Is Your Team Running Out of Steam?

3 steps to keep a great team going.

By Lisa B. Marshall, Host, Public Speaker

“What’s gonna work? Teamwork!” My kids love the show, “The Wonder Pets,” and this little theme song gets stuck in my head all the time. We learn from a young age that working in a team is important.

Your team may have gotten a strong start. But what happens when you start running out of steam?

Great Teams Make Smart Communication a Top Priority
Smart communication must be a top priority. A changed meeting date may seem like a simple thing, but if team members are unaware of it, it may turn into a logistical nightmare. Communication may be as simple as a quick conversation in the hallway or as complex as a multi-party, international conference call.

All team members need to understand how to engage in everyday conversations, to follow up, to effectively respond to criticism, to provide restorative feedback, to handle difficult conversations and difficult people, to know how to say “No,” to negotiate, and to influence. From one-on-one conversations to large conferences and client meetings, concise, consistent, and compelling communication is critical to the ongoing success of teams. Smart communication is not just saying things right; smart talk is saying just the right thing.

When it comes to effective communication, team members often don’t know what they don’t know until a problem arises, relationships are damaged, and productivity falters. That’s why I wrote, Smart Talk: The Public Speaker’s Guide To Success in Every Situation, a comprehensive guide to strengthen relationships and overcome communication obstacles.

Does your team have procedures in place to ensure consistent, effective, smart communication?

Great Teams Need Tools
Even the strongest teams will falter if team members don’t have the tools they need. Some tools are basic and tangible. If Josh’s role is to maximize building safety, he can’t be successful with broken locks and doors that won’t shut properly.

Today, for most teams, technology can be an important tool. Good team members can become great if they have access to appropriate technological tools. Teams need access to all the latest collaboration tools such as blogs, social media tools, video and audio creation tools, online document sharing, and mobile devices.

Even when every team member is top notch and they have the right tools, they also require proper training. For example, if a hospital purchased robotic surgery equipment, do you think it would allow surgeons and staff members to use that equipment without proper training? That’s why appropriate, useful, and enriching professional development opportunities are essential. Don’t underestimate the value and necessity of training.

Does your team have the access to the tools and training it needs?

Great Teams Need Motivation
We know feedback is an important part of communication, but it also can be a great motivator. How do you feel when someone tells you specifically what you are doing right? When your work is recognized, it can make you feel better about the long hours and effort. If it goes unnoticed, you may start feeling unmotivated and disinterested. In fact, research supports that for teams to be effective, at least three positives interactions are required for every one negative interaction!

In addition, teams must guard against burdening certain team members with all the work. It’s important to divide responsibilities so everyone has duties and no one gets burned out because the burden is too great.

Finally, if a team has great ideas, use them. Amy’s team was highly regarded throughout the company. The team members worked hard and they were bright, ambitious, and dedicated. They pitched ideas that won praise among management and employees, but management never implemented any of them. Over time, the group began to lose steam, and eventually, team members began resigning. Finally, even Amy had to acknowledge the company’s inability to take action and she, too, resigned.

Are you providing enough positive feedback? Is the work divided appropriately? Are you implementing your team’s ideas?

Keep the Team Strong

If you want to keep a great team going, it takes three easy steps:

  1. Make communication a top priority.
  2. Give the team the necessary tools.
  3. Motivate the team.

One, two, three, you’ll keep that team strong.

Communication expert Lisa B. Marshall ( delivers consulting and workshops, is author of Smart Talkand Ace Your Interview, andhost of the Public Speaker, a free iTunes podcast. 

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