Improving team effectiveness: 4 models to guide you

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Summary

Team effectiveness is how well team members work together to achieve common goals. When team effectiveness is high, team members feel more empowered about their work, which improves their engagement and satisfaction. Luckily, there are tried and true team effectiveness models you can implement on your team. In this article, learn about the four team effectiveness models—plus how you can put them into practice today.

Building a high-performing team takes effort. When you have a group of individuals with unique skills and traits, team success and cohesion will fluctuate. Team effectiveness is how well team members work together to achieve common goals. 

When team effectiveness is high, team members feel more empowered about their work—driving their engagement and satisfaction. It’s no surprise that happy team members perform better. To create a high-performing team, start by building an effective one.

What is team effectiveness?

Team effectiveness is the level at which your team collaborates, communicates, and accomplishes their shared objectives. To create an effective team, you must balance team member well-being with performance initiatives. One way to do this is to follow a team effectiveness model. 

Various thought leaders have developed team effectiveness models that leaders now use with teams worldwide. You can use one of these frameworks to guide your team toward better performance. While each model offers different strategies, their goal is universal—to help teams work better together.

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Why is team effectiveness important?

Team effectiveness is crucial for individual and group well-being. A strong group dynamic is the foundation for many other aspects of a happy team, including team morale and productivity. 

[inline illustration] Benefits of team effectiveness (infographic)

There are several benefits of team effectiveness for both team members and performance.

Effective teams:

  • Become more resilient to challenges that arise.

  • Experience positive synergy with their coworkers.

  • Feel more empowered in their careers.

Team members on effective teams:

  • Have higher energy to work harder and longer.

  • Are more focused, which reduces errors.

  • Are more productive, which produces better results.

Team effectiveness starts with the group, then works its way to the individual. As individuals feel more confident in their place on the team and in their relationships with their teammates, you’ll see that energy reflected in their work. 

4 team effectiveness models

Following a team effectiveness model makes it easier for you to lead your team toward success. Effective teams require effective leaders, and while your leadership style is important, it may not work for everyone. Incorporating a model into your leadership strategy can ensure you’re leading your team in a compelling direction.

[inline illustration] Team effectiveness models (infographic)

Consider the four team effectiveness models below to see which one resonates most with your team.

1. The Lencioni model

Patrick Lencioni, author of “The Five Dysfunctions of a Team,” created a team effectiveness model designed around the causes of team dysfunction and conflict. This model makes it easier to point out areas in your team that need improvement. He divides these dysfunctions into five layers, which you can visualize in a pyramid structure. The bottom layer is the largest dysfunction, and the top layer—inattention to results—is the smallest. 

Lencioni’s elements of a dysfunctional team: 

  1. Absence of trust: When team members are afraid to ask for help.

  2. Fear of conflict: When team members don’t feel comfortable speaking up.

  3. Lack of commitment: When team members don’t know how to follow through.

  4. Avoidance of accountability: When team members don’t set standards or don’t understand the standards that have been set.

  5. Inattention to results: When team members don’t focus on their performance.

Lencioni explains that these dysfunctions are what effective teams should avoid most. Effective team practice the opposite of these dysfunctions, like:

  1. Trust

  2. Conflict resolution

  3. Commitment

  4. Accountability

  5. Attention to results

If you want your team to improve, this model can help you identify areas to work on. It can also help you uphold group effectiveness once you achieve it.

Team example:

This model can help you improve on team dysfunctions or prevent them from occurring. Flip the dysfunctions in Lencioni’s model to take action. For example, the fundamental action for an effective team in Lencioni’s eyes would be to trust one another. Facilitate trusting relationships by setting up weekly Q&A sessions and normalizing the idea of asking for help. 

2. The T7 model

Michael Lombardo and Robert Eichinger developed the T7 Model of team effectiveness. This model focuses on the internal and external factors that make a team work.

According to this model, there are five internal factors that influence team effectiveness.

  • Thrust: The team has a common goal.

  • Trust: Team members trust one another. 

  • Talent: Each team member has relevant skills and experience.

  • Team skills: Team members work together and communicate effectively.

  • Task skills: Team members accomplish tasks efficiently.

And there are two external factors that influence team effectiveness.

  • Team leader fit: Team members trust their leader and respect their leadership style.

  • Team support from the company: The company supports the team and gives them the resources needed to succeed.

Use the T7 model as a rubric for assessing team strengths and weaknesses. Your team may have a few of the T’s already mastered, while others may need work. 

Team example:

Turn the T7 model into a checklist and use that list as both an action plan and a way to monitor team success. For example, your action items under “Thrust” may be:

  • Set SMART goals for every project.

  • Create quarterly team OKRs, with the KRs being individual tasks.

  • Meet weekly to discuss progress toward project and team goals.

Creating actionable steps will bring the T7 structure to life and help your team work better together.  

3. Tuckman’s team development model

Psychologist Bruce Tuckman created the Tuckman team development model. In this model, he explains that teams develop through four stages; however, these stages of team development occur differently for every group, and it isn’t always linear. 

The goal when using this team effectiveness model is to move your team upward through each stage of development.  

  • Stage 1. Forming: Team members come together and aren't sure what the group dynamic will be.

  • Stage 2. Storming: Team members get to know one another, and conflicts may arise as differences in work style and personality come to light.

  • Stage 3. Norming: Team members adjust to one another. They collaborate and put their differences aside. 

  • Stage 4. Performing: Team members know each other well enough to respect and trust one another, which leads to better performance. 

It’s not a given that every team will reach the Performing stage. This stage requires team members to be independent and in sync.

Team example:

To help your team reach the Performing stage, meet them where they are. If your team just began working together, they may need to make their way through Forming, Storming, and Norming before getting there. 

To ensure they get to the Performing level of development, look for ways to support the team. Encourage interpersonal relationships and offer conflict resolution strategies when needed.

Read: What are the stages of team development?

4. Katzenbach and Smith model

Jon Katzenbach and Douglas Smith, authors of “The Wisdom of Teams,” created a triangular framework for team effectiveness. Each point of the framework represents a fundamental team goal, while the three components between these points are how teams reach those goals.

Fundamental team goals:

  • Performance results

  • Work products

  • Personal growth

Three skills needed to reach team goals:

  • Skills: Your team needs communication, problem-solving skills, and functional work skills to create work products and reach performance goals. 

  • Accountability:  To reach performance goals and achieve personal growth, teams also need to be held accountable by you and each other. 

  • Commitment: To achieve personal growth and create work products, teams need to commit to their goals and a shared purpose. 

Team example:

To use this model to improve your team dynamics, start with the key components as your guide. Does your team have skills, accountability, and commitment? Identify areas needing improvement and focus your efforts there. 

For example, your team may have skills and commitment, but their lack of accountability can hurt their personal growth and performance. Put boundaries in place and make them think of accountability as a way to respect one another.

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How to implement a teamwork model

Familiarize yourself with the team effectiveness models above before introducing one to your team. As a leader, you’ll need a solid grasp of how these models work before you can put one into action.

[inline illustration] 4 steps to implement a teamwork model (infographic)

Once you feel confident with each team model, use the steps below to identify team needs and your team’s work style. 

1. Choose a team effectiveness model

There are benefits and drawbacks to each team effectiveness model. But it’s important to stick with one as you move forward so your vision remains clear. As you adopt the model into your leadership strategy, use it to identify team needs and evaluate progress against it. When you have a clear structure of what you want to achieve, you're more likely to meet your goals.

2. Involve—and align—your team

As you work through the team effectiveness model you’ve chosen, involve team members in the improvement process. You don’t need to mention the team effectiveness model outright, but open communication in the workplace is key to building better relationships.

For example, if you choose the Lencioni model, focus on attention to results, accountability, commitment, conflict resolution, and trust. Explain these components of team effectiveness with relatable examples of what effectiveness in each area looks like. Ask team members for feedback on where they think their pain points are in these areas. Then, work together to bring the model—and its benefits—to life.

3. Emphasize collaboration

Regardless of the model you choose, collaboration is essential to your team’s development. Collaboration involves working together, even when challenges arise. The goal should be for team members to feel comfortable expressing themselves respectfully, even if or when they disagree.

Implementing a team effectiveness model is only one part of the equation. As a leader, you must actively model collaboration and set the standard for how your team should communicate.

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4. Check in regularly

As you adjust team processes to fit your new teamwork model, check in on team members’ performance and well-being. Performance evaluations are a good opportunity to have these conversations.

They’ll need time to adapt to the new model, and the model needs time to work. Be patient, and don’t get discouraged if you don’t see changes in team productivity or individual performance right away. 

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Your working relationships can change the way you feel about your work. By building an effective team, team members will feel more satisfied and, as a result, be more productive. But keep in mind that the team effectiveness model you choose will take some effort to maintain. To make it easier for team members to adapt, try work management software. With these tools, team members can easily communicate and collaborate, which helps them work toward a shared purpose.

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