The Essential Steps to Build Effective Teams

Building a high-performance team is the most challenging and rewarding aspect of leadership. Yet, no one takes the time to teach a manager how to assemble a group of people with the right mix of professional skills and put them in the right roles. You are on your own! And it can be a daunting or scary experience, especially if you are new and have never done this before.

Creating and maintaining an effective team is not a random event. It is a process that permanently evolves.

A team is like a tree; for it to grow, each part has to be healthy and do its part. But growing is not enough. We want our tree to blossom and be fruitful. Employees are the roots of an organization. Businesses develop on individual and collective strengths, skills, and experience.

A well-balanced team is far more productive than individuals working alone in their cubicles. Building a blossoming team is essential for the success of every business.

This guide gives you answers to the following questions:

  • What is an effective team?
  • What are the pillars of an effective team?
  • What are the essential steps to build effective teams
  • Final words


What is an effective team?

People interacting and acknowledging each other form a group. They develop relationships and know they belong to that group.

A team is a group where all the individual efforts have the same goal and share the same values. A team built on trust and mutual respect that shares the same goal can accomplish so much more than the individuals in the team.

As Halford E. Luccock said: No one can whistle a symphony. It takes an orchestra to play it.

We provide 70+ additional teamwork quotes to inspire and motivate your employees.

Teamwork represents the ability of employees to work together effectively to achieve a common organizational goal and is essential for business success. Organizations are constantly looking to improve team performance. Team leaders aim to create and support high-performance teams, can understand the vision and values, and contribute to the success of the organizations.

#What are the pillars of an effective team?

Nowadays, teams are very distinct from those of the past.

  • They have a more diverse background.
  • They are more digital-oriented.
  • They are dispersed and dynamic like never before.

While the collaboration and communication methods are changing and facing new obstacles, the fundamental principles of an effective team are the same.

J. Richard Hackman, a pioneer in organizational behavior, began studying teams in the 1970s. In more than 40 years of research, he discovered an unexpected insight: efficient collaboration is not dependent on the employees' personalities, beliefs, or behaviors. Instead, what teams need to yield are some “enabling conditions.”

According to an HBR study conducted by Martine Haas and Mark Mortensen, three of Hackman’s conditions - a compelling direction, a strong structure, and a supportive context – are still critical to team effectiveness.

But modern teams are challenged by two critical hassles - “us versus them” mentality and incomplete information. Overcoming these traps requires a fourth critical condition: a shared mindset. To achieve this dimension, teams must show a high level of transparency, accountability, mutual respect, and consideration of skills and talents.


What are the essential steps to build effective teams?

Building a team starts with the people. It is crucial to attract the right people with the skills and experience for their job role (or a willingness to learn and develop) and be able to work collaboratively with colleagues.

Nevertheless, building a successful team is more than finding the right combination of personalities and skills. Building a team requires nurturing, cultivation, and motivation.

A great team leader should master the art of creating a highly productive team. Building a strong culture takes time, energy, patience, and resilience.

Here are key steps designed to help you build a reliable team that boosts your success.

1. Clarify the purpose (Why?)

It's important to have a purpose and why you're looking to create, assemble, or improve your team. A solid vision of what you are trying to achieve will help adress the big decisions over the long run.

“People don’t buy what you do; they buy why you do it.” - Simon Sinek

Hiring well is not enough

Hiring the right people is the first step in building an effective team. The next crucial step is managing and leading them towards accomplishing their goals. As a manager, you must provide trust, guidance, motivation, and a target. It is also your role to offer expertise and encouragement when the team encounters a challenge.

Embrace different points of view

When brining new colleagues as part of your department, look for people with complementary skills, that can bring diversity, different perspectives and balance. The more diverse the backgounds, experiences, age groups, and opinions the more vivid discutions you will have, and the easier will be the exchange of knowledge. Don't heasitate to ask your team members for refferals, and invite your coworkers at interviews to ensure a good fit into the team's mission.


2. Make a plan

Actionable action plans are the easier ways from ideas to results. You require a clear and measurable goal for what you want to accomplish. Team members may commit easier to the performance goals when they find them meaningful. Consider that you need a roadmap, you need to setup priorities, to asign the tasks to the right person, and follow-up accordingly. Lastly, ensure they have access to the resources, tools, space, time, and money to achieve what is expected.

If you are looking for the concrete steps for your action plan, to increse the efficiency of your team look no further:

  1. Set SMART goals according to your objectives
  2. Set tasks. Break down the objectives into concrete tasks
  3. Prioritize the tasks
  4. Asign clear responsibilities over the tasks
  5. Schedule deadlines and milestones
  6. Execute the plan
  7. Monitor and revise the plan.

Create a strategy

Leaders owe their teams' answers to simple questions: “What goals are we trying to achieve? How are we going to measure progress?”

The trouble begins when leaders start listing five or seven priorities. As Jim Collins said: “If you have more than three priorities, you don’t have any.”

Determining these priorities and how they are measured is the most critical job of a team leader. The work that everybody does will flow from those goals.

A good strategy will represent the actions to implant the plan. In doing so, we recommend the following tactics:

  • Using task management tools
  • Create timelines and measurable goals
  • Update the status of your projects with your team frequently
  • Review with your team the bottlenecks, or overdue tasks
  • Work backwards from the end goal to plan more effectively.

Team commitment

Your co-workers come to the office every day to deliver their best work and win as a team. Well, you don't get that automatically. People need to get buy-in on the team objectives and their goals so that they are more inclined to be fully involved, inspired, and motivated. Have your team members involved in goal sharing, the plan of action, and the methods of solving hard challenges, and you will differentiate from an average team to a high-performing one.


Have a common dashboard

Before starting to work on individual tasks, an effective team must establish a shared goal. Teams are made up of individuals but also groups. When there is a common goal and dashboard to track progress, the "us and them" dynamic disappears. The shared scoreboard unites and empowers team members. They become "one".

Tip: Manage work based on priorities. Not all work has the same importance, or equal urgency, and most important highest impact.

Image: Asana project dashboard


3. Setup rules and guidelines

As mentioned above, even within a team, employees are still individuals. They bring their strengths, skills, opinions, and experiences to the table. At the same time, they will all have their communication style and way of working. As a manager, you will need a set of values, behaviors, and codes so that everybody knows how to work together.

Team ground rules

Since code of conduct is important, you would like to ensure that the work environment is optimized for productivity, collaboration and productivity.

These ground rules for teams are excellent examples. Make sure that each coworkers understand them:

  1. Treat everyone with respect
  2. Recognize accomplishments
  3. Focus on the outcome
  4. Address conflict promptly
  5. Be time efficient
  6. Communicate openly
  7. Complete your tasks
  8. Demonstrate diligence
  9. Avoid gossiping
  10. Meet deadlines.

Create your team’s culture

Every team develops its way of interacting, working practices and demonstrating values. Team culture can emerge organically. Nonetheless, you must define your culture and align on what it is and how you live it. A healthy team culture makes everyone happier, more engaged, and more productive.


Team alignment

Having the team members aligned means they know where the team is heading, the overall objectives, and each employee's role in making this happen. Team alignment is reinforced through regular communication and connecting each employee's goals with the ones of the team.


Live to it

Team culture is not about giving everyone promotions, having a Friday, and calling it a day. Thoughtful projects and progressive changes to working practices are all part of making a great team culture. The most crucial thing is for the team to live by their stated values and codes of conduct.

If you promise to do something, do it.


4. Be a good manager and show respect

If team members don’t feel respected, they will have no motivation to bring their best ideas and best selves to work.


Avoid being a bad manager

Most of us have worked for at least one bad boss in our careers. They don’t listen. They micromanage. They tend to see employees only as means to reach targets. They blame others rather than owning their mistakes. They take all the credit for the team’s accomplishments. This type of management is stressful, puts people in a defensive position, and kills innovation.


Set the tone for the team

Leaders need to set a tone and model the behavior in a team. Setting the tone is imperative, especially during the early days of your leadership. If you expect people to be on time, you should be on time. If you demand employees to have a work-life balance, you should have one. It is simple. Two more ideas to embrace as a leader of high-performance teams:

  • Delegate problem-solving tasks to the team
  • Be consistent and avoid favoritism.

5. Put the team on top of the priorities

A team is more efficient when everybody delivers on their roles.

"Great things in business are never done by one person. They’re done by a team of people." – Steve Jobs


Set performance expectations from the beginning

Tell your team what it looks like to successfully meet their goals and requirements. Clearly defining performance expectations from the first day will help you keep projects on track, help avoid delays and complaints, and conduct them to completion. The key to setting expectations is clear communication. Remember also that expectations might go beyond the job description as each team member will tackle a wide range of activities.

Let your employees know what you want from them and provide direction on getting started. If team members are new to their roles or the workforce, ensure they know how to update you and your colleagues when each aspect of their work is complete.

Establish the parameters of consensus-building sessions. It happens that from time to time, employees have divergent opinions and can't agree on tasks, goals, delivery methods, extra work, etc. By having a system to reach consensus easily, your work gets easy.


Boost teamwork

If you want your employees to work efficiently toghether as a team, you need to provide the alleys in which they can intersect, exchange ideas, share insights, ask for advice, and why not cooperate on advancing initiatives that require a wider set of skills, or more manpower, or better coodonation, or all of them.

Tip: These are effective methods to integrate teamwork in your activities:

  • Organize team-building activities. Such activities have numerous benefits. We would like to highlight that people will be albe to connect in a more personal way, and discover a different angle on their colleagues.
  • Share leadership. By emplowering your coworkers to take leadership decisions you show that you trust your coworkers. Shared leadership boosts the sense of responsibility, and improves team performance.

Improve collaboration

When you want to have more engaged employees, you need to create a collaborative environment that rewards cooperative behaviours and where workflows are shared and people work towards the same goal. Remember that each employee has a voice, so respect their ideas, and allow them to contribute on shaping initiatives, because this will give them more confidence and in turn will take on more challenging work.

Tip: If you want to improve collaboration, ensure that your people take risks, innovate toghether, and recognize the differences among them.

"If everyone is moving forward together, then success takes care of itself." – Henry Ford

Accountability goes both ways

Accountable employees (including you) know their roles and responsibilities. They understand what is expected of them and feel empowered to meet deadlines, follow the company policies, and meet objectives and targets.

People can tell if they are meeting goals and tasks and will know who to ask for help when the need arises. Roles also help your staff understand how their performance will be evaluated, and meeting those expectations can improve morale.

When you're a team leader and believe that accountability is key for the success of your team, then embrace these elements:

  • Prevent conflict and confusion, by setting clear project ownership, accountability, workflows and deadlines organized
  • Invest in ongoing employee development
  • Learn from the coworkers mistakes
  • Evaluate team performance.


6. Have honest conversations with your peers

Difficult discussions are not anyone’s idea of fun - but they are unavoidable when you run a successful team.


Communicate frequently

Defective communication is a common issue in the current workplace. It can affect both you and your team. The team needs to know what you and the business want, and you need to understand and level up to their needs.

Poor communication can lead to stress, mistrust, and employee underperformance. People communicate differently, so take the time to understand the communication styles of your team members. Prove willingness to have frank discussions about problems and misunderstandings that arise in every team.

Effective communication sets goals for your team, engages employees, and identifies issues before they become big problems. Something as simple as a Slack message reminds your team that you are there to support their efforts.

Important: Two key best practices from top managers on communication:

  • Encourage information sharing among team members (both online and offline)
  • Stimulate debate through brainstorming.


Streamline communication

The explosion of digital tools revolutionized the way we work. Emails are a good tool, and Excel sheets are fine; however, when everyone needs to be on track with what is happening, you need to think differently and look for the best tools to help you with this. Think about Slack or Microsoft Teams for a small question or to share a new version of a file or project management tools, where you send updates to a marketing campaign, mark done for a press release, and learn about the updated assignments. In this way
, everyone is on the same page and knows how to get the info they need and the roadmap to get the goals done.

Provide constant feedback

Do you know how your employees feel when you ask for or give feedback? Do they sweat, and their brains freeze? If that is the case, it means you are doing something wrong. It is crucial for the success of a team to know when and how to give feedback.


6. Motivate, monitor and facilitate

Ok, your team is working in full throttle. Now you are getting various inputs on advancement of tasks, new milestones reached, and initial friction. What do you to? How to you balance the workload among your colleagues? It's now time to discuss about the importance of team meetings, one-on-ones, and other tips to facilitate that everyone is alligned and motivated to do the work.


Set recurring team meetings

Use weekly team meetings to set objectives, clarify problems, and plan for what's next.

Team meetings are excellent opportunities to allow team members to share updates with each other, understand the state of play, receive feedback as a group, know each other better, and learn together.

One-on-on

People aren't robots. Speak with them, learn what motivates them, what they think about the team, and treat treat each person according the personal preferences.

Remember that such activities strengthen the professional relationships with each of your colleagues. Also your teammates will be able to provide more details about the tasks at hand, problems they are encountering, where they need more resources or if they believe the timeline might need some updates. It's a place where people can discover personal preferences for work, ask for more flexibility, and discuss about the next vacation, or their training needs.

Some good questions for such meetings are:

  • What's keeping you busy these days?
  • What were the key achievements lately? 
  • What is not working that well? 
  • Is there something we can improve?

These questions, help to identify progress, assess priorities, and ensure alignment with team goals and the overall purpose. And if one of your direct reports is having a bad day, you can be the cheer-leader and energize the colleague.


7. Reward good work

Don't miss any opportunity to shop appreciation and gratitude for the work done by your team-members. Such messages, are boosting the motivation and also the confidence of the employee, plus the fact that the project is going in the right direction. Such best practices ensure that they are valued, united and stronger together.

Peer Recognition

When the team members recognize the work and contributions of their colleagues, it matters. With such behaviors, professional relationships improve, and also confidence, morale, and a sense of belonging. Such acknowledgment usually comes from the manager or team lead. However, it has great benefits when it comes organically from other colleagues.

Find below a few examples of what you can do to reward good work that are easy to implement:


Congratulations, you've now aware of the key components that you need to consider if you're looking to build effective teams. Here is a summary in case you want to note them in your journal:

  1. Clarify the purpose,
  2. Make a plan,
  3. Setup rules and guidelines,
  4. Be a good manager and show respect,
  5. Put the team on top of the priorities,
  6. Have honest conversations with your peers,
  7. Motivate, monitor, and facilitate,
  8. Reward good work.


Final words

One of the most critical responsibilities of a leader is to build an effective team.

High-performing teams are the engine that makes organizations thrive and survive in today's intensely competitive business landscape.

But building effective teams is not a matter of chance; it involves finding and gathering people who collaborate smoothly and enhance their differing talents, skills, and attributes to create a singular force that works towards overcoming challenges and meeting business goals.

Building effective teams is not a one-off event, it is continuous and requires constant action from you. Are you ready to set your team apart from the rest?


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