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7 Steps to Team Work

Level Seven’s 7 Steps to Effective Team Work


  1. Create a common sense of purpose – Align this to the organisations purpose/goals

For teamwork to be effective, there need to be clear and aligned team goals. Clarity comes from team member involvement in setting goals to ensure buy in and mutual understanding. Alignment is multi directional in that the team’s goals must align with both the organisational goals and those of the individual team members. Through our work with organisations, we believe that leaders play a key role in supporting the achievement and sustainability of goal alignment through: clear communication of organisational vision, values and goals; sponsorship of team projects; ongoing support through mentoring and coaching of the team. Have a look at how we have woven these threads together to support strategic team project success:  http://www.level7live.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/02/Developing-Leaders-in-Engineering.pdf


  1. Communicate –Take a 360 degree approach to communication

Communication is key to all successful business endeavours and team working is a microcosm of the bigger business in terms of the communication challenges faced. A particular focus for much team working in organisations is project delivery. Taking a stakeholder approach to communication ensures that the team has an understanding of where the support and challenges will come from in planning and delivering their project goals. This will help equip them to develop and tailor communication strategies to ensure that stakeholder interest and power needs are met. There are many tools to help map stakeholder relationships. We particularly like the simplicity of Mendelow’s Power Interest Grid set out here in the Business Analyst Learnings blog:  http://bit.ly/YSl7Z3. Developing an appreciation and understanding of stakeholder needs helps ensure that communication is tailored and appropriate.


  1. Commitment – Value relationships & Maintain them

A key contributor to successful commitment is the quality of communications with important stakeholders including those within the team itself. Appreciation of the contributions that individuals and other groups can offer enhances team understanding, strengthens relationships and maximises the return on resource investment. Building team commitment is a long term endeavour which in our experience requires as a minimum a team leader who has empathy with people and is able to use a skill set that demonstrates congruence with the goals that we discussed in our Step 1 blog. Clear and consistent communications, ability to influence and support for risk taking and innovation figure strongly in building commitment. Have a look at Adam Cohen’s blog on ‘Top Five Ways to Build Team Commitment’ in which he explores the difference between a compliant and committed team, with the latter preferred state including the need for a sense of humour! http://bit.ly/1u0T0nn


  1. Create space – Freedom to Learn and Grow

One of the great balancing acts for any leader is supporting the development of the team whilst at the same time enabling the development and fulfilment of individuals within the team. In many scenarios, one is developed at the expense of the other: this might be due to resource constraints, lack of capability on the part of the leader, or narrow focus on the part of team members. Useful practical strategies for developing team members and the team can be found at: https://www.mindtools.com/pages/article/developing-your-team.htm

Our structured Putting Your Talent to Work programme combines action learning and coaching in a tailored way to support both team and individual development and growth. Find out more about our successful approach at: http://www.level7live.com/leadership-development/talent-development/.


  1. Take Calculated Risks – encourage risk taking in team members

Much has been written over the last few years about the negative outcomes of risky behaviour in certain sectors, notably banking. However, risk taking is an important behaviour in taking organisations forward through periods of change and uncertainty. Risk avoidance discourages creativity and innovation without which businesses at best stand still and at worst decline/disappear. So, a key behaviour for leaders and their team members is risk taking. Graeme Yell from the Hay Group has explored the need for leaders to encourage teams to develop an appetite for risk and explore risk inhibitors as a basis for further development in line with organisational risk parameters: http://www.treasurers.org/node/8606.  Yell’s closing comments resonate strongly with us at Level 7: ‘Ultimately, while many have tried and failed, neither you nor your business will reach your true potential without a healthy appetite for risk and the desire to pursue new opportunities and innovate’.



  1. Support Innovation – Develop creative solutions together

Building on step 5 which focuses on risk taking, in this post we focus on the relationship between risk taking and supporting an innovative culture in teams and organisations. Team leaders have a responsibility to support creativity and innovation in their team members. However, it is not always clear how to do this. In their HBR Blog, Ashkenas and Bodell identify four tactics for creating an environment conducive to innovation: publicly defining a smart risk, using the right language, keep innovation risk simple & small and establishing clear phases and criteria for funding projects (http://bit.ly/1vhRaxJ). Over the past ten years, we have been researching the leadership capabilities that can be developed to help support innovation amongst team members. We believe that by raising awareness of these capabilities amongst leaders and helping to develop these, innovation capability can be improved in teams and in turn deliver improved products, services and processes.  You can find out more about our research and have a go at our diagnostic tool on our website: <insert page with diagnostic link>.


  1. Build on success – acknowledge the lows but celebrate the highs

As a team leader, there is a responsibility to support and revitalise the team following disappointments and also to suitably recognise successes. The former is certainly challenging but a positive attitude will be infectious. In an article for entrepreneurs, http://bit.ly/1sVvCqm, Silver Lining Limited identify some useful tips to help acknowledge the lows with a view to future success. The one that really resonates with us is that you need to be able to see successes in everything that you do and be true to yourself. For team leaders this means retaining authenticity – it’s ok to share your own feelings of disappointment but to quickly build on these through the learning that all can take from the experience.

Celebrating the highs and recognising achievements might seem like the easier option. However, it can be easy to get it wrong just by assuming that your way of celebrating is shared by your team members. Knowing your team members as individuals is important in tuning in to what will really make them feel valued. Some people like public fanfares, others prefer private quiet words of praise. Being a good team leader means being empathetic and tuned in to your people –what makes them tick and what makes them gel as a team.

One of our favourite quotes has been around way longer than we have been (6th century Lao Tzu): A leader is best when people barely know he exists, when his work is done, his aim fulfilled, they will say: we did it ourselves’. All we’d do to improve on it is to remove the 6th century gender reference!