18 Characteristics of an Effective Team

Characteristics of Effective Teams

While no team exists without problems, some teams, particularly those who have learned to counter negative team dynamics, seem to be especially good at preventing many issues. We have put together a list of what may be considered the essential ingredients for creating effective teams.

Ideal Size and Membership

The team should be the minimum size needed to achieve the team’s goals and include members with the right mix of skills and talents to get the job done.

Fairness in Decision-Making

Ideally, teams will make decisions by consensus. When consensus is not feasible, teams will use fair decision-making procedures that everyone agrees on.


Effective teams value original thinking and will produce new and unique approaches to organizational problems.


Members must be accountable to each other for getting their work done on schedule and following the group’s rules and procedures.

Purpose and Goals

Every team member must clearly understand the purpose and goals for bringing this particular group of individuals together.

Action Plans

Help the team determine what advice, assistance, training, materials, and other resources it may be needed.

Roles & Responsibilities

Teams operate most efficiently if they tap everyone’s talents. All members understand their own duties and know who is responsible for what.

Information Sharing

Effective discussions depend upon how well information is passed between team members – hoarding information cannot be tolerated. A proliferation of new technologies has made this easier than it has ever been.

Good Data

With information, sharing comes the requirement for good data. Teams that use good data for problem-solving and decision-making have a much easier time arriving at permanent solutions to problems.

Meeting Skills and Practices

All team members must commit to a common method for conducting meetings. There is no ‘best’ method, but everyone must be on the same page.

Decision Making

This is really a subset of the ‘Skills & Practices.’ There is no ‘one way’ to reach a decision, but it must be a recognized path and transparent to all team members.


Since every team member has a stake In the group’s achievements, everyone should participate in discussions and decisions, share a commitment to the team’s success, and contribute their talents.

Ground Rules

Groups invariably establish ground rules (or “norms”) for what will and will not be tolerated within the group. Many members will want to skip the laying of ground rules, but in the long run, investment up front will head off major issues down the road.

Clear Roles

How we apportion the team’s purpose will largely determine team synergy. High-performing teams leverage individuals’ different roles against collective work products.

Therefore, every team member must be clear about his or her role and the role of every other team member. Roles are about the design, division, and deployment of the team’s work.

While the concept is compellingly logical, many teams find it challenging to implement. There is often a tendency to take role definition to extremes or not to take it far enough.

Accepted Leadership

High-performance teams need competent leadership. When such leadership is lacking, groups can quickly lose their way. Whereas a common, compelling task might be the biggest contributor to team effectiveness, inadequate team leadership is often the biggest reason for team ineffectiveness.

In most organizational settings, the leader frames the team’s purpose and facilitates discussions on its meaning and nature. The leader’s vision, commitment, and communication govern the optics through which individual team members see the team’s purpose and become aligned.

Effective Processes

Teams and processes go together. It would never occur to a surgical team, construction crew, string quartet, or film crew to approach tasks without clearly defined processes. A football team’s playbook or a string quartet score sheet clearly outlines the necessary processes.

Business teams also have processes, including solving problems, making decisions, managing a meeting, or designing a product.

Solid Relationships

One of the biggest misperceptions in the world of teams and teamwork is the belief that to work and communicate effectively, and team members must be friends.

In fact, the diversity of skills, experience, and knowledge needed to divide tasks effectively almost precludes high levels of friendship, which is most often based on commonality — of the way people think, their interests, or beliefs.

Excellent Communication

Communication is the very means of cooperation. One of the primary motives for companies choosing to implement teams is that team-based organizations are more responsive and move faster. A team cannot move faster than it communicates.

Fast, clear, timely, and accurate communication is a hallmark of high levels of team performance. High-performance teams have mastered the art of straight talk; there is little motion wasted through misunderstanding or confusion.