What Makes Teamwork Work? by Marcia Zidle

Most leaders know it’s important to work with their team to define goals, but the conversation shouldn’t stop there. You also need to agree on the mechanics of how the team will get the work done. Here are four things that must be clear to every team member.

1. Roles and Responsibilities.
Every member needs to know their role or assignment on the team – what they’re responsible for doing. They also need to know how their work contributes to the overall work of the team. Of course, roles need to remain flexible. You don’t want people rigidly adhering to “my job” or exclaiming “not my job!” when others need help. Clarity as to who does what when lessens the common occurrence of things falling through the cracks.

Related: Getting Accountability

2. Work Processes.
Few teams need or should have a notebook full of policies and procedures. But every team needs common agreement about how it does its basic work. A good example is the way decisions are made. Who’s involved in making what decisions? What are the agreed-upon steps for evaluating alternatives and making a choice? Another is internal communication. How often will the team meet online or face-to-face? What is the purpose of the meetings? How will members keep each other informed — through what reports and discussions and how often? This is essential for effective teamwork.

Related: The Elephant Metaphor: Who’s Right?

3. Rules of Engagement.
These are the shared values, norms and expectations, sometimes called team culture, that shape the daily give-and-take of team members both live and online. They are the social glue that keeps interactions productive and prevents constructive disagreement from turning personal and dysfunctional. So what are the “rules of behavior” regarding lateness, dress, after hour activities, openness about disagreements, attendance at meetings and a whole host of other things that need to be explicit?

Related: On the Road to Abilene

4. Performance Metrics and Feedback.
What measures of progress, developed how, by whom, and how often, will be used to assess progress in meeting goals? How often will performance reviews of the team as a whole be performed? The advantage of clearly defining how progress will be measured is that members will be able to assess themselves. Your role as leader then becomes guiding the search for solutions rather than convincing members that a problem exists

Management Success Tip:

In the teams you lead, have you taken the time to sort out these things? As mundane as they may seem, it’s important to be explicit about them. Talk about them and write down the key ones. Don’t assume, especially as teams become increasingly virtual and cross-cultural, that the ones you want will emerge spontaneously. These are the often forgotten ingredients so essential for team success.

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