Characteristics of a High Functioning Team

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  1. Good Communication
    This one should be obvious, but it is amazing how many people are in a team environment and do not communicate effectively. The members of the team can be very intelligent, yet they do not listen to each other or respect the contributions of others.
    Teamwork and collaboration requires good communication.
  2. Commitment and Responsibility
    The members of a high functioning team take responsibility for their part of the project or goal at hand. They accept that problem resolution is essential to the success of the team as a whole, so they work together to solve issues as they arise. It is also important that each member feels personally invested in the success of the project or goal at hand, otherwise he or she will not be motivated to make it happen.
  3. Team Members Bring Their Full Potential
    It is easy to fall into patterns where we play certain roles in our relationships with other people: we might always be the teacher with one person, but avoid being treated as a student by someone else on another occasion; with another person we might always allow them to dominate while we play up to them; with yet another person we might playfully tease them but never offer any real criticism because we are afraid of upsetting them . . . these roles are often subconscious and result from our past experiences which have shaped our personalities (as well as being influenced by our culture). However if you are on a team you have an opportunity to bring your full potential into play and express your unique qualities (within reason!) – this will enrich both yourself and everyone around you, especially if you embrace change.
  4. A Common Goal/Purpose
    When a team has a common goal, the members will be able to work together towards it. Working towards a common goal means that there is an element of trust within the group because each member knows that everyone else is contributing to make it happen. This also means that when one team member is struggling with their part of the project or goal, other members will help them out rather than ignoring or taking advantage of their weakness.
  5. Good Relationships and Trust
    High functioning teams will have good relationships and trust within the group. They will be able to resolve conflict or differences of opinion amongst themselves without undermining each other’s confidence or self-esteem (which often happens in teams where there is no trust).
    Trust is essential for a team to succeed, because when team members do not trust each other they are likely to undermine each other’s efforts rather than support them. If this happens, it can lead to the complete breakdown of the team.
    When you are on a team, there will inevitably be conflict between people from time to time; however, if there is no trust between the members of a team, they are unable to resolve their issues and move forward as a unit. In order for a team to succeed as a whole, each member must feel that he or she can contribute positively without being undermined by others – then you will have good relationships and a high level of trust within your group.
  6. Good Atmosphere/Friendliness
    A high functioning team has an atmosphere of friendliness. They will have a spirit of cooperation and support without any competitiveness or undermining. There will be a sense of celebration and achievement as the team works together towards their common goal.
  7. Team Members Are Balanced
    High functioning teams will have a balance of strengths amongst the members in order to create synergy and allow everyone in the team to contribute fully. This can be achieved by having people with complementary skills or personalities on your team, but it can also happen naturally when each member is willing to learn from everyone else around them.
  8. A Clear Leader
    A high functioning team has clear leadership; however, they do not follow someone blindly because this would undermine their confidence and ability to express themselves fully within the group environment. The members of a high functioning team support their leader, but are also prepared to step up if something needs doing which none of the leaders seem able to do – they trust that someone else will fill in for them if they need to take time out for any reason.
  9. Team Members Are Accountable/Responsible For Their Actions
    If a person takes on a responsibility within the team, then he or she should be accountable for achieving that task – regardless of whether others on the team might see this as an unfair burden upon them personally (for example). It is very important that those who lead teams understand this point otherwise they will end up with disgruntled followers who are unable to contribute fully while their leaders expect everything from them (in other words, they become scapegoats). Those at the top of teams need to understand that they get what they give out: if you want loyalty and commitment from others you need to reciprocate these things yourself; if you want trust you need to demonstrate trustworthiness; if you want respect you need to give respect; if you want hard work then you must reward it appropriately . . . the list goes on!
  10. Good Decision Making/Critical Thinking Skills
    A high functioning team should make good decisions based upon critical thinking skills (and yes I am aware that this sounds like an oxymoron!). Critical thinking involves coming up with hypotheses about how things might work together in different situations so that plans can be formulated for every eventuality – without compromising integrity or honesty because some solutions may not work well and there needs to be honesty about what these might be in order for appropriate plans B, C & D etc., can be formulated too!

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