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Effective Teambuilding for Professionals

Effective Teambuilding for Professionals
Vicki Larson, ASHA Fellow
June 4, 2007


Teamwork and being a team player are critical to personal and professional success. Regardless of our professional role or job setting, we often are asked to participate on teams and to engage in collaborative consultation. To do collaborative consultation skillfully and run productive IEP meetings, one must be a team player. Teamwork is learned behavior and yet, often, it is assumed that it is an innate skill. Since teamwork is learned behavior, it is a skill set we should strive to learn and perfect. Teamwork allows us to learn from each other and to improve our own critical thinking processes. Productive teams create a synergy that often produces outcomes far greater than one person can produce. Synergy happens when the voices of different people with different perspectives harmonize together. The purpose of this article is to discuss and answer the following questions: What is a team? What general characteristics should a team strive to cultivate? What factors need to be considered in team building? What characteristics should a team leader have? How should one select team members? What qualities do effective team members possess? And why do teams fail or struggle to succeed?


A review of the literature (Blanchard, 2001; Brounstein, 2002; Katzenback & Smith, 1993; Robbins and Finley, 1995) reveals a working definition of a team as a group of individuals who are being organized so they will work together to achieve common goals for which they will collectively share responsibility. Easily said but difficult to accomplish. There are three critical aspects that should be noted in this definition:

  1. putting people together to do work;
  2. having an overall common purpose (i.e., the same outcome or result is needed); and
  3. being mutually accountable (i.e., every team member is equally responsible for getting the job done).

The bottom line is that everyone must work together to achieve a common outcome or to accomplish a common purpose (Robbins & Finley, 1995). The key words are together, common purpose, and accountable. A true team is a living, constantly changing, dynamic force in which a number of people come together to work (Heller, 1998b). A team is different from a work group or committee. A team must take collective responsibility (not just have individual accountability); make decisions and solve problems (not just share information); focus on team goals or outcomes (not on individual outcomes or personal goals). It is that collectivity and collaboration that makes a team a team.

Shared Characteristics of Productive Teams

Teams are productive for a number of reasons regardless of the goals or outcomes to be accomplished by the team. Robbins and Finley (1995) have observed these characteristics of productive teams. Productive teams:

  • Work to improve communication among people
  • Take on work willingly that ordinary groups cannot do
  • Make better use of resources and thus are more cost-effective
  • Are more efficient at solving problems
  • Make higher quality decisions
  • Improve processes and don't blame others for undesirable outcomes
  • Put diverse ideas and people together
  • Collaborate with each other to bring about a synergy

These characteristics, when combined, produce educational and business outcomes that financially and personally create win-win situations. The desired outcomes are realized not only for the members of the team but more importantly for those who (our students and clients) benefit from the team's deliberations and work.


vicki larson

Vicki Larson

ASHA Fellow

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