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Infant Toddler Development Training
Module 2, Lesson 4

Qualities of Effective Teams

Experts in organizational development and management have compiled myriad lists and descriptions of the qualities of effective teams. Much of this work applies to teams working in corporate settings where the focus is on increasing productivity and performance. Although the structure and function of corporate teams differs greatly from that of early intervention teams, there is some degree of similarity when it comes to the basic elements of a successful group. The qualities that are most relevant to early intervention teams fall in one of two categories: team characteristics and organizational characteristics.

Team Characteristics

  1. The team has a clear mission. Members of effective teams have a clear sense of purpose. They know "where they are going, why, and how to get there" (Briggs, 1997, p. 49). A good mission statement, reflecting the overall goal and intent of the team, can help keep members focused on the big picture.
  2. The team members are committed. Team members show commitment to both product and process. They work hard to deliver the best service (product) to children and families, in the most effective way (process). Collaborative, strengths-based, family centered processes are most highly valued on early intervention teams.
  3. The team members share ownership and responsibility. Members of effective teams hold themselves accountable for outcomes. Every team member pulls his or her own weight.
  4. Team members are competent. There is a high level of expertise and experience among team members. Members have experience in their particular disciplines and in teaming. Members have different but complementary skills.
  5. Team members are good communicators. Members of effective teams practice healthy communication, as described in Lesson 3. They practice active listening, paraphrasing, acknowledging and clarifying. They are capable of giving and receiving feedback in a constructive manner. They are also able to resolve conflicts and build consensus. These processes will be described in detail in Lesson 5.
  6. Team members trust one another. If a team's climate is characterized by honesty and respect, trust will develop over time. Researchers believe that trust is a necessary pre-condition for healthy communication, risk taking and creativity in early intervention teams (Antoniadis & Videlock, 1991). Because there is trust, there is a lot of discussion. All members participate. Members feel free to express both ideas and feelings.
  7. The team atmosphere is warm, welcoming and open to having fun together. Researchers have noted that on effective teams, the atmosphere is informal, comfortable and relaxed (Parker, 1990).
  8. The team is 'self-conscious' about its own operations. This means that the team has explicitly discussed and agreed upon a set of operating procedures. The team monitors its own adherence to the rules and procedures. When problems arise, they are addressed promptly.
  9. The team has clear goals and objectives. Effective teams know what their task is and how to accomplish it.
  10. Disagreements do occur and they are viewed in a positive light. Disagreements are viewed as opportunities to learn. They are addressed directly. The team attempts to resolve differences.

Please read Building a Collaborative Team Environment

Organizational Characteristics

  1. Effective teams have adequate resources. The most basic resources include a comfortable place to meet, sufficient time for collaboration, informational resources (articles and brochures), developmentally appropriate toys and materials, and a method for staff development and continuing education (Briggs, 1997).
  2. Effective teams have strong, supportive leadership. Leadership is important both within the group itself, and at higher administrative ranks. Effective teams are given the authority to use their expertise in day-to-day decision-making processes. "Administrators can demonstrate their support by trusting their professionals to make informed decisions that will best serve their clients and at the same time not violate practices and procedures of the agencies they represent" (Briggs, 1997, p. 57).


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