Although the importance of teamwork has been well documented in management literature, many organizations are yet to achieve the positive outcomes associated with it due to their incapacity to form and foster effective teams (Crother-Laurin, 2006; Jasawalla & Sashittal, 2000).
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In this paper, I aim to not only analyze the factors involved in developing and leading an effective team as demonstrated in the literature but also provide an explanation of how environmental variables come into play in deciding which factors take precedence in leading an effective team.
A substantial number of factors associated with developing and leading effective teams have been addressed in the literature, with their importance being ranked according to scope and environment (Thylefors, Persson, & Hellstrom, 2005). From a team leadership perspective, however, I am of the opinion that the most important factors include:
- capacity to set collective performance goals for the team,
- effective utilization of communication channels to keep team members informed,
- promotion of interaction among team members,
- creation of a risk-free environment,
- building of trust among team members,
- fostering creativity and innovation among team members (Crother-Laurin, 2006; Jasawalla & Sashittal, 2000).
In setting collective performance goals and objectives, it should be the role of the team leader to facilitate understanding of the specific objectives so that team members can understand how their tasks fit into the whole outfit. It is also the cardinal role of the leader to keep all team members aware of any changes in policies or procedures through using the right communication channels, not mentioning that members should always be apprised of their progress toward meeting set objectives (Jasawalla & Sashittal, 2000).
Moving on, I draw on existing literature to demonstrate that the team leader should be at the core of creating a team atmosphere in which free exchange of ideas is facilitated, welcomed and reinforced to provide an enabling environment for creativity and innovation (Crother-Laurin, 2006).
In the creation of a risk-free environment, I am of the considered opinion that the team leader should always encourage members to approach the team leadership when faced with challenges, with the view to internalizing a perception that the leader is not interested in laying blame or criticizing new ideas that may bring more innovative strategies in the team. In building trust, I contend that the team leader should make it a priority to let team members know that he or she believes in their capacities to give the best effort for the team.
While it is clear that all the discussed factors are important in developing and leading an effective team, I am of the opinion that the three critically important factors include:
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- setting collective performance goals and objectives for the team,
- initiating an effective communication framework,
- fostering creativity and innovation.
The choice is informed by the fact all the other factors are dependent on the three, and may, therefore, fail to achieve intended outcomes if the critical factors are absent.
Lastly, it is important to underscore the fact the organizational climate in which the team exists has been known to affect factors that take priority in developing and leading an effective team (Thylefors et al., 2005); for example, leaders in manufacturing environments may be required to use different factors from those used in virtual environments. Drawing from existing literature, I contend that the team environment affects the factors that take priority as it determines how critical issues in the team will be addressed.
For example, while a virtual team may have the capacity to provide feedback and express opinions clearly to members using online protocols, it may be incapable of providing mutual empathy, interest and attention, as well as a personalized supportive atmosphere to members, hence the need to alter the factors to meet specific demands and expectations (Thylefors et al., 2005).
Crother-Laurin, C. (2006). Effective teams: A symptom of healthy leadership. Journal for Quality & Participation, 29(3), 4-9.
Jasawalla, A.R., & Sashittal, H.C. (2000). Strategies of effective new product team leaders. California Management Review, 42(2), 34-51.
Thylefors, I., Persson, O., & Hellstrom, D. (2005). Team types, perceived efficiency and team climate in Swedish cross-professional teamwork. Journal of Interprofessional Care, 19(2), 102-114.