the ingredients to building effective teams

Whether you lead a small company or are part of a large organization, the foundation to success is great teamwork. Teams are made up of individual relationships that together form a whole. With every group, interpersonal dynamics ebb and flow. Knowing how to build an effective team, or tune up an existing team, is vital to high performance and success. 

Leadership, trust, communication, and collaboration are four core building blocks that create success. Here’s a deeper dive into the attributes of effective teams and how to cultivate them.

The Building Blocks Of Effective Teams


“If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader.”  – John Quincy Adams 

What is the purpose of a leader? The title itself holds no real value – it’s worth is found through your actions. Strong leaders don’t control people, but instead give them a map of where they should be headed. 

The key to being a good leader is having the desire to learn, engage, and empower the people around you. If you’re not engaged, how do you expect everyone else to be engaged? Empowering each individual leads to motivation and innovation, two things that are important elements to building an effective team. 

The end goal should be professional growth for everyone in your group and not just for leadership. The best leaders listen more than they speak. And they create a nurturing environment that allows each team member to thrive. 


“Trust is the glue of life. It’s the most essential ingredient in effective communication. It’s the foundational principle that holds all relationships.” – Stephen R. Covey 

Trust is the foundation of every effective team. If you and your teammates don’t trust each other, problems will arise. Experiencing trust between two people or a group boosts oxytocin, otherwise known as “the love hormone.” More oxytocin, means happier and more trustworthy people! 

Check out Paul Zak’s Ted Talk for more information on his scientific study of how the production of oxytocin has an affect on trustworthiness. 

Ways To Work On Building Trust

Focus On Well Being 

Taking an interest in each other’s well being creates security and trust. Create time for your teammates to ask questions about each other’s personal lives and share interests outside of work. People are social beings and we require connection to feel appreciated and heard. Building a relationship with your team is essential when building trust. 

Setting aside time to connect with each other for short periods in the office on a regular basis is invaluable. 

Another key ingredient to building an effective team is to plan a team building program outside of your regular work routine. You should budget both time and money for external team building at least once a year. This is a great way to forge relationships outside of the narrow confines of work topics.

Allow Autonomy

Giving employees autonomy over their work increases engagement. Allowing autonomy shows you trust that your team members can handle their responsibilities. This makes people feel valued. No one likes to be micromanaged. 

When you give people autonomy over their work, set some ground rules to make sure that everyone is on the same page. Communication is very important when setting expectations. There’s more about this below. Allow a safe environment for people to take initiative and make mistakes without fear. Behind every success you’ll find multiple failures. 

Practice Communication

“Effective teamwork begins and ends with communication.” – Mike Krzyzewski, Hall of Fame collegiate and Olympic basketball coach

Communication is another vital ingredient to build an effective team. Without a solid grasp of how to communicate with each other, teams will underperform. Working together requires everyone to be on the same page.

Creating a space for people to feel heard is a key component to communication. Once you’ve established trust, having a safe space to express ideas and opinions solidifies it. Emotions will always run high from time to time, so creating a safe space in those situations in incredibly important. 

Here are some ground rules for creating a safe space during meetings and other types of work conversations:

  • Be On time
  • Speak to each other with dignity and respect 
  • When discussing negative behaviors and actions, don’t make it personal. Don’t put people on the defensive. 
  • Ask your co-workers for their preferred names and pronouns 

A great communicator knows how to listen and half of communication is listening! Becoming a better listener takes ongoing practice. Leaders who fail to listen to their employees experience job turnover constantly. So make sure that you’re fully present in conversation.

Giving your team the feeling of being understood is one of the best feelings in the world. Next time you find yourself in a situation where someone is confiding in you, stop thinking about how you might respond and just listen. 

Since we use verbal communication predominantly, we forget that our body language leaves subtle clues to what our intentions are. You may not even realize it, but you could be giving a different message than what you’re saying out loud. Knowing how to read body language is crucial when communicating with your team. 

Effective Teams Are Collaborative

“Alone we can do so little, together we can do so much.” – Helen Keller

All of the information above will help you achieve the most important goal of every effective team. That goal is great collaboration. A team’s success is directly correlated to how well they collaborate. After all, the whole point of a team is to work together (collaborate) to achieve and perform well. 

Once you’ve all gained each other’s trust and understand the best way to communicate, collaborating will come naturally. And don’t forget, the best way to sustain great teamwork is to work on team dynamics regularly. Don’t expect your high performing team to stay at the top of their game without ongoing work.

About Billy Kirsch

Billy is a Grammy & Emmy nominated, CMA & ACM award winning songwriter with numerous Top 10 hits to his credit. His team building programs and keynote speaking presentations help people tap into their creative abilities to become more innovative and engaged in their work. Clients include Fortune 100 companies and organizations throughout the world.