How to build teams

The success of the service depends on the team, writes
Nathalie Towner
. An effective team will have a strong
sense of loyalty and commitment, but this takes time to develop. It
is up to the manager to make sure everyone is in the role that best
suits their skills and that they fully understand how their work
slots into the bigger picture. This means individuals are more
likely to pull together and work with a shared purpose.

Team goals
Each member of the team should understand how their work
contributes to shared goals. “It’s about service users and carers
being at the forefront of what we do and making sure they are
properly considered,” says Claire Kavanagh, senior social worker in
the disability team for Warwickshire social services. “Teams have a
culture and our manager has developed the group into a supportive
team, but it is also clear we’ve all got our own

Understanding colleagues
Everyone needs to value the work of other team members.
Jessica Jarvis, Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development
adviser for learning, training and development, says it’s key that
everyone fully understands how others in the team operate. “Team
building can mean learning that others work differently from you
and having a greater understanding why others work in certain
ways,” she says.

Skills and training
How skills are developed depends on the aims of the team.
“In any team you’ve got diversity,” says Kavanagh. “If you look at
people’s specific skills you realise everyone can learn from
everyone else.” As requirements change a skills gap may emerge, so
it’s crucial to keep an eye on the team’s performance.

Formal team-building
Days involving activities such as paintballing can be fun
but team-building exercises should allow staff to learn something
relevant to their work. Apart from Outward Bound and so on there
are lots of different ways of bringing the team together. “We have
fortnightly group supervision where each person is a champion for
an area such as autism, Valuing People or palliative care,” says
Kavanagh. “When it is your slot you give a presentation or invite
someone in. This helps us understand people’s different experiences
and preferences and also gives us the opportunity to branch

Kavanagh says it’s important to have a chance to get
together in an informal setting. “It’s a pressured job and it’s
nice to have time as a team with the phone switched off,” she says.
When team members are based in different locations it is
particularly important to get together so individuals don’t feel
isolated. “These meetings make me feel valued,” says Kavanagh. “We
can have a laugh, which is important as the job can be
overwhelming.” Jarvis says that if there is a problem in the team
the manager should act fast. “Sit down and sort it out; otherwise
it could end up affecting the morale of the whole team. Also,
remember to feed back good results and congratulate them when
they’ve done well.”

Moving on
However good the team is, it will eventually break up.
Requirements change, people move on or retire and the team then has
to reinvent itself. This is healthy and enforces a natural
reappraisal of the team’s goals and the skills needed to achieve
them. “Teams are evolving all the time,” says Kavanagh. “People are
always leaving and joining, it is a dynamic process, but we have a
shared goal and a shared commitment to each other.”

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