Teamwork. It's a word that makes some people smile and others cringe. It might conjure up being forced to work in groups in college, or it might be part of a great experience in a particular job setting. No matter how it makes people feel, though, it's important to understand the value that a good team can provide to any company.
For over forty years, business leaders have worked to create a team model that accurately describes the characteristics of the most successful teams.
Despite the value of these models, risk-based work requires a unique outlook.
To answer the needs of those doing risk-based work in compliance, internal audit, operational risk-based, and information security, we created the 10 Aspects of a Strong Team Model. This model was developed from and based on seven other evidence-based models while also including aspects based on OCEG research.
This model will give you the tool you need to succeed with your risk-based team.
What makes a team effective?
Based on our research and the compilation of past team success models, we identified ten key aspects that are evident on all strong risk teams and compiled them in the 10 Aspects Team Model. Teams that show these aspects demonstrate a stronger ability to efficiently and effectively complete their projects and drive principled performance in their organization.
As an overview, strong teams have these 10 key aspects:
- Structure, and
Does your team have all of those? Are they practicing them the right way? If the answer is no, or if you aren't sure, we can help.
The 10 aspects aren't just buzzwords. They're much more than that and they go deeper than you might expect.
A better understanding of them is important to help your team in any areas where they're having problems.
So let’s dig into the aspects a bit more.
Your team members need a purpose that the team can work on together. They should consider:
- what they want to do - their mission
- what they want to be - their vision
- what they want to accomplish - their objectives
- how they will conduct themselves - their values
You want to have a team that can navigate unexpected obstacles and understands the value of the work they do. When people do not understand their purpose, they feel lost and unengaged. If challenges arise, the team members cannot ask themselves “do my actions align with our central purpose?” because they lack that collective intelligence about that purpose.
This makes it hard for them to adapt to new situations.
So keep that in mind when you're focused on building a team. You want people to feel a sense of purpose when they go about their tasks. Team leaders should figure out what motivates people, nurture open communication with the group members, and set out to figure out what exactly the purpose of the group will be before they get started on anything else.
Team members need to commit to the team, and that's a given. But there's more to the equation than just staying committed to what the team's trying to accomplish. They also need to be committed to the team as an overall entity.
You can have people who agree with the purpose of the group but only do the minimum that is required. A strong risk-based team will have people firmly committed and engaged.
- How does our team function?
- What are our team “norms” and ways that we “do things around here?”
- What does it require of us?
If they don't know the answers to those questions, it's time they started asking (it’s time YOU started asking).
Teams that lack commitment will miss opportunities and lack confidence.
There will always be an excuse for failure. Eliminate that excuse and build a stronger commitment through better communication and trust.
Team members also need to remember that they're equal and should be treated that way. Yes, there might be a team leader or other designated roles. But don’t forget, the entire team is there for a common goal and a common purpose. Nothing will destroy commitment more quickly than treating team members unequally.
Good teams get results and see progress toward these results. After all, the team is there to accomplish something.
A team needs to see and judge its progress toward individual and collective objectives.
When it comes to results you can describe teams in 3 ways:
- Weak teams that do not hold team members accountable
- Mediocre teams where accountability is driven solely by the boss
- Strong teams where team members feel comfortable being accountable and able to give feedback to each other
To properly measure your results, you want to use objective assessments that let you see how well the individuals and the team as a whole met their objectives.
Seeing the regular progression towards goals helps team members grasp their real achievements and accomplishments. It becomes easier to understand how an individual’s work matters to the wider group, which in turn helps them feel appreciated and valued by the team.
Team members can discuss progress and results with objective standards to guide them, reducing hurt feelings and arguments and leading to more productive conversations. Since people will know that their work will be judged according to a specific (high) standard, they will be sure to put their best foot forward, leading to greater team intelligence.
Each person on the team is both individually accountable, and accountable as part of the group when it comes to the team outcome. In short, each contribution matters and makes an impact on team performance as a whole.
Strong teams build cohesion by holding individuals and the group accountable for results. If team members know what's expected of them, it provides them with:
- Mutual respect
All of those things help them be better team members and better teammates for the other people they work with. When that team effort is done, they'll also be better at working on teams in the future. They've learned a valuable skill.
Risk-based related teams require a careful mix of different skills and specializations. Consider the various areas that risk-based must address. You want to include professionals on teams with skill in:
- Governance and strategy skills to understand the business model;
- Risk and performance skills to address uncertainty and decision-making;
- Audit and assurance skills to provide assurance and reliability;
- Compliance and quality skills to address mandated and voluntary requirements;
- Ethics and culture skills to address integrity;
- IT skills to address the reality of the digital economy;
- Analysis skills to understand and develop meaningful information.
A team achieves balance when it brings together people with skills and talents from these different, critical specialties.
Teams that do not incorporate this important mix may lack insight into important parts of the business that may hinder progress. Too many people specializing in the same area can lead to unneeded competition.
A risk-based team that lacks one or more vital skill sets isn't a strong team, and will likely fail to give your business what it needs.
Not only will a strong team include members with a variety of the necessary skills and specializations, but you also want to create a balance of personalities, experiences, and perspectives within the team.
This balance, this diversity, will drive creativity and help to boost the performance of the group.
Balancing a team requires more than looking at external and immutable characteristics, such as race or age. This is an error that many teams make and one that is illegal in many jurisdictions.
Instead, you want to cultivate a diversity of perspectives. To do this, consider the lived experiences, cultures and communities that people come from. This impacts how they view problems and potential solutions.
You also want to consider the personalities of the team members. Assessments such as the Big 5 or DISC can offer excellent insight into the personalities of the potential team members, empowering you to create balanced teams that represent a variety of aspects.
You should also ensure that multiple levels of experience and multiple levels of the organization are involved in the team. Having everyone with similar experience will reduce the range of views and perspectives on the team.
I bet you've done that exercise where you fall backward and someone catches you. It's in just about every college class or career training seminar where they're trying to get you to trust people you work with. Trust is a critical part of human nature-- we want to feel connected to others. When this element lives in a team, amazing things occur!
Each person must believe that they can rely on the other members to ‘have their back’ and not ‘throw them under the bus’ if problems arise on the project.
To build trust, promoting equal footing among the team members will be essential. Align the goals and values of the group and ensure that you select people you can trust to do their jobs well. Allow people to share their thoughts on the team culture and find excuses to celebrate each other.
As the group establishes its norms, you should also include a process for resolving disagreements. Promoting healthy resolution encourages people to feel comfortable broaching difficult topics.
Teams that lack trust will find their team members feeling defensive of their own roles, responsibilities, and accomplishments. People will be unable to ask questions or provide and receive constructive feedback. They will function more as several people trying to accomplish a task instead of a cohesive team.
When we consider the idea of having a whole that is greater than the sum of its parts, it becomes clear why this lack of cohesion will hurt the potential of the group.
What is empathy? It's not the same as sympathy, which is basically feeling bad for someone else or their situation. True empathy is deeper than that. It's much more focused on feeling what the other person feels.
Because teams also need constructive conflict and trust to grow, it is the empathy of the group members that will allow these things to happen. Empathy helps team members detect conflict -- and to truly understand the other person which helps resolution.
Some researchers use the phrase “social sensitivity” to specify this part of empathy. People who have high levels of social sensitivity are able to detect the emotions and feelings of other people.
Team members can nurture empathy by improving communication among team members and practicing active listening. Encouraging team members to be self-aware and leading by example can help team leaders build this trait within the group.
Teams that do not have empathy will have trouble understanding each other and their stakeholders. This will make it difficult for the benefits of having a fully balanced team to manifest themselves. The inability of team members to fully express their thoughts for fear of ‘losing face’ will lead to lost opportunities.
You need people who understand, and who will continue to try to understand even when they're struggling with their own issues or something doesn't make sense to them.
You may think it's great that your team members never disagree with one another. They all seem to get along. That's great, right? Well, maybe not.
Constructive conflict is a thing.
It refers to a free sharing of ideas in an environment where people feel comfortable fully expressing themselves, disagreeing with each other, and arriving at decisions that reflect these discussions.
When people do not have constructive conflict, we see explosions in office politics, a lack of creativity, and a rise of destructive disagreements.
You want people to address disputes head-on in a respectful atmosphere, not allowing grudges to fester under the surface.
People don't always get along. And that's okay.
You don't want your team members to agree on all the things, all the time. If they do, they really aren't sorting anything out. They're just sitting around the table, nodding in bovine agreement with the last thing the last person said.
You won't get anywhere productive when the team acts like that.
When conflict arises constructively, it can actually inspire creativity and innovation.
To ensure that your conflict follows this constructive path, you need to establish ground rules in the beginning, at the formation of your team. These rules should help the team identify conflicts that arise and then set up guidelines for resolving them constructively.
Team members who express potentially disruptive ideas and succeed in driving innovation for the group should be rewarded. Members should not feel nervous to express their opinions.
Teams that make the mistake of avoiding any possible conflict can inadvertently make people shy away from expressing their ideas. Remind people that it is not personal, it’s just business to help everyone feel comfortable with feedback and open discussion.
Team members should have no confusion over the roles they will play on the team.
Confusion leads to bickering, redundancy, and unhealthy (as opposed to healthy) competition. Teams begin to lose sight of their purpose and goals get missed.
Once you have your group roles assigned, then leadership should be allocated to one or more people, while maintaining a sense of equality among team members.
Ensure that the decision-making roles align with the responsibilities and jobs that people have to prevent inefficiencies.
Importantly, your structure should encourage depth. All critical roles should have people ready to step in if needed. You may achieve depth by having internal staff ready to fill critical roles or by establishing relationships with outside advisors or staffing companies.
If team members cannot perform their duties, someone should be able to seamlessly step into the role to avoid unnecessary disruptions and slow-downs. Without this important depth, teams can find themselves seriously struggling if someone leaves the team for any reason.
Also, don't be afraid to step in and re-assign people who need it. Mature people understand that's sometimes required. They'll move into the new role, and the team will be better for it.
When teams are truly effective and strong, there's no time for drama. It's not about who got picked to be a leader, or anything else. It's about the good of the team and the good of the organization.
How can each person help?
What role do they fit into?
Those are the kinds of questions you should be asking, and the kinds of questions the team members should be asking themselves and one another, as well. That allows for true effectiveness, not just something that looks good on the surface.
Problems arise when a team lacks the authority they need to get the job done. Teams get slowed down by members constantly seeking permission to complete even mundane parts of their responsibilities.
Give them the authority they need. Or, if you are the team leader, GET the authority that you and your team need to be effective.
Teams should understand exactly what they can and can't do right from the beginning. That removes the guesswork and reduces problems.
If there are certain things your team isn't authorized to do, that's fine. But give them enough authority to actually make decisions and act on them. Otherwise, they'll spend the majority of their time waiting for someone else's permission instead of getting things accomplished. That's not a good situation.
If you're trusting them to be a team and you picked them because you value their skills and their insight, make sure you show them by letting them have authority over the project the team handles.
This authority will include ensuring that the team has the resources needed to fulfill their purpose. This includes the necessary budget and other forms of resources.
The team will need physical resources, such as the necessary equipment and space to perform their risk-based work.
They will also need information and digital resources. Teams may need access to computer systems or other forms of digital information that will play a role in a risk-based analysis.
A well-equipped team will have access to the ideal internal and external experts and resources. For a risk-based team to perform their job correctly, they must have all the data that might impact the outcome.
Some businesses might point out that resource constraints can drive creativity.
While this might be true with mild resource shortages, chronic or extreme deprivation of what the team needs tend to slow down their creative processes and will result in poorer results.
How does the “10 Aspects Team Model” map to other team models?
The 10 Aspects Team Model was developed through careful consideration of seven other evidence-based models that have emerged throughout the decades. As you examine how our model maps out according to these past ideas, it becomes clear how our model has emerged to uniquely fit the needs of those in risk-based work.
Rubin, Plovnick, and Fry’s GRPI model (1977)
This 1977 model was one of the first to emerge as businesses sought to understand what made some teams work well while others struggled. The GRPI stands for Goals, Roles, Processes, and Interpersonal Relationships.
This model aligns moderately well with the 10 Aspects Team Model. The Goals portion can be likened to the ‘purpose’, ‘commitment’, and ‘results’ stages in the Core Aspect ideas, and the Roles with ‘structure’ and ‘skills’. Processes then fit with the ‘conflict’ category found in the 10 Aspects Team Model. Finally, the Interpersonal Relationships component fits with the ‘trust’ and ‘empathy’.’
As this was one of the earliest models created, the insight offered here establishes a strong foundation for building the rest of our model. The 10 Aspects Team Model, however, offers a higher degree of precision in several of the components and adds additional aspects that become important in risk-based work.
Katzenbach and Smith’s Team Basics Model (1993)
Just over 15 years after the birth of the GRPI model, Katzenbach and Smith offered the business world their own unique approach with the Team Basics model. Katzenbach and Smith were authors who studied teams across a number of companies and looked at how they navigated challenges. This model focused on the need for commitment, skills, and accountability in teams, and how these features could lead to the desired results of collective work products, personal growth, and performance results.
Like the earlier model, this model saw moderate alignment with our 10 Aspect Model, with about half of our aspects being found throughout the Team Basics ideas. The Commitment component of the authors’ work covers the ‘purpose’ and ‘commitment’ found in the 10 Aspects Team Model. Skills align with ‘skills’ and ‘conflict’ in our model. Accountability aligns with ‘results’.
Lombardo and Eichinger T7 Model (1995)
Just two short years after the birth of Katzenbach and Smith’s model, Michael Lombardo and Robert Eichinger put forth their own ideas about team success, an arrangement known as the T7 model.
This model looked at seven different factors, five of them being internal and two that were external. The model emphasized the importance of the five internal factors success but noted that regardless of the fit of the internal factors, without team leader fit and team support from the organization, the team will not be as effective as they might have otherwise been.
This arrangement also saw moderate alignment. The Trust factor in the T7 can be paired with the ‘purpose’, ‘trust’, ‘empathy’, and ‘skills’ categories of 10 Aspects Team Model, with ‘structure’ and ‘authority’ also accounted for within the T7 categories.
The insight and research that went into creating this model were very valuable in the development of the 10 Aspects Team Model, but it did require considerable refinement so that it would apply directly to those working in risk-based.
LaFasto and Larson’s Five Dynamics of Teamwork and Collaboration (2001)
A few years after Lombardo and Eichinger came Frank LaFasto and Carl Larson, two new authors. They also spent time gathering information from teams across a number of industries. They wanted to be able to describe the characteristics of an effective team.
From the information they gathered, they put together a list of five layers that increase the odds of team success. This model similarly aligns well with 10 Aspects Team Model, hitting the majority of the points, though not all.
Team Leadership can be paired with ‘purpose’ in the 10 Aspects Team Model, with the Organization Environment layer of the Five Dynamics aligning with the ‘commitment’ and ‘authority’ pieces in our 10 aspects. Other layers align with the ‘skills’, ‘balance’, ‘trust’, ‘conflict’, and ‘empathy’ aspects.
Interestingly, this is the only other model that aligns with the Balance portion of the 10 Aspects Team Model. The Five Dynamics portion notes the importance of selecting the right people and balancing their viewpoints with diverse views, personalities, and expertise of other members of the group. The 10 Aspects Team Model also encourages teams to bring together diverse points of view to maximize results.
Hackman’s Team Effectiveness Model (2002)
In 2002, J. Richard Hackman proposed five conditions that increased the likelihood of a team achieving success in their endeavors. To confirm whether or not the five conditions he outlined actually promoted team effectiveness, Hackman studied analytic teams within the U.S. intelligence community.
This model maps moderately well with our 10 aspects, with about half of the characteristics pairing off. The Real Team and Expert Coaching align with the ‘purpose’ category, while Compelling Direction can be paired with both ‘purpose’ and ‘commitment’. The Enabling Structure condition can be paired with ‘skills’ and ‘structure’, while the Supportive Context fits with ‘authority’. Other important aspects that apply to risk-based, including balance, trust, and conflict, do not seem well-represented in this model.
Lencioni’s Five Dysfunctions of a Team Model (2005)
Patrick Lencioni developed his Five Dysfunctions of a Team Model in 2005. This model looks at the primary sources of dysfunction and conflicts within groups. Working from the opposite starting point of most other models, Lencioni described the five categories that teams need to avoid if they want to be effective. He organized the five dysfunctions as a pyramid, claiming that teams need to focus on healing the potential sources of dysfunction found at the bottom, and then working your way to the top.
This model aligns moderately well, with the importance of Commitment Focus in the Lencioni model aligning with the ‘commitment’ portion of the 10 Aspects Team Model, and the results, trust, empathy, and conflict also finding pairs as well.
Curphy and Hogan’s Rocket Model (2010)
Curphy and Hogan developed their own model for team performance, known as the Rocket Model. The Rocket Model borrows from the research and insight offered by all those who had developed the earlier methods. This model also maps well to 10 Aspects Team Model, with a number of components lining up.
The Rocket model contains features that align with the ‘purpose’, ‘commitment’, ‘results’, ‘skills’, ‘structure’, ‘trust’, ‘conflict’, and ‘empathy’. Since this framework does cover many important aspects of teamwork and team building, the 10 Aspects Team Model was strengthened by looking at the components that matter the most to those in risk-based departments.
Effective Teams Provide Value
In short, effective teams make for effective organizations. Strong teams get things done. Whether you're dealing with 5 dysfunctions of a team (there are infinitely more problems than that) the time to fix that problem is now.
Any issue can be corrected. It's just about timing and effort. Talk to your team. Find out what they need. Then, focus on the 10 Aspects of a Strong Team.
Building a successful team requires looking carefully at these important aspects and building a team of professionals that incorporates these ideas.
As you prepare to build new project teams, consider how you can incorporate these aspects into the team members you select. See how focusing on these areas can help your risk-based team take projects further, building a more efficient and effective team.
We understand that some teams are simply going to work better than others. That's just a part of life and a part of working with people who are different from one another. But good, effective teams are possible in any organization.
If you don't have strong teams, it's time to re-think the way your teams are created, managed and led using this 10 Aspects Team Model.
You'll be glad you did.