Six steps to building effective teams

December 13, 2016


Language, communication and behaviour are the three pivots around which a thriving team will revolve. And all these will come from their leader.

A thriving team is hard to achieve and even harder to sustain through the rollercoaster that is the modern-day business environment.

Create the right teams and the rewards can be significant – in performance, results, engagement and morale (and these are, of course, all linked). Having thriving teams is vital for any business that wants to compete and succeed – and it all starts with the leader. Here’s what to do…

Work out what you want ‘good’ to be

The behaviours you want to see within the team; their understanding of the vision – this all comes back to the leader and the team being clear about what ‘good’ (or ‘success’) looks and feels like. That may mean modelling and showing them the way through your own behaviours and actions. Without knowing what the end-game you’re aiming for is, you’re going to struggle even to get started.

Look at personality and communication styles

This may require sometimes uncomfortable and honest self-reflection, but if you want to create and embed a climate of trust, honesty and authenticity of relationship, then you’re going to need to have a clear idea of how the teams work best, communicate, engage and collaborate. Emotional intelligence, active listening and honest, open dialogue will all be key.

Audit how the team is really functioning

This, again, may take some uncomfortable and honest truth-telling, especially in terms of the effect (good or bad) the leader is having on the team. You need to step back and take a long, hard look at how, from day-to-day through to the long-term, teams are working and evolving. The results on paper may be OK but what are the tensions and flashpoints – and are they a negative or positive influence? What’s the team dynamic, who are the individuals who are really the dominant players, why, and to what effect?

Focus on training, skills, development and communication

A lot of the hard graft of building a thriving team – and it is not something that happens overnight – comes from giving team-members the tools and skills to perform to the best of their ability. But it also comes back to creating an environment where they feel that performing to the best of their ability, pushing themselves to be the best they can be, is worth doing.

Manage (but don’t close down) conflict

As Becky Kanis and Christine Marge of The Social Change Agency argue, thriving teams succeed through a combination of fostering co-ownership by all team members, practising ‘healthy’ responsibility, working within a culture of appreciation and, critically, one free of blame and criticism. As they point out: ‘Isn’t it important to be honest about what goes wrong and ways we can improve? Absolutely! But that honest feedback doesn’t have to include blame or criticism – the surest way to destroy morale and hinder creativity.’

In essence, it is important to put in place an environment, and mechanisms, whereby feedback can be delivered free of blame or criticism, therefore boosting performance and morale rather than knocking it.

Review, assess and stick with it

Creating a thriving team where one was not there before is a change process and, as such, progress will need to be regularly reviewed and assessed, and so you will need to have mechanisms in place to do this. But you also need to recognise this is likely to be something of a ‘slow burn’. Teams are not static, they evolve and develop and their personnel change, so this is likely to be something you need to keep pushing, working at and driving home.


  • Communicate your vision clearly and model the behaviours you want to instil
  • Be authentic in how you lead and communicate and the language you use
  • Invest deeply in training and skills development
  • Encourage conflict (or, more precisely, challenge), but understand how it is different from criticism and blame
  • Don’t expect miracles overnight but keep pushing and working at it


If you liked this post, find out how Dave Curry, Chief Office at Hampshire Fire & Rescue, built effective, high-performing teams. Download The Little Book For… The Thriving Team now.

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