In this post, we look at the question ‘Why build a team?’, what an effective team looks like, and what key actions a team-builder should undertake to build a high-performance team. For a more in-depth study.

Why Build A Team?

how to build a team

The reasons are simple. An effective team is the most powerful way to develop the individual and to maximize business performance.

As Anthony Montebello and Victor Buzzotta said, ‘Companies that are willing to rethink old ways and develop teams can profit by increasing quality and productivity. And they can develop a workforce that is motivated and committed’.

Tom Peters said, ‘I observe that the power of the team is so great that it is often wise to violate common sense and force a team structure on almost anything… companies that do will achieve a greater focus, stronger task orientation, more innovation and enhanced individual commitment’.

Finally, research by the American Society of Training and Development found that companies that developed a team approach saw productivity, quality, customer and job satisfaction improve, and an increased ability of team members to resolve disputes themselves.

What Does An Effective Team Look Like?

If you are going to build an effective team, you need to know what one looks like.

To acquire this knowledge, grab paper and pencil or pen, think back to all the meetings you have been to in your working life and list all the factors that demotivated you, that made you wish you were somewhere else.

Once you have done that, then reverse all these negatives to produce the positives. You will find that you have painted a picture of an effective team – and a wonderful picture it is. Figure 9.1 shows the aspects that make a team ineffective. The words shown summarize the views of groups of managers who have taken part in the exercise above.

Figure 9.2 gives a snapshot of an effective team. See how the negatives have been reversed to produce a high performance team. The key question is, how can we turn this vision into reality?

figure 9.2

What A Team-builder Needs To Do

Here are my top ten tips for becoming an effective team-builder.

Believe In Yourself

Only when we are confident in our own abilities, have developed our self-esteem and become at ease with ourselves will we have the capability to focus externally and build others. These are exactly the same attitudes as are required to be an effective leader.

Believe In Your Team Members

We have to have faith in the potential of all our team members suspend judgment, as it were, and provide each member with the environment and opportunity to fulfill the potential that is always there. However, sometimes, because of upbringing
and experience, some people can be locked into low levels of self esteem, do not believe in themselves and perceive themselves to be and are, incompetent.

Provided you have exercised your duty of care – provided the path to competence – then if there is no real response over time, you have to take action to remove the individual from the team. Otherwise, that one individual will deny the rest of the team the opportunity to develop into a high-performing team.

Use The Group Discovery Technique (GDT)

This technique (see how to improve staff performance) promotes discovery, provided the rule of no criticism in either word or body language form is rigorously applied in the exploration phase. In fact, introducing this technique is the single best way to build an effective team because it generates the behaviours that are the hallmark of high-performance teams. These are good questioning and listening skills within an atmosphere of challenge with support. In fact, I know of an effective team that was built solely using this technique.

Over a decade ago now, I learnt this technique on a development programme and decided to introduce it in my own team. I had to sell it to the boss, who was not a believer in teams and not a people person. So, I applied the PBA rule. PBA stands for perceived balance of advantage. What this means is that any person will be persuaded to do something, provided they perceive a net balance of advantage in it for them. One implication of this is that you sell an idea or whatever from the other party’s perspective and value system, not your own. As a result, I did the boss a paper, explaining the technique and focusing on how it would increase quality and quantity of output. He agreed and I facilitated the first run.

The first idea came from the most junior member of the team, and it was instantly criticized non-verbally by the boss! Very delicately I said, ‘I know, George, that you did not mean to, but you have criticized Pauline non-verbally, and we have all agreed not to do that’. He stopped, and the session went on to be a great success. Thereafter, using GDT became a way of life. In fact, any one of us could call whoever was around to help out with a problem that arose in the course of working through our individual tasks. What is more, the boss recognized that teamworking was a very good thing and was personally delighted at how creative he could be. He was very logical and thought he was not creative. Indeed, he started to chair meetings on a rota basis and setting objectives became a team exercise and was no longer mandated by him one on one. We also starting socializing together and so on.

And all this happened thanks to GDT!.

Identify And Play To Strengths

This is vital to build confidence early on. Professor Drucker once said that there is a defect in many Western cultures when it comes to selecting people for jobs – this being a tendency to focus on any weaknesses and select the person with the fewest of them, rather than identify the key strengths required to do the job and select the person who matches these requirements most closely, ignoring any weaknesses they may have that will not affect job performance.

Later, when cohesion and confidence have grown, further new skills should be developed.

Meet Regularly

If it is practical, meet once a week – Friday afternoon or Monday morning – to review, share experiences, refocus energies and provide mutual support.

Use Process

The power of process cannot be overstated. Process should be deployed to build the team and define and complete the task. The GDT technique can be used to discover and agree the right processes to be applied. GDT is, of course, a process in itself and involves two steps:

  • Agree the question
  • Explore it without criticism for an agreed time.

As examples, set out below are two processes: the first to build a team vision and values, and the second to complete a team task.

Building A Team Vision And Values

Figure 9.3 illustrates a process a team can work through to establish its own vision and the set of values it will uphold in its day-to-day work.


An example of a vision and value statement is as follows:

Our team, when effective, will:

Have a clear, shared sense of direction and purpose with enthusiastic, committed team members who are all involved and participate. We will focus on achieving stretching and demanding tasks and goals, supporting and helping each other develop and grow our individual strengths. We will have fun together, and be able to question and challenge each other so that the team and the individual can continuously improve.

The core values that will help us become an effective team are openness, honesty, mutual respect, trust, sharing and humour.

Completing A Team Task

In Figure 9.4, a process is set out that can be used to complete a team task.


Initially you would be the process coordinator, but as the team matures, you might want to rotate the role.

Depending on your leadership style, you might want to explain the process, receive feedback and modify so that it is the team’s process or ‘promote discovery’. This involves asking ‘What are the things we should do in what order to complete this project?’, steering the dicussion if needs be. Critical aspects are that the process needs to be planned before simply diving into the task and every team member needs to agree to it.

Promote Feedback

As we know, this will motivate and improve performance, but only when the team has developed cohesion. Otherwise, it will be taken as criticism and destroy the team. Let the individual lead the discussion of what they do well, what could be improved and how.

Develop Vision And Values

It is vital that the team knows what success looks like, so develop the vision and values for the team before focusing on the task. Often, team builders have a natural and understandable drive to get the task done. Just as many companies are developing a vision and values for all employees, as they help provide focus and motivate, so you, the leader, should ensure that these are developed for the team.

Remember Your Role

Your role is as a coordinator of a process rather than a controller of people You create the environment in which discovery can occur and success be achieved.

Finally, promote humour and enjoy yourself. An effective team is the most exhilarating experience we are ever likely to have in the workplace.

Having looked at teams, in the next chapter we consider how to manage change effectively.