Five Factors for Team Success

Updated: Jan 21

Introduction

We live in an interdependent society, where teamwork is an essential skill. In his book, Teamwork 101, John Maxwell explains that teamwork is important because nothing significant is achieved by a lone person. If you look deeper into seemingly solo acts, you’ll find that there’s always a team behind it. For example, Einstein is a genius and legend that revolutionized the scientific community, and he said,

Many times a day, I realize how much my own outer and inner life is built upon the labors of my fellow men, both living and dead, and how earnestly I must exert myself in order to give in return as much as I have received.” -Einstein

Teams have more resources than individuals. Furthermore, different people in a team have different strengths, and when they can bring those strengths together, they can accomplish more than what each individual can do separately.


In a bad team, the sum of each part is less than the whole. For example, let’s say we have a team of three, and each person can contribute 10 points to the team. In a bad team, 10 + 10 + 10 = 15. In a great team, the sum of each part is greater than the whole. For example, 10 + 10 + 10 = 50. That's the true meaning of TEAM: Together Everyone Achieves More.

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Oddly enough, many of us never learned in school how to work effectively in teams. In this article, we will look at five factors for team success:

  1. Communicating rules of engagement

  2. Committing to shared goals

  3. Connecting on shared values

  4. Having diversity

  5. Assigning responsibility based on strengths

The most important measure of team success is harmony. If a team can work together harmoniously, they will produce great results. These five factors all help you improve team harmony.


Factor 1: Communicating Rules of Engagement

Rules of engagement are rules about how you will communicate with each other and work together. You should set these rules in your first team meeting. You should ask the team questions such as

  • How will we communicate with each other? (In-person? WeChat? Zoom?)

  • How frequently will we meet?

  • How long will the meetings be?

  • How often should be report our progress to each other?

  • What will we do if there’s disagreement? (Group vote? One person decides?)

  • What happens if someone doesn’t reply to group communication? (Call their phone? Kick them out of the group?)

An effective team is open and clear and all these details right at the beginning. An effective team usually neglects these details and then has conflicts about them later.


Factor 2: Committing to Shared Goals

A successful team will consciously write down or verbally state the goal of the team and make sure everyone agrees to it. This is when people honestly share their level of commitment and motivation towards the team. It’s okay if some people are less committed than others as long as they are open about it so that the more committed people can plan accordingly.


An ineffective team usually fails to set shared goals, and then team members have conflicts over how hard people are working.


For example, let’s say you are doing a school project with two other people, and you are aiming for a 95% on the project. You can’t just assume the other two people also want the same goal as you. Yet many people don’t share their goal with the team, and then they get upset at their teammates when their teammates don’t work as hard as them.


By communicating your goals openly with each other, you can come to an agreement together, which then tells you how hard everyone has to work. You can every agree as a team for certain people to work harder than others because their goal is higher. Agreement leads to harmony, and harmony leads to performance.


Factor 3: Connecting on Shared Values

In a great team, the team members feel connected to each other. What connects them? Shared values. To give you some examples of shared values, think CORREL:

  • Caring — We will help each other, not judge each other

  • Open-communication — We will tell each other if we need help or have any problems

  • Respect — We will come to meetings on time and take them seriously

  • Responsibility — We will fulfill our promises

  • Excellence — We will do our best

  • Learning — We will focus on improving each other's work, not on being perfect

During the first meeting, you should ask each person to share what kind of person they aim to be during the teamwork period. Then look what multiple people say in common. Write down those values and have the team agree on treating each other according to these shared values.


Factor 4: Having Diversity

A successful team will have people with different strengths and weaknesses. Furthermore, the team members appreciate each others’ different strengths and therefore can work harmoniously together.


An ineffective team might have little diversity in strengths and weaknesses. As a result, the team has major weaknesses that no one can cover. Or the team might have different strengths and weaknesses, but they lack harmony, so they end up criticizing each others’ weaknesses rather than leveraging each others’ strengths.


Factor 5: Assigning Responsibilities Based on Strengths

A successful team will communicate each person’s strengths and weaknesses so that the team can assign responsibilities based on each person’s strengths. For example,

  • Assign creative and imaginative people to lead brainstorming

  • Assign detail-oriented people to do quality checking

  • Assign talkers to articulate and summarize ideas

  • Assign task-focused people to enforce create milestones and enforce deadlines

  • Assign analytical people to do analysis

An ineffective team usually has people splitting tasks randomly and then having everyone check everyone’s work, or even worse, not checking at all.


Of course, this factor requires each person to know their strengths and weaknesses first. You can use professional personality tests such as DISC and Myers-Briggs to determine people’s objective strengths and weaknesses.


Conclusion

In this article, we looked at five factors for team success:

  1. Communicating rules of engagement

  2. Committing to shared goals

  3. Connecting on shared values

  4. Having diversity

  5. Assigning responsibility based on strengths

All these factors improve team harmony, which leads to team performance. When we can perform well in teams, we can achieve more than what the individual team members could achieve separately. As Mother Theresa said,

“You can do what I cannot do. I can do what you cannot do. Together, we can do great things.” -Mother Theresa


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