The Best Tools for Team Development

The complete list of tools to use to turn your team into a high-performance unit  

Anyone can put a team together, right? Pick a few talented individuals, give them a mission to complete and bam, you’ve got yourself a team! Actually… Not quite.

Good teams are more than just a collection of people. They are about putting the team’s performance above your own and working together towards a clearly defined goal as a collaborative unit. This kind of teamwork doesn’t just happen overnight, and every member of the team has a role to play in making it happen. Reaching the kind of stage where people are engaged, motivated and working effectively requires effort and sometimes, a little help from the organisation.

We’re not just talking fancy offsites and team away days here. Of course, those can help and be part of your team development story. But aside from big team building events, there are things you can do every day in order to make a difference and cultivate a climate of collaboration and trust. Starting small with a few tools and exercises could actually help everyone get to know themselves and their colleagues better, and thus open the door to better dialogue and greater understanding of each other’s’ motivations. Sounds good? At Let’s Talk Talent, we thought so too. And because your team members are most likely a bunch of wonderfully varied people with different strengths, drivers and requirements, we strongly believe in a holistic approach.

We use a mix of science, arts and humanities to make sure we speak to your people’s hearts and heads at the same time. So below is a selection of our favourite tools, from the scientific profiling to the softer communication exercises, to facilitate team development and help you foster a culture of trust, innovation and inclusivity that allows your people to bring their whole selves to work, every day.

The Science

The science side of our three components is all about uncovering people’s strengths and drivers. In short, it looks to encourage individuals to truly get to know each other better and helps team leaders understand the hard skills that make up their teams. The scientific approach uses frameworks and rigor to assess individuals and determine how people prefer to work, which management style works best and what contribution each member can bring to both their team and the organisation.

These are probably the kind of tools you are more familiar with or have used before, such as:

Profile assessments can also lead you to uncover blind spots within the makeup of your team. Mapping out everyone’s hard skills may highlight some gaps and give you a start point to determine what needs to be developed in each individual in order for them to be able to support the team better. Individual training plans can then be used to turn that knowledge into action and support staff’s professional progression, helping them reach their full potential.

For those of you who may be suffering from psychometrics fatigue, there are other innovative ways to encourage staff to get to know each other better. Ask each person to write a user manual about themselves to find out what really makes them tick. And don’t forget the social side. If you are bored of virtual happy hour or online quizzes, try a few quick exercises such as ‘two truths and a lie’ to get your team talking and learning about each other as people, not just colleagues.  

The Art

The art’s side or the equation really looks at generating employee engagement, as well as recognising the contribution they are bringing to the team and the wider organisation. Whether it is the idea of contributing to a cause important to them, such as creating innovative new products that positively impact people’s lives, the community that surrounds them when they are at work or the career opportunities at their disposal within the organisation, finding out what makes them come to work every day will ensure you know where to focus your motivation efforts.

Our top tools to create an engaged workforce are below:

  • Patrick Lencioni’s 5 dysfunctions of a team looks at identifying and overcoming various dysfunctions and allows you to generate commitment and accountability, and overall achieve better results within the team unit. Buy 5 dysfunctions of a team book here.
  • Zella King and Amanda Scott’s Personal Boardroom is all about identifying who is in your corner and investing time and effort to develop those particular relationships. It can guide individual team members looking for help, as well as teach them how to efficiently help others, generating collaboration and trust. Buy Personal Boardroom book here.
  • Team stand ups are a fun, energetic way to get everyone talking and understanding each other’s role within a project. Get your team standing up (yes, even if doing stand ups virtually) and answering three little questions:
    • Since the last stand up I have…
    • Before the next stand up I will…
    • What’s slowing me down is…

These will ensure your team feels more connected on a daily basis.

Day to day actions can also include regular recognition, from a simple ‘well done’ to more formal recognition initiatives each time a milestone is achieved. Brainstorming and ideation sessions can also be great tools to use to create a climate of teamwork and innovation. However, for this to happen, it is important for participants to trust that they can express their views, make suggestions and discuss ideas freely and safely.

If you need guidance on how to create an effective ideation session that fosters collaboration, try the Wall of Ideas exercise. Just remember to stock up on post-it notes first.

The Humanity

The last of the three parts in our holistic approach to team development speaks to the human skills needed to work together in a team. It involves communicating openly throughout the team development process and building empathy and trust gradually as you go along. These are not the kind of skills you build by attending a training session or conference. They are cultivated and developed through daily practice and activation. But if that’s the case, how can you support that side of your team’s development? There are indeed some tools available to use.

Our top tools to facilitate teamwork and communication:

  • Defining your team’s purpose in 6 words or less. If you can’t do that right now, alignment will be hard to get from the rest of your team and your objective may need to be further defined.
  • Team charters can also be used to ensure everyone is moving in the same direction and following the same ground rules. Have a look at https://www.designabetterbusiness.tools/tools/team-charter-canvas for tips on how to get started.
  • Project kickoffs are a great way to ensure team buy-in from the very start of the project.
  • Project retrospectives ensure you remain on track by setting milestones, reviewing them regularly, course-correcting along the way and celebrating success. They can also help you discover helpful habits and team processes that work well. For more guidance on how to run a retro visit here.
  • Positive feedback is so important and is often overlooked. The Appreciation Train is a great way to get some energy going amongst your team and start the day the right way.
  • Team Reflection is also useful to help staff express thoughts, views and feelings about a shared experience. Find out how to run one of those sessions here.

Conclusion: The best tools for team development

For a team to reach the performing stage takes time, effort and commitment from all involved. A culture of collaboration and trust does not happen under instruction and has to be nurtured and encouraged. But whilst everyone is accountable for the team’s dynamics, managers, team leaders and HR professionals can help set the stage and actively foster the right environment by ensuring the rules of engagement are clear.

We hope you find our list of tools and frameworks useful.

If you have your own to add to the list, feel free to share them, we’d love to hear from you.

And don’t forget that whatever stage your team is at, from forming to performing, team development tools can help you iron out kinks and get the best out of each person. So give us a call to find out how to improve your overall team performance.  

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