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Getting to Team


Wed May 22 2024

Getting to Team

Are you part of a team at work? Are you sure? Maybe, instead, you are part of a co-acting group of several individuals working independently on various tasks.

A “real team,” as Treca Stark Bourne and Krister Lowe describe in Promote Better Team Effectiveness, has clear boundaries, is interdependent, and has a stable membership.


Being a “real team” is one of three essential elements for team effectiveness, according to Harvard University and as laid out by Bourne and Lowe. The other two elements include compelling purpose and the right people. In addition to the three essentials, team effectiveness relies on three enablers, comprising of sound structure, supportive context, and team coaching.

How does a leader ensure that these six aspects are present on their team?

3 Key Task Processes

These three essentials motivate and align a team, provide a strong foundation, and drive effectiveness:

  • Effort—Are members of the team willing to work hard for a shared purpose?

  • Strategy—Do members of the team approach the work with a sound overall aim and focus?

  • Knowledge and skills—Do members have the necessary knowledge to complete the job at hand? Are they willing to use their full gamut of skills?

Understanding stakeholder needs will help determine whether your group is indeed a “real team.” What do stakeholders need from you? Do members need each other to help map the path forward and then work closely with each other to successfully meet the end goal, utilizing everyone’s competencies?

As humans, we’re happier when we have a compelling purpose; the same can be said for a team. Harvard Professor Ruth Wageman asserts that a team’s compelling purpose has three features: it’s clear, challenging, and consequential. The compelling purpose engages team members to use their best skills and efforts for the end goal. The compelling purpose lays out why the team exists, stipulates how the team will reach that why, and sums up why it matters, or its impact.


For a team to be successful, it will have a diversity of perspectives and include the right mix of skills. However, the team shouldn’t strive to be inclusive to the point of inviting too many individuals to the team as this can be disruptive.

3 Enablers

The number of individuals on the team is also part of a sound structure, one of an effective team’s enablers. Along with a manageable team size, a sound structure consists of meaningful team tasks, and clear norms for working. How will team members communicate? Who will make decisions? Does each team member have a valued role to play?

A second enabler is that of a supportive organizational context. Are teams rewarded for a job well done? Perhaps it is recognized on the company’s intranet or given an extra day off. The team also has standard operating procedures, an avenue to receive training when needed, and access to other necessary resources.

Team coaching can help a team that has become set in its ways or aid it in processes or ways of working that may be lacking, such as uncertainty of preferred ways to communicate. Two coaches can be beneficial, according to Bourne and Lowe, with coaching occurring over a period of several months to ensure that new norms are solidified and become habitual.

Team Charter

A coach or coaches can assist a team in creating a team charter, which begins with an organizational chart and a compelling purpose. Team members, with the help of a coach, answer such questions as:

  • To whom is the team accountable?

  • What do others need from us (such as collaboration or deliverables)?

  • What results do we expect from our work?

  • Who is on our team, and what specific perspectives do these individuals contribute?How frequently will we as a team meet? Who determines the agenda?

  • How will we communicate between meetings? Microsoft Teams? Email?

Talent development professionals can be key partners in assuring that organizational teams are effective and at their best, so that they can “add value for the organization, and our organizations can add value for our communities,” conclude Bourne and Lowe.

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