, ,

How to Build Successful Teams

Successful teams have synergy. That synergy produces energy that drives the team forward to success. The team may come together to work on a short-term project or community initiative. Or, the team may be within an organization where teamwork is the culture of the organization. Yet, I have been told by some colleagues in a variety of disciplines that their workplaces are lacking in teamwork. If you work in one of those places, how do you develop that synergy? And, what are the key components of successful teams?


The most important component of a successful team is trust between the members of that team. Simon Sinek says: “A team is not a group of people who work together. A team is a group of people who trust each other.” But, trust is built over time. And, there is some risk-taking involved when you are starting to build a team. Some considerations are:

  • You need team members who show up and deliver what they promise.
  • If they are slowing the process down, do they have hidden agendas?
  • They may not be committed to the work because they were assigned to participate and have no interest in the project.
  • Not all team members come with to the table with the same skills. So what might seem to be a lack of enthusiasm on their part may really mean they need to be assigned tasks better suited to their skills.
  • You will need to make adjustments for different personalities on your team and the impact they may have on team dynamics.
  • Unfortunately, you can’t force someone to be a team player. If you have to keep that person on your team, they will eventually get sidelined by their peers. And, sometimes peer pressure by team members helps to bring that person on board.


Members of effective teams consistently talk to each other throughout the process. And, the team leader must be clear about the goals the team is working toward. Without that clarity, team members may unwittingly work at odds with one another. If you are not getting cooperation, it may be that the stated goal is not clear enough for the team to embrace it.

Also, review the goals with the team throughout the process. It’s important to keep them informed about progress toward the goals. Challenges will emerge and it will require that collective effort to meet those challenges.

And, if you need particular members for your team, ask them. I have found when you ask people directly to get involved, they will often agree.


Let your team know they are appreciated. Maybe it’s not in your budget or within your authority to give your team members monetary recognition, but a ‘Thank you’ goes a long way in showing appreciation.

Team-building Activities

There are a variety of activities you can use for team building:

  • GovLoop Featured Contributor Lisa Menke’s used a unique approach to community building within her agency. She chose to create a standing once a week 15-minute appointment for building community within her agency. It was so successful that the sessions were held weekly for nearly a year and a half! She even created a logo and an acronym for the process. The outcome was that many great ideas were generated from this team effort. And, the model could be replicated elsewhere.
  • You could also try ice-breakers and team-building exercises. We have used free exercises found on the Internet to get people engaged.
  • Share a meal together. We have held department luncheons that include team-building exercises. Staff return to work feeling energized and positive.
  • Take on the escape room challenge with your team. Or, try a challenge course.

Team-building takes a lot of effort. But, including the key components of trust, communication and appreciation will help you to build a successful team.

Mary Roche Cronin is a GovLoop Featured Contributor. She is the Director of Human Services for the Town of Manchester, Connecticut and has held that position since January 2005. She is responsible for management of four divisions, provides contract oversight for community agencies receiving town funding, and represents the town on community, regional and statewide human services planning and advisory groups. She also provides oversight of the department budget and state and federal grant funding. She has a Master’s degree in Child Welfare from St. Joseph College in West Hartford, Connecticut and a Juris Doctorate from Western New England College School of Law in Springfield, Massachusetts. You can read her posts here.

Leave a Comment


Leave a Reply

Avatar photo Spencer Grady-Pawl

Sometimes it can seem impossible to decipher why one team is effective when another is not, but this post does a great job breaking down the ingredients required for success!

Lisa Menke

I love this post, Mary! It’s easy to become laser-focused on our individual role and forget about the importance of working with others and being a teammate that others can rely upon. Thanks for the reminder – and thank you for the kind hat-tip!