The five characteristics of effective teams

Posted by Charlie Mernagh on


More and more organisations around the world are turning to teams as a key way of structuring their operations. Whether they be ongoing-work teams, self-directed teams, quality-action teams or whatever, interest in how to build and maintain effective teams is increasing. For a team to be effective in what it does, and how it does it, five key characteristics must be present. The absence of any of these characteristics will pinpoint what a team needs to do to improve.

Clear Role and Specific Objectives

Every well-functioning team needs to have a clear role in its organisation. This role must be important and meaningful to team members. Absence of a clear role can lead team members to feel unmotivated – after all if the team doesn’t have a real purpose, what is the point of working?

Mutual Support

In teams that have been well built, there is a strong sense of mutual support – that team members will help each other out when necessary. This may mean taking on extra tasks or activities, temporarily increasing workloads, being prepared to learn a variety of jobs to increase flexibility, or just pitching in when a problem comes up.

Learning From Mistakes

In a well-functioning team, when mistakes occur they are treated as opportunities, not threats. Problems are viewed as providing keys to open areas for improvement. Time is spent looking at what went wrong, and how this situation can be dealt with better next time. Team members take responsibility.

Showing Leadership

In traditional organisational structures, the boss, manager, or leader, is the person who is expected to carry out certain functions – defining the work, delegating, monitoring performance, training and coaching, giving feedback, and solving problems. In a team that is not functioning well, team members follow this traditional approach, leaving it up to the leader to lead. In a well-built, well-functioning team, the leadership functions are shared by all team members, including the formal leader.

Open Communication

In a truly well-built team, there is an open, trusting atmosphere which encourages honest communication. Team members do not gossip or complain about other members behind their backs.
Feedback, be it positive or negative, is given openly, frequently and directly. Team members express their thoughts and feelings about the team and each other, focusing on specific work behaviour, not personalities. Team members listen carefully, seeking clarification when necessary. Team members are skilled in resolving disputes or disagreements.


  • Develop measurable performance indicators
  • Plan job rotation schemes within your team
  • Regularly review performance
  • Rotate chair for team meetings
  • Spen time regularly giving constructive as well as positive feedback


Team Building on Biteable.

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