The whole is greater than the sum of its parts. I’m sure everyone is familiar with the expression, especially in the context of team and organisational effectiveness. But in the current climate, working as an effective team and/or organisation is more important than ever.

Since the start of the pandemic back in early 2020, we’ve seen many different workplace crises and issues arise – from remote working and staying connect, to hybrid working and reconnecting. There was the great resignation, which has morphed into quiet quitting. Now, we’re rushing headlong into the cost-of-living crisis – with its impact on people and businesses.

As a learning and development professional, I’m privileged to work with businesses and teams of all shapes and sizes, across many different industries. And one thing is consistently true, whatever the crisis, an effective team working together is greater than the sum of its constituent parts.

Start with awareness

So, how can you develop an effective team? Firstly, and perhaps most importantly, build a solid foundation through awareness. Awareness of self helps you understand your strengths and weaknesses; where and how you can add most value; how to challenge appropriately; and how to turn your ideas into new realities. Awareness of others helps you become more understanding and accepting of others, able to adapt and connect, and collaborate more effectively to achieve better business outcomes.

Once you have a basic understanding of yourself, of others, and how you are perceived by others, you can make better, more informed decisions about how you ‘show up’ for people – and achieve better outcomes. That’s because when you know yourself – your strengths and weaknesses – and can understand others’ preferences, you can also understand the behaviours you may need you to ‘dial up’ – and ‘dial down’.

Build an effective team

With the foundation of awareness, you can go on to build effective teams. Effective teams are the building blocks of successful organisations, so it’s vital that they are balanced, focused and cohesive. Team effectiveness helps teams to find their balance and give their best performance, even during the most difficult times.

Built around four ‘pillars’, I’ve found the Insights Discovery model of team effectiveness invariably produces the best results.

Focus: Teams with a clear focus will have a shared vision of the future from which they can build strong business plans with practical and achievable goals. They’re also more likely to be accountable and have a strong commitment to delivering results. Tip: Gather your team together and get everyone to articulate the shared vision in their own unique way. If they can’t for any reason, or there are different versions of the vision, you’ll need to set aside some time, come together and refocus.

Flow: Teams in flow have an open dialogue, space for new ideas, are agile, innovative and always ready to respond when needed. Additionally, unified teams become closer as they work together towards a common goal, interacting positively and working collectively. Tip: As a team, take time to explore the unique skills and value each person brings and where there are potential blind-spots. On any project, remember to leverage team strengths and have mitigations in place so that identified blind-spots don’t derail business activities.

Climate: Teams with a healthy climate show up as cohesive under pressure, encourage candour and don’t leave any one member behind. To achieve this, each member of the team must feel connected to the whole and feel that their contribution is appreciated. Tip: Take time to acknowledge each other for the contribution they make and be specific by pointing out how their contribution made a positive difference to the final outcome. Regularly recognising and thanking people in an authentic way creates a positivity that flows through an organisation.

Process: Teams with strong processes will thrive on the mix of skills, aligned priorities, and the ability to measure individual and team performance. That’s because clear working methods and role clarity enable people to perform at their best. It also helps to monitor and track progress towards desired outcomes. Tip: Before undertaking any tasks, take time to bring everyone together and discuss roles, responsibilities, and ways of working. It might also be helpful to check in around process at regular points during the project to ensure everyone remains aligned.

With increased awareness and a better understanding of the four pillars of effective teams, you’re better equipped to withstand whatever crises or issues your business faces in this constantly changing world of work.