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Greg Efta

Highly successful teams seem to exhibit similar characteristics. Although each team has its own identity, they follow a distinctive plan. By following their plan and interjecting our own identity, we can duplicate that success and build our own highly successful team.

Following are seven elements to help you build a successful team within your organization.

Be highly visible
The first characteristic of a successful team is high visibility. If you want to know what high visibility is, go to your medicine cabinet and look for things like bandaids, vaseline, and q-tips. You'll be very surprised to find that while you may possess many of these products, you don't possess the brand. You see, "Bandaid" is a brand name for a sterile bandage. "Vaseline" is the brand name of petroleum jelly. "Q-tip" is a brand name for cotton swab. Some of the most successful products in history have taken on the brand name that achieved the ultimate level of High Visibility.

Successful groups must be highly visible to the staff. Name recognition is critical for the team to grow. To achieve high visibility, use name tags and picture boards, write articles for the company's newsletter, and take advantage of reporting opportunities at meetings.

Organize highly publicized, successful events
A successful even must be highly publicized--the magnitude of the event is not as important. It may be simple, but it must be successful. Start the even internally and progress to external recognition in the community. The goal is to become known as the team that has a particular even much like the Lions Club is known for their winter carnival or the Rotary for their sponsorship of exchange students. The most important step in this process is a willingness to take credit for your accomplishments.

Prepare written goals and share them with the staff
No other characteristic is as defined as written goals. To shed light on this, I use the example of the 1957 Stanford University study of their graduating seniors. They asked one simple question: "Do you have written goals for what you want to accomplish?" Ninety-seven percent did not. They surveyed the same group 25 years later. The 3 percent with written goals had amassed more wealth than the other 97 percent combined!

Post your goals in a conspicuous place to help gain credibility. It's also an opportunity to get others to buy into your direction.

Link activities to the goals
Linking activities to goals enables successful teams to focus on the result, not the task. Many of the recent legislative changes in Medicare and Medicaid may not be very exciting, but if we identify the end results or what they are intended to achieve, then the task takes on meaning. This validates the activity and works to gain staff support and assistance. It also reaffirms the direction the team will establish and creates a sense of purpose.

Introduce the team members and communication tools
Any organization profits from a progressive orientation program. Did you know that 75 percent of all people make a conscious or subconscious decision of how long they will stay with an organization within the first two days! Those organizations (and teams) which take advantage of those first two days are absolutely in the front of retention, effective supervision, and a host of other performance issues. As it relates to teams, this is important because it gets them acclimated to the team quickly. Its important to teach, as early as possible, the most effective methods of using the team. If this is not part of your organization's standard orientation process, make it a function of the team.

Delegate within the team
Have you ever noticed that bad employees never burn out--it's always the good ones. If delegation were more prevalent, the bad ones would carry more of the load (making them better employees) and the good ones would stay longer. Keep the group's energy fresh by spreading the duties and rewards around. This assures longevity and consistency through changes in membership and leadership.

Clear, concise communication should be ongoing and constantly changing. It involves listening skills and effective use of non-verbal communication. Communicate in positive ways to reduce the activity of cliques and grapevines.

We're all accustomed to hearing about teams; I like hearing about successful teams. I call these groups "Super" teams, and I have seen them work. The most exciting factor for me as I work with hundreds of organizations across the country is seeing teamwork in action. These seven key characteristics help make that happen. Good luck with your team, I know it will be super.

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