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Education competencies: Building effective teams

This competency is one in a set of complete functional and behavioral qualities that, when fully realized, can help lead to professional success. View all competencies.


Builds cohesive teams of people within the organization; shares wins and success such that each team member feels valuable and appreciated; guides teams to establish and achieve goals.

Proficiency level

Level 1: Basic Level 2: Intermediate Level 3: Advanced Level 4: Expert
Can organize people into teams Blends people into teams Builds cohesive teams of people within the organization, valuing team spirit Simultaneously develops and manages numerous productive teams within an organization
Acknowledges wins and successes for the team Shares wins and successes Shares wins and successes such that each team member feels valuable and appreciated Enthusiastically broadcasts team’s successes, crediting and honoring the whole group
Promotes value of team continuity and cohesiveness Promotes and builds team continuity and cohesiveness Builds mission-driven, cohesive teams Builds mission-driven, cohesive teams that project a team spirit that inspires and motivates departments and organizations

Overdoing building effective teams

  • May not treat others as unique individuals
  • May slow down reasonable process by having everything open for debate
  • May go too far in not hurting people’s feelings and not making tough decisions
  • May not develop individual leaders
  • Might not provide take-charge leadership during tough times

Essential questions

To improve your proficiency, ask yourself the following questions on a regular basis:
  • Have I clearly communicated the mission of our team to all members?
  • Have I established and outlined a workable plan for others to follow?
  • How will I broadcast the recent successes of my team?
  • Did I recently challenge a team member to experiment with a new way to do something?
  • What fun event can I orchestrate right now for the enjoyment of my team members?
  • What question(s) can I pose to generate open dialogue when meeting with my team this week?
To avoid overdoing building effective teams, ask yourself:
  • Am I allowing too much dialogue in meetings?
  • Am I focusing too much on fun and being too concerned with being liked?
  • Am I boasting rather than broadcasting real successes?

Interview questions

  • Assembling and maintaining productive teams is important. Describe the situation that demonstrates your ability to build a cohesive, productive team(s).
  • Part of effective team building is sharing wins and successes, as well as valuing each member of the group. Describe a situation that highlights your skill in this area.
  • Effective team building involves establishing and achieving the goals important to the team while ensuring successful cooperation amongst and within the team. Share a situation that describes your ability to achieve this.

Learning on the job

Learning on your own: These self-development remedies will help you build your skill(s).
  • Establish a common cause and a shared mindset: Get each team member involved in setting a common vision. Establish stretching goals and measures.
  • Create a plan: Once mission, outcomes, and goals are established, map a strategy to achieve them.
  • Follow the basic rules of inspiring team members: Communicate to people that what they do is important. Delegate a variety of enriching, challenging assignments, and celebrate successes. Show interest in them and approach mistakes as learning opportunities. Be generous with your thanks.
  • Create a climate of innovation and experimentation: Generate a sense of choice and ownership, and encourage short-cycle experiments. Communicate that mistakes are opportunities for learning.
  • Work on understanding people without judging them: Invest in your team’s learning, education, and time to think things through. Understanding them is paramount to agreeing with them.
  • Focus on common goals, priorities, and problems: Sell the logic of everyone pulling together. Listen patiently to concerns, but reinforce the perspective that the team is needed. Entertain suggestions.
  • Build a sense of joy and fun for the team: Incorporate social activities, stress busters, gag awards, and outings to build team cohesiveness. Use and encourage humor, and celebrate successes.
  • Take advantage of each person’s unique strengths: Avoid unreasonable exposure to individual weaknesses; guide the team to adapt.
  • Allow roles within the team to evolve naturally: Each member of the team needs to play his or her role for the whole team to be effective. One member can play more than one role.
  • Learn how to operate effectively and efficiently: Research the common problems that plague teams and the strategies and tactics to overcome them.
Learning from develop-in-place assignments: These part-time develop-in-place assignments will help you build your skill(s).
  • Create teams involving your coworkers.
  • Manage, teach, or coach a temporary group of inexperienced people.
  • Manage a temporary group of resisting people through an unpopular change or project.
  • Assemble a team of diverse people to accomplish a difficult task.
  • Manage a project team of people who are older and more experienced than you.
Learning more from your plan: These additional remedies will help make this development plan more effective for you.
  • Learning to learn better:
    • Form a learning network with others working on the same problem. Look for a variety of people, both inside and outside your organization. Give feedback to each other; try new things together; share successes and failures, lessons and learnings.
    • Use a tutor to learn something new. Listen, learn, and try new things.
    • Examine why you judge people the way you do. List the people you like or dislike and why. Discern what you have in common with them.
    • Form an advisory group to help. Assemble a one-time group of people to help solve a significant issue or lay out a plan.
    • Envision doing something well in a group. Do envisioning and creativity exercises to come up with ideas.
    • Preview a plan with a test audience. Enlist someone in a discussion about the issue or problem you face. Develop a plan as you go.
  • Learning from experience, feedback, and other people:
    • Use multiple models. Select role models of towering strengths (or glaring weaknesses). Learn from characteristics rather than from the whole person.
    • Learn by observing others. Objectively study what these people do.
    • Learn from limited staff. Look for ways to bring out the best in others who may lack skills or experience. Motivate by being a positive force, even in negative situations, and by giving feedback. Recognize when to stop trying something and start over.
  • Learning from courses:
    • Take a supervisory course. Review the common practices of effective supervision.

Recommended readings

  • Avery, Christopher M., Meri Aaron Walker, and Erin O’Toole.Teamwork Is an Individual Skill: Getting Your Work Done When Sharing Responsibility.San Francisco: Berrett-Koehler Publishers, Inc., 2001.
  • Barner, Robert W.Team Trouble-Shooter.Palo Alto, CA: Davies-Black Publishing, 2000.
  • Deeprose, Donna.Making Teams Work: How to Form, Measure, and Transition Today’s Teams.New York: AMACOM, 2001.
  • Fisher, Kimball, and Mareen Duncan Fisher.The Distance Manager: A Hands-On Guide to Managing Off-Site Employees and Virtual Teams.New York: McGraw-Hill Trade, 2000.
  • Gundry, Lisa, and Laurie La Mantia.Breakthrough Teams for Breakneck Times: Unlocking the Genius of Creative Collaboration.Chicago, IL: Dearborn Trade Publishing, 2001.
  • Hackman, J. Richard.Leading Teams: Setting the Stage for Great Performances.Boston: Harvard Business School Press, 2002.
  • Harvard Business Essentials.Creating Teams with an Edge.Boston: Harvard Business School Publishing Corporation, 2004.
  • Jones, Steven D., and Don J. Schilling.Measuring Team Performance: A Step-by-Step, Customizable Approach for Managers, Facilitators, and Team Leaders.San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, Inc., 2000.
  • Katzenback, Jon R., and Douglas K. Smith.The Wisdom of Teams: Creating the High-Performance Organization.New York: HarperBusiness, 2003.
  • Kostner, Jaclyn.BIONIC eTeamwork.Chicago: Dearborn Trade Publishing, 2001.
  • Leigh, Andrew, and Michael Maynard.Leading Your Team: How to Involve and Inspire Teams.Yarmouth, ME: Nicholas Brealey Publishing, 2002.
  • Lencioni, Patrick M.The Five Dysfunctions of a Team: A Leadership Fable.San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, Inc., 2002.
  • Lipnack, Jessica, and Jeffrey Stamps.Virtual Teams—Reaching Across Space, Time, and Organizations with Technology.New York: John Wiley & Sons, 1997.
  • Parker, Glenn M.Cross-Functional Teams: Working With Allies, Enemies, and Other Strangers.San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, Inc., 2002.
  • Parker, Glenn M., Jerry McAdams, and David Zielinski.Rewarding Teams: Lessons from the Trenches.San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, Inc., 2000.
  • Raymond, Cara Capretta, Robert W. Eichinger, and Michael M. Lombardo.FYI for Teams.Minneapolis, MN: Lominger Limited, Inc., 2004.
  • Robbins, Harvey, and Michael Finley.The New Why Teams Don’t Work—What Goes Wrong and How to Make It Right.San Francisco: Berrett-Koehler Publishers, Inc., 2000.
  • Schwarz, Roger.The Skilled Facilitator.San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, Inc., 2002.
  • Straus, David.How to Make Collaboration Work: Powerful Ways to Build Consensus, Solve Problems, and Make Decisions.San Francisco: Berrett-Koehler Publishers, Inc., 2002.
  • Team Management Briefings[monthly publication]. P.O. Box 25755, Alexandria VA 22313. 1-800-722-9221
  • Van Ness, George, and Keith Van Ness.Being There Without Going There: Managing Teams Across Time Zones, Locations and Corporate Boundaries.Boston: Aspator Books, 2003.
  • Wellins, Richard, William C. Byham, and George R. Dixon.Inside Teams.San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, Inc., 1994.
  • Wysocki, Robert K.Building Effective Project Teams. New York: John Wiley & Sons, Inc., 2001.

Next steps

Copyright © 1992, 1996, 2001-2003 by Robert W. Eichinger and Michael M. Lombardo. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. This work is derived from the LEADERSHIP ARCHITECT® Competency Library developed and copyrighted by Robert W. Eichinger and Michael M. Lombardo for Lominger Limited, Inc.

This competency is one in a set of complete functional and behavioral qualities that, when fully realized, can help lead to professional success.