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Turn Your Work Group into a Team

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Turn Your Work Group into a Team

By Michelle Yozzo Drake

A team or not a team - that is the question.

In the business world, the word "team" is used almost as often as the word "the." Teams are an essential part of success in many corporations and organizations: they bring together people with different skill sets to create products and services, reach goals, and deliver innovation to the world. We often refer to ourselves as "teammates" or "team players." But if we closely examine our "teams," many of us will find that we're not part of teams at all; instead, we're functioning in "work groups."

So how can we tell the difference?

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A "team" is a group of individuals who accomplish designated objectives by working interdependently, communicating effectively, and making decisions that impact their day-to-day work. A "work group" is a group of individuals who generally work independently, coming together occasionally to discuss elements of projects but never really achieving the cohesiveness of a team. Which one is superior depends on your organization, the type of work that you do, and how you and your colleagues work best together.

I'm a huge fan of teams, and I try to promote them whenever possible. It's been my experience that teams can bring an organization to levels of success that work groups never can because being part of a team creates a real sense of ownership among team members that results in everyone striving for the best that can be achieved.

Turn Your Work Group into a Team:

1. Clearly define roles, goals and responsibilities. Everybody needs to understand what their role is and how it's an integral piece of the big picture.

2. Respect the different talents of your team members. Those different skill sets and talents are what will make the team successful - if you know how to handle team members whose talents might clash with each other. By clearly defining roles, goals and responsibilities (#1), you can avoid skirmishes between, for instance, the creative free-flowing member and the analytical organized member.

3. Promote - nay, DEMAND open and honest communication among all team members. This is a critical must-have for a high-functioning team. Continually sharing information and insights will ensure that everyone is on the same page of the project.

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4. Find a supportive and knowledgeable manager or leader for the team. Someone has to be able to lead this diverse group and keep everyone on-task and in-line with the goals at hand. Without a strong leader, it's easy for a team to lose sight of project goals.

5. Make sure you have the authority to make decisions. Without some level of authority, the team will quickly begin to feel like they are just spinning their wheels. What's the use in coming up with great ideas if you can't implement them? That's the fastest way to frustrate a team.

6. Implement a reward or recognition plan. When the team has accomplishments or when individuals in the team have accomplished their portion of a job, they need to be recognized for their contribution. One of the major fears that keeps people from working in teams is that working in a team will diminish their personal achievements. Rewarding a team as a whole and recognizing each individual's contributions will develop harmony within the team.

Don't lose heart if you find yourself smack dab in the middle of a work group that calls itself a team. Use the tips above to turn that group into a team and prepare yourself for even greater success!


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I know of no more encouraging fact than the unquestioned ability of a man to elevate his life by conscious endeavor. Henry David Thoreau