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Effective team building print Print

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Strong teams are a distinguishing feature of many successful businesses. This guide explains the benefits of team building. It looks at the pros and cons of teams and gives you some ideas of how to develop effective teams.

Why use team building?

In order to survive, everyone in a business has to work together as a team. The most successful businesses are those that have made this teamwork fully conscious. To take a simple example, if the goal of the business is to increase sales and lower costs, then everyone can (and should) contribute to this. For instance:

  • Production staff: high quality products delivered on time promote sales, meet customer expectations and lower the costs of repairs and defects.
  • Administration staff: Efficient systems lower overheads and improve cashflow.
  • Sales staff: Excellent before and after sales service retains customers and gains referrals, while feeding back customer responses to production will improve the next generation of products.

The aim of team building is to encourage this awareness that everyone's tasks are inter-related and that the more closely and harmoniously staff can work together, the better the results are likely to be for the business as a whole. Team building, therefore, is the conscious attempt to foster team spirit, where everyone is motivated by common goals and business vision. In this process you want to eliminate the competitive 'them' and 'us' thinking that can characterise different sections of a business.


Advantages of teams

Like the All Blacks on their best playing day, the synergy of a team pulling together can be truly inspiring: the whole emerging as much greater than the sum of its parts. A good team can therefore make a huge contribution in your business. You can use team building in your business to:

  • Improve productivity.
  • Raise the quality of a product or service.
  • Enhance customer satisfaction.
  • Motivate your staff to meet common goals.
  • Bring out the best in individual staff members.
  • Develop new products, services and markets to grow the business in the future.

In addition, dedicated teams can also be an excellent way of tackling specific projects or challenges, such as developing a new product or launching a marketing promotion.


Disadvantages of teams

Some possible disadvantages to consider:

  • Teamwork can consume both time and resources.
  • There's always the potential for conflicts in teams and poor leadership can quickly be exposed.
  • Teamwork doesn't suit everyone. Some people are just too competitive or ego-driven to co-operate with others or function effectively as team members. This is not to say that they have no place in business: strong-willed mavericks have driven many businesses forward. It's worth pointing out that most of the great break-throughs and discoveries have been made by individuals, not teams - Albert Einstein did not discover the theory of relativity as part of a team.
  • Teams can interfere with the special skills and strengths of an individual to the loss of the business as a whole.
  • Decision-making can be slow and the pressures of conformity can result in poor quality decisions.


Generating team commitment

As owner, your challenge is to make all your employees see that a business is the sum of all its parts and that they are part of a team. The qualities that build effective teams can be summarised as follows:

  • A strong focus on commonly shared goals and vision for the business.
  • Team 'buy-in' to decisions made by consensus rather than imposed from above.
  • Strong motivation and commitment.
  • Regular meetings to evaluate progress

As a business owner (leader) your task is to:

  • Ask staff what makes them feel good about the business and what doesn't, so you can address these issues.
  • Select compatible 'team players'.
  • Help establish the boundaries of the team.
  • Provide the necessary training and encourage the necessary teamwork.
  • Facilitate unobtrusively rather than be authoritarian, sharing power with team members.
  • Encourage a supportive, open and creative team atmosphere.
  • Give recognition and value to contributions.
  • Project manage the contributions and resources to achieve the desired goals in a streamlined and efficient manner.
  • Think about dress codes and uniforms as a way of enhancing pride in the team.

The leader should also give some thought to incentives and rewards for team effort, such as celebrations on achieving goals, etc. Needless to say, incentives should be team based not individual since you are aiming to foster a spirit of team cooperation not competition.


Resourcing the team

Building motivated teams is one step, but teams also need the tools and training to carry out their tasks. Not resourcing teams properly can undo all the good work and damage team spirit and commitment. Teams are best resourced through a meeting that analyses:

  • The goals of the team.
  • The blocks that might prevent the team from reaching its objectives.

You might then ask one or two of the team members to accept responsibility to report back to you on the resources needed, such as extra equipment, new software or special training. For example, the goal might be to significantly improve customer service. One or two team members would take responsibility for investigating the cost and availability of customer service courses, whether these could be run in-house or not, and the likely effectiveness of this training (checking on other businesses that have used this training source).


Handling resistance to team building

Resistance to team building usually comes from three sources:

  • Suspicion about the motives. Some employees are wary of any 'new' initiative by management, grumbling that it will probably mean 'more work' when the real fear is often that the 'change' will take them out of their comfort zone.
  • Uncertainty about what's involved in team work. The employee may have heard (or directly experienced in other businesses) of teams that been dysfunctional or have been hijacked by people with strong egos and a craving for domination.
  • The employee's fear of losing individuality. Some employees are temperamentally ill-suited to team work, because, as discussed, they function best as individuals. Many top sales people fit into this category: they win their sales alone, and the commission system they work under encourages competition not cooperation.

The best way to resolve these obstacles to team building is by open and honest communication, by sharing your vision and strategy for the business and by getting as much 'buy in' as possible at all stages. Starting with relatively modest goals and achieving them can also boost confidence. For more information see our ANZ Biz Hub article Thinking strategically about your business.


Evaluating your team

Finally, ask your team members to evaluate the productivity and effectiveness of the team they belong to using the test that appears overleaf. If you keep the evaluations anonymous the results are likely to be more revealing and can help you identify aspects of the team than need to be strengthened or corrected.



Helpful ANZ Biz Hub articles include:


Evaluating the quality and effectiveness of your team


Tick your response from 1 (disagree) to 5 (strongly agree)







Everyone is focused and clear about the team's purpose







Team goals were reached by consensus, not imposed







You feel strongly committed to, and enthusiastic about the team's purpose







Your skills are well used by the team







Creativity levels in the team are high - you're 'breaking new ground'







Communications are open and honest and conflicts are effectively resolved







Other team members are supportive and criticism is constructive







The team meets regularly to evaluate progress







As an individual you have some power and influence in the team







The team is well resourced with equipment and appropriate training







Leadership qualities.
The leader:


Has strong people skills and is good at involving everyone







Chose team members well for compatibility







Guides without dominating (is a facilitator, not an authoritarian)







Is open to different ideas and shares power in the team







Involves and values everyone's contributions, doesn't play favourites







Encourages feedback and controls negative criticism







Is an effective co-ordinator of team effort







Is tolerant of mistakes and encourages risk taking







Is good at defining boundaries, clarifying goals & summarising progress








Further information:

To talk to an ANZ Business Specialist:
Call 0800 269 249
Visit your nearest ANZ branch


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