose
As the pandemic forced businesses to work remotely, leaders became laser-focused on strategy and keeping the business running. But since the change, leaders must work to inspire their teams with a sense of purpose and vision.
After a huge disruption, like the pandemic, teams need to know their company has a new vision. Leaders must lay out the new direction and provide updates for their teams. They need a true north for their teams to rally, and align, around.
Leaders also need to show their team how changes impact their individual goals and purpose. And most importantly?
Leaders need to show their teams that they value their efforts.
Simply put, employees need to know why they’re doing something, and how and why it makes a difference. Everyone should know if their team goals are aligned with their company, overall. In addition, teams should also understand why their team even exists, and its business impact.
This sense of purpose isn’t just to make people feel good. It has huge bottom-line implications. The Global Leadership Forecast 2018 found that purpose-driven companies outperformed others by 42 percent.
2. Provide role clarity
Everything changed during the pandemic – not just where we work, but also how we work. This means some people saw their roles change to meet the company’s needs. When responsibilities shift, sometimes that can cause confusion among teams, so leaders need to communicate their roles.
In a remote working environment, everyone needs to be clear on who does what. This is especially important with long-term remote working – so employees can remain focused on achieving goals, and leaders don’t need to micromanage. Leaders establish this by setting individual goals, responsibilities and making sure expected contributions are clear. More importantly, leaders should make sure each team member’s qualifications, capabilities and motivation matches the role. Also, team members should help leaders by knowing their own boundaries when making decisions and assigning work.
During a recent webinar, a poll revealed about 27 percent of attendees weren’t really sure who was doing what job in their organization.
3. Promote enabling processes
Teams know their objectives. But do they have the means to accomplish those objectives?
Leaders can’t let this area slip, especially when working remotely. An effective team shares progress and gathers feedback, which is even more important while working remotely.
Teams need time to reflect on their successes and failures. They also need to ensure they have the time, staff, funding and resources to do their job. Teams are most effective with clear processes of how to plan, track, document and manage work.
Also, teams need to control how they spend their time. In a survey, about 47 percent of workers cited too many meetings as their top time-waster during the work week. According to research, there are more than 55 million meetings in the United States alone, with the average employee spends five or six hours per weeks in meetings. One study found senior managers spend nearly 23 hours per week in meetings.
When working remotely, it’s sometimes difficult to manage time. With 71 percent of managers calling meetings unproductive and inefficient, it’s easy to see how some teams may get frustrated with meetings.
Leaders need to make sure their teams are not falling behind because of wasted time. Leaders should host regular check-ins with their teams to get feedback on whether they have what they need.
4. Be aware of emotional security
Team members want to feel comfortable, valued and involved. Unfortunately, the vast majority don’t feel this way. Only 31 percent of employees say their leaders promote an inclusive team environment. This leads to a lack of emotional security.
Teams establish emotional security with a high level of trust, comfort and understanding. They also need to respect one another, and intentionally invite everyone’s input and incorporate it into collective activities, like brainstorming sessions. Simple things like using video during conferencing helps to encourage participation and allow a team leader to look for non-verbal cues around engagement and inclusion.
Emotional security is one of the most important factors in teams, especially during times of crisis and uncertainty. Leaders need to engage with their teams on an emotional to keep them engaged and productive.
5. Encourage a collaborative spirit
There’s a reason we work on teams – we need each other to accomplish our goals. A collaborative spirit encourages everyone to come together to think about the best ways to tackle work. It often brings new, diverse ideas and perspectives to the team.
But even before the pandemic, team collaboration might not have been happening. The Frontline Leader Project found 52 percent of leaders say their teams work in silos instead of working collaboratively. This creates problems outside of individual teams. For example, one department may not know what the other is doing, or work streams could overlap.
A lack of collaboration impacts everyone differently. But for remote workers already feeling isolated, it could make them feel even more alienated.
That’s why leaders must encourage a collaborative spirit if they hope to have team effectiveness. Instead, they should be sharing relevant information openly and clearly in a team scenario. Also, leaders should encourage their team to prioritize collective contributions over individual competition.
6. Growth orientation
People need to learn and grow if they want to improve their performance. But we’re not talking about additional training courses. Instead, we’re talking about good old fashioned teamwork and collaboration.
One way to continue growing is for team members to learn from each other. Teams provide opportunities for everyone to grow and develop skills together.
Usually more effective teams provide more ideas and output to benefit the entire organization, sparking growth. These ideas come from experimenting or brainstorming new ways to solve problems.
Leaders should encourage and provide these opportunities. This is one of the best ways to find innovative approaches to complete work, while keeping your team engaged.
These challenges help teams learn and grow. It’s also important for leaders to know when to just listen. Sometimes allowing the team to lead and coach their leader provides invaluable insights.
In the current landscape, people may feel trapped by working from home and having to remain distant from others. The same poll from earlier found that 16.4 percent found there were not a lot of opportunities to learn or grow.
So we’ve established that teams have both practical and personal needs, all of which affect team effectiveness.
The first three factors address the practical side of teams. They need to understand their purpose, roles and processes.
The last three factors address their personal needs. They need to feel safe and valued, work well together, and be challenged to learn and grow.
What happens when you drop those team needs? Chances are, you won’t succeed. Both practical and personal needs balance each other out. Good leaders engage their team’s heads and hearts.
DDI can help you develop more effective leaders to take your teams to the next level. Learn about more ways to boost performance with the on-demand webinar, “How Teams Thrive: Boost Team Performance for Business Success.”
Verity Creedy is a Director in DDI’s Product Management team. Usually living in London, Verity has spent time working at five different DDI offices including our US Headquarters. When she’s not identifying future frontline leader product needs, Verity can be found sweating in spin classes, eating various types of bakery items, and telling people about her adoration for Taylor Swift. If you have any frontline leader product ideas, pastry favorites, or Swifty news, send them to firstname.lastname@example.org