Management Corner

Effective team characteristics: Part One


Working as a team is critical in our world of constant changes and challenges coming from every direction.

Our economy is erratic and volatile. Customers and coworkers all have increasing pressures, concerns and distractions both at home and work. Everyone is seeking calm, consistency and time to relax, catch up and plain enjoy life. With all this going on, working as an effective team can provide some of what we are looking for and need.

In the late 1980s I worked with a great trainer and consultant.In this article and next week, I use six of Mel Hensey's topics from Chapter 9 in his book, "Collective Excellence: Building Effective Teams." Here are the first three characteristics of an effective team:

1. Straight talk is the practice of being open, direct and truthful regarding any and all team interactions. The opposite would be crooked talk and that results in low levels of trust and more stress. When we interact with crookedness, we feel and know there is something being hidden, avoided or misrepresented.

When we experience straight talk there is clarity, accuracy and all necessary facts are put on the table. Sharing with care, respect and total honesty builds the character of the team. And, it feels really good. As Hensey notes, "It reduces misunderstandings, confusion and wasted time; plus, people know what they need to know."

2. Managing conflict rarely happens because most folks avoid it. If we could accept and expect conflict as a part of most interactions and all relationships, we can be in a good position to manage conflict.

Any time conflict occurs of any kind, it is an opportunity to learn about yourself and the other person(s). Conflict managed well becomes a path to cooperation and collaboration.

In another part of Mel's book he says that high-level team performance includes conflict that is used to create synthesis. The passion and energy within the inner emotions of conflict can be transformed into synergy within a team or any relationship. Conflict can be used to create harmony and can be the key to a peaceful world.

3. Honoring commitments can only happen when commitments are made. Unfortunately, many people today are reluctant to make a commitment.

To make a commitment is to become involved and entangled. It requires a choice of involvement and dedication. What and who are you committed to? We are talking about characteristics here. To be a person or team of character is to make commitments and honor each commitment made.

A commitment honored and kept is establishing honor for self and for the other person(s) involved. May we make and honor commitments to ourselves and others more often.

Hensey strongly suggests that a team create a team mission statement that it uses to review on a regular basis to see how all team members are doing. I'd add to that idea to create a set of team guidelines also. If you'd like to see an example of team guidelines, let me know. I'll send you a set.

Three more characteristics next week.

Bernie Linnartz, of Empowerment Experts, is a consultant, coach and facilitator of individuals, teams, families and organizations. Comments, questions and suggested topics are welcome. Cell (575) 770-4712 or email