What Makes a Good Team? Part Seven: Expectations

There is no perfect team. But there is a recipe for success – many similar characteristics shared by effective teams, independent of industry or function. Throughout this blog series, we will take a closer look at each of these characteristics, explore why each is important, and provide you with ways to instill and improve each characteristic within your own team.

Part Seven: Clearly Defined Expectations



ex·pec·ta·tion  ˈ/ˌekspekˈtāSH(ə)n/

  1. the act or state of expecting
  2. anticipating with confidence of fulfillment
  3. a strong belief that something will happen or be the case in the future.

As the old saying goes, “Too many cooks spoil the broth.” Similarly, in the workplace, too many leaders – too many voices – slow the process, lead to missed deadlines, unproductive behavior, errors, and ultimately failure. This is why it is so important to clearly define expectations – both individual roles and team goals.

Expectations“Once a team is created and its composition is established, the next team leadership function is to define the team’s mission,” write researchers Frederick P. Morgeson, D. Scott DeRue, and Elizabeth P. Karam. “This involves determining and communicating the organization’s performance expectations for the team in such a way that they are broken down into tangible, comprehensible pieces.” This has several benefits:

  • Identify Shortcomings: By “identifying specific outcome levels, teams can determine what resources are needed,” suggest researchers Deborah Diazgranados, Cameron Klein, Eduardo Salas, Huy Le, C. Burke, Rebecca Lyons, and Gerald Goodwin. This allows teams to determine where they are lacking in certain areas, both in terms of personnel and, perhaps more importantly, inter-personal relationships: communication, teamwork, morale, etc.
  • Easily Measure Success: Clearly defined goals and expectations allow teams to more easily measure success. Without a finish line or check points along the way, how does a team know they are on the right track?
  • Individual Motivation: On an individual level, “goal setting theory suggests that clear and challenging goals are important for directing individual action and motivating individuals to achieve performance targets,” writeEdwin A. Locke and Gary P. Latham.
  • Establish Unity: American poet Mattie Stepanek once said, “Unity is strength… when there is teamwork and collaboration, wonderful things can be achieved.” In a case study of four virtual team leaders, researcher Anu Sivunen determined that teams with established common goals and standards for performance also had a strong common team identity.

  • Group Motivation: When team members actively participate in the goal setting process, the team is more committed to team goals, achieving greater efficiency and overall performance, suggest researchers.

Of course, nothing ever goes according to plan. As German military strategist Helmuth von Moltke once famously said, “No battle plan survives contact with the enemy.” This is just as true in the war room as it is the workplace. This is why there must also be a degree of flexibility within any good team.

“While it is important to have a clearly defined set of roles and responsibilities for each member, on the most effective teams tasks and responsibilities are not rigidly adhered to,” writes Traci Schatz. “Team members are willing to cross lines of responsibility and do something that may not be in their job description, if that is what’s required to get the job done.”

Learning How to Work as a Team

At Terrapin Adventures, our team building programs are customized to meet the individual needs of every organization we work with, challenging groups to break down communication barriers and work together to solve certain problems as a team. Each activity will tasks group members to stop, think, brainstorm solutions to complex puzzles, and express their individual opinions/solutions.

After the exercise, your group will sit down with their facilitator to discuss the lessons behind what they just did. This discussion is designed to reinforce these lessons and help ensure that the progress made during your team building outing sticks.

Schedule Your Corporate Team Building Session!

Conveniently located between Baltimore and Washington DC, Terrapin Adventures is able to create a customized program (onsite or offsite, indoor or outdoor) to help better your business. Our programs provide for exciting activities that bridge the gaps in communication, improve collaboration, and expand your group’s problem solving skills.

If you have any questions, please call Terrapin Adventure at 301.725.1313, or email us at info@terrapinadventures.com to learn more.

Works Cited:

  1. Klein, C., D. Diazgranados, E. Salas, H. Le, C. S. Burke, R. Lyons, and G. F. Goodwin. “Does Team Building Work?” Small Group Research 40.2 (2009): 181-222. Web.
  2. Schatz, Traci. “What Makes Teamwork Effective?” Small Business. N.p., n.d. Web. 22 Sept. 2016.
  3. Morgeson, F. P., D. S. Derue, and E. P. Karam. “Leadership in Teams: A Functional Approach to Understanding Leadership Structures and Processes.” Journal of Management 36.1 (2009): 5-39. Web.
  4. Locke, E. A., & Latham, G. P. 1990. A theory of goal setting & task performance. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall.
  5. Sivunen, A. 2006. Strengthening identification with the team in virtual teams: The leaders’ perspective. Group Decision and Negotiation, 15: 345-366.
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