build excellent teams

How do you build excellent teams? Here’s what the research says…

To build excellent teams, select team members for both taskwork and teamwork skills.

When putting a team together, look for team members who are high in team orientation – people who see value in collective efforts and enjoy working in groups. Choose people who can communicate well, are willing to provide backup support, and are receptive to feedback.

Specifically, consider teamwork skills relevant to a project’s success. The combination of taskwork skills needed to achieve project goals and teamwork skills matters.

Hear about what chickens have to do with team composition…

Pay attention to team members’ personality traits to influence overall team performance and effectiveness.

Based on research connections to team performance, consider whether potential team members are: conscientious, agreeable, extraverted, and open to new experiences.

Individual team members will vary. For the best teams, aim to include one or more individual members who are:

      • moderately-highly conscientious
      • moderately-highly agreeable
      • moderately extraverted
      • highly open

Use caution before putting a low agreeable individual on a team.

Promote the most meaningful types of diversity for a team’s specific purpose.

Teams with members from a variety of functional backgrounds (i.e., departments or disciplines) show stronger overall team performance, creativity and innovation. Functional diversity shows an especially strong impact when you’re working to build excellent teams for design projects and cross-functional projects.

Teams with members from varied educational backgrounds achieve better creativity and innovation. Educational diversity shows an especially strong impact for top management teams.

Watch what happens when Stanford Business School students perform a simple task with Dr. Margaret Neale:

Team training makes teams more effective.

Team training aims to improve knowledge, skills, or attitudinal competencies that will enhance team processes and performance. For example, teams can learn decision-making, new technologies, and error management. Build excellent teams faster by providing team training.

Team training can improve overall team performance, team affective outcomes (e.g. team trust, team efficacy), team process outcomes (e.g. coordination and communication), and team cognitive outcomes (e.g. shared knowledge).

Hybrid team training programs (taskwork plus teamwork) are generally most effective.

When team training focuses on both taskwork and teamwork, the training has a greater impact on cognitive outcomes (e.g. shared knowledge), process outcomes (e.g. coordination and communication), and overall team performance than training that only focuses on teamwork.

If your goal is to improve team affective outcomes (e.g. trust and efficacy), training that focuses solely on teamwork is more effective.

Use team building interventions to achieve stronger team outcomes.

Team building interventions focus on improving interpersonal relations, problem-solving, and social interactions among team members.

Team building interventions have the greatest impact on team affective outcomes (i.e., emotional experiences such as team trust, team efficacy) and process outcomes (e.g. coordination and communication). Team building interventions also have a moderate effect on team cognitive outcomes (e.g., shared knowledge) and overall team performance.

Stanford Business School’s Dr. Margaret Neale describes the importance of team meeting #1 and using buzz groups to increase responsibility for participation:

  • Klein, C., DiazGranados, D., Salas, E., Le, H., Burke, C.S., Lyons, R., & Goodwin, G.F. (2009). Does team building work? Small Group Research, 40(2), 181-222.

It’s never too late for team training.

Team training can be just as effective for longstanding, intact teams as it can be for newly formed teams. Think about how you can build excellent teams throughout your organization by emphasizing team skill development at any stage.

Keep focused on the difference between a team and a group:


© Copyright Coetic 2014-2019.  All rights reserved.  Updated 10/20/2017.

More Coetic Team Resources:

    • WorkWeek Nudges ToolKit – Building and motivating a great team takes sustained leadership energy. Nudges energize your efforts by encouraging high-impact action each week.
    • More Team Blog Posts – Ideas and insights to support team effectiveness.
    • Core Values Tool – Fold values into your team building exercises.
    • More Organizational Learning Blogs – Raise the bar of your organization’s learning capacity.
    • Communication WhiteBoard Tool – Post questions on our fun virtual graffiti conversation to facilitate team building and communication.
    • Change Map Tool – Outline the changes you want to create with team building, training, and development.