Keys to Team Effectiveness

by think2perform

There’s no doubt all of us have been part of work groups where team effectiveness has been the essential driver in achieving important goals.

Much of the time, such cohesiveness does not happen overnight and typically evolves as more information is gathered. A couple of the keys are:

  • A clear unity of purpose.
  • Self-interest takes a back seat to the overall vision of what needs to be done.

Sounds quite straight-forward and easy on paper, but then there are a few who believe team effectiveness should be a given from the start because of rank or the sheer importance of the work. This is where understanding personalities and how people work plays an important role in the evolution of a team.

In the early 1980s, I was apart of a small team who began the first-ever large city recycling program in Minnesota – serving as an example for the rest of the nation. Our team of five at the city of Minneapolis had a clear unity of purpose of saving natural resources and reducing the amount of garbage taken to landfills. But, in order for the program to be ultimately successful, we had to convince a much larger extended team of elected officials, administrators and the general public that this was crucial policy decision positively affecting generations to come.

While participating in recycling is engrained in the public’s consciousness now, back then it took a tremendous amount of convincing and a change management approach to allow our team goals to work.

People had been throwing all waste away in landfills or garbage dumps for eons. Initially, most did not see the value of recycling. They did not want to change their habits and thought the government “mandate” was against their rights to do what they wanted with their garbage.

This was when we needed to step back and use our overall vision, of how our recycling program was for the common good of all of us, to sway a diverse audience.

To be effective in bringing our extended team on board, we implemented what I called the three Cs approach – communicate, communicate and communicate – again.

For the public, we showed the benefits of recycling among other strategies. Not in a “best for the environment” way but with their pocketbooks each month. Ultimately, if you recycled certain waste, residents would receive a rebate on their water bill. If not, they would be charged extra. We went to hundreds of community gatherings to explain the program and highlight the benefits.

For elected officials, we went as far as having them ride around in the recycling truck for a period of time in their ward to see the enthusiastic response from residents in setting out their recyclables. This helped gain support of council members who were on the fence or were against the change to recycling.

The result: The city was able to show everyone a clear unity of purpose, which is so critical to team effectiveness. Recycling in Minneapolis is seen today as an important city service with a majority of homeowners participating in the program.

If your unique team isn’t as effective as it needs to be and needs help working through clarity of purpose, please feel free to contact us at

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