4 Ingredients for Winning Work Teams

What makes a winning work team? Equating winning only to “high performance” misses other crucial elements, notably engagement and burnout. If team members are performing well in the short term, but are disengaged or burning out, the team’s long-term performance will suffer, perhaps irreparably.

To help evaluate team effectiveness and support the long-term success of work teams, we recently created a 19-item questionnaire built on established team-process measures. Using Dr. Eduardo Salas’ decades worth of research on what makes up effective teams, we developed a comprehensive, yet concise, measure of team processes that lead to team effectiveness.

It’s also the foundation of our ongoing research that revealed these top four ingredients of winning teams: Consideration, Trust, Feedback Culture and Celebrating Team Success. These four ingredients not only help teams ensure they are engaging in behaviors that encourage high performance, but these behaviors also enhance team member engagement and act as a buffer against team member burnout. This article defines each and offers improvement tips.

Ingredient #1: Consideration.

Ensuring that all teammates feel encouraged, listened to, respected, and included.

Improvement Tips:

  • Take time to hear out other team members’ ideas. This could be done by holding brainstorming sessions to help solve team problems.
  • Make sure to allow all team members, regardless of rank, to provide input when making team decisions. Include all team members whenever possible – do not exclude someone based on a perception that they have nothing to add.
  • When others do speak up, ensure they are not shot down or made to feel bad for speaking up.

Ingredient #2: Trust.

Trusting each other enough to bring up tough issues and take risks.

Improvement Tips:

  • Psychological safety is paramount. Help ensure the environment is open and welcoming enough so team members feel comfortable bringing up tough issues.
    This trust must be established over time, especially if it has been broken before.
  • To help build trust, ensure others are truly heard and respected when they bring up tough issues. Do not shame or embarrass anyone for bringing up issues with the team.
  • Do not take it personally and don’t get defensive when team members challenge your ideas. This will enable the team to be more effective, as members will feel safe enough to challenge others’ ideas to find better solutions while truly utilizing all team members’ inputs. More heads are better than one!

Ingredient #3: Feedback Culture.

Providing each other with helpful feedback if there are unmet standards or unfulfilled obligations.

Improvement Tips:

  • Be open to feedback from other team members, and do not react negatively when feedback is given. Consider it an opportunity to learn, grow, and improve performance.
  • Do not be scared to give feedback, especially if it will help improve team performance moving forward. When giving feedback, do not be harsh, critical, or judgmental, and do not place blame on anyone. Instead, frame feedback as an opportunity to make the team more effective.

Ingredient #4: Celebrating Team Success.

Allowing ourselves to enjoy it when our team has succeeded.

Improvement Tips:

  • Recognize a job well done. Take the time to celebrate how a team’s success comes from collective efforts. Avoid focusing solely on the task aspects – celebrate the people and their efforts!
  • Create a work environment that fosters celebrations of success. Devote time during team meetings to “celebrate something good” – encourage each member to share some positive team news or have the team leader take time up front to acknowledge the job well done.