Saturday, August 4, 2012

The Recipe for Building Successful Teams

My second indoor soccer game in the past five years ended, and I was exhausted. Monday night I played with my new indoor soccer team. The game was difficult as we had no substitutes to give us relief.  This was coupled with the dilemma that we didn't know each other very well. What was amazing was that our difficulties forced us to become interdependent. We had to take turns getting a break by playing defense while our teammates moved up to try to score with what dwindling energy they had left to muster. Communication permeated the field as we helped one another conserve our energy by telling each other when to make runs or pull back. By the end of the game, our comraderie was high and our teamwork was solidified.

Our team managed to tie the game against a much better team because of our interdependence. We encouraged one another with positive feedback and constructive criticism and supported our teammates when critical mistakes were made.

Do your teams have all the ingredients for success?  Here is how your teammates can quickly become a fully functioning team focused on student achievement.


Does your team have a solid relationship base? Before teams can build interdependence, relationships must be established around trust and mutual respect for one another's abilities. If the team doesn't take steps to build a foundation of trust, the rest of this post is not worth reading. Strong lines of open and honest communication accompanied by individual selflessness are imperative to make relationships thrive. Listening sets the foundation for relationships.  If the members of the team like one another and have a good relationship before they begin to work together, the chance for success is greatly improved.


Why is your team established? Just like campuses establish a mission and vision, teams must set a purpose for working together that will support the campus mission and goals. Setting team mission and goals gives the team a unified target that all members play a role in supporting. Once the purpose is created, it must be published, discussed and most importantly kept in front of all to guide decisions that are made by the team.  Again, the work has not yet begun.  Teams that clarify the purpose of why they are together add one more layer to their foundation for future success.


How must we believe in each other in order to maintain our trusting relationship and accomplish our mission? Teams must define the beliefs and commitments that each member must demonstrate to reach the goal. Values should include how we will honor and respect one another and how we will make every member and equal part of the team. It would also be important to include how we will learn from everyone in the team.


How will we hold ourselves accountable to our relationships, mission and values? Norming is about behaviors that every member must demonstrate to help the team go about its daily work. High functioning teams hold each other accountable without sacrificing relationships. Members must be selfless in being held accountable because their values and actions can either help or hurt the team. A team without norms will eventually be dysfunctional in its relationships, and ultimately will lose sight of their purpose.

Risk Rich Environment

Does our team thrive on experimenting and celebrating mistakes? In order for a team to be progressive, teammates must support one another in taking risks and celebrate when a mistake is made. A team that cultivates a risk free environment free of negativity when mistakes or failures occur will generate amazing results because learning is constant and fluid. Remember failure means that your team tried something new for the first time and the effort to take a risk must be honored so that your team as a whole will become better.

Teamwork is a difficult thing, but when teams follow the recipe for building stronger teams, student achievement is the focus and isn't that why we are here?

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