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Five steps for building bounce-back teams

Shawna O’Grady, associate professor of management at Smith School of Business, knows that strong teams start with a strong foundation. She offers five steps to help your team develop a resilient streak.

By Shawna O’Grady


When I’ve been asked to identify the most important area to focus on in order to build a resilient team, the answer comes quickly: develop a strong foundation.

Resilient teams are proactive, and that comes from being set up well when team members first come together. Sadly, most organizations skip the upfront basics and worry more about getting team members focused on the task and assigning roles and responsibilities. That’s certainly important, but not until team members have a shared understanding of team basics (steps 1 and 2 below).

Step 1: Develop Respect Among Team Members And For The Team Approach

The goal here is for team members to trust what each member brings to the team, to build respect for each member’s unique strengths, skills, and abilities and to understand why they’re together.

Step 2: Create Team Mission, Goals, And Norms Alignment

What’s our mission and the goals to help us achieve the mission? What expectations do we have of one another to make the team successful? And how will we build alignment around these expectations to develop a set of norms we can operate by?

Step 3: Clarify Team Leadership Roles, Team Process, And Organization

It’s now time to assign team members to roles that will take advantage of their expertise, clarify the decision-making process, and also organize the team for maximum efficiency. How often do we need to meet? Will there be face-to-face meetings, virtual meetings, or a combination?

Step 4: Build In Review Though Team Debriefing

Sustaining resilient teams is all about debriefing of projects and meetings. What’s working? What’s not? What can we do better? Or: What should we stop doing that’s not being effective? What should we start doing? And what are we doing well and should be reinforced? Document the lessons learned to continue building upon these insights.

Step 5: Tie Results To Rewards And Performance Management System

Resilient team members hold themselves accountable through the performance management system, measurements, and rewards that were agreed upon at the start.

Follow these five steps and boost the chance that your team members will be able to adapt to unexpected developments and stay on track.

To learn more practical strategies to build teams that thrive, watch Professor Shawna O’Grady’s webinar on developing resilient teams.