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Gimbal's Tip of the Week

The Lean Law Firm Blog

E69: The 5 Characteristics of Effective Teams

productivity project management Feb 09, 2021

Creating and leading an effective remote work team requires you to provide your team with 5 things…but probably not the things you expect.

Welcome to Gimbals Tip of the Week, where you get practical, actionable advice you can use right away to start building a more productive and profitable legal practice. Why? Because every lawyer deserves a practice that gives them financial success and the time to enjoy it.

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5 Things You Need to Create an Effective Team

In last week’s tip we talked about the distinction between a work group and a team. If you missed it, you can read it here.

Our focus today, and for the rest of this month, is what you can do as a leader to create effective teams in your practice.

Google examined 180 of its own teams over a period of 2 years. They found that effective teams shared five characteristics. I’m going to run through each one and give you tips for encouraging each characteristic.

  1.  Psychological safety

Team members need to feel secure enough to be vulnerable and express themselves freely. People should not be afraid to speak up, share views, or make mistakes. When people know their mistakes will not be held against them, they take risks. And risks often lead to innovative solutions and breakthroughs.

What can you do? Create this feeling of safety by treating mistakes as learning opportunities, whenever possible. Encourage your team members to speak up and validate them when they do.


  1.  Dependability

Teams are more effective when members are dependable and can count on each other to be equally dependable. This means that each team member produces a high standard of work, and the work is done on time.

To encourage dependability, use project plans to ensure that everyone knows what needs to get done, and when, and set reasonable deadlines. These deadlines, and other expectations, should be clearly communicated to ensure everyone is on the same page.


  1.  Structure & Clarity

Team members need to understand where they fit in the grand scheme of the project or matter they’re working on, and where they fit in the team in general. This can get tricky in the context of remote workers. You may need to create a clearer framework for your team members, especially in relation to their roles and functions, and ensure that it is explicitly communicated to everyone on the team. A solid project plan will help here as well.


  1.  Meaning

Google’s research found that teams were far more effective when members found the work they do is meaningful in some way. No one wants to feel like their time is being wasted.

Obviously, not every task is thrilling or exciting. The grunt work still must get done. But people are more effective when they know their work, even the menial day-to-day tasks contributes to the team’s ultimate objective.

It sounds challenging, but this one is actually easy. You can foster a sense of meaning simply by giving positive feedback and publicly expressing gratitude to your team members. Let them know that their work advances the overall project.


  1.  Impact

Team members need to feel like their work has an impact on the overall goal.

In other words, how do their little puzzle pieces contribute to the big picture? Effective teams feel like their work matters to the firm and to the ultimate completion of whatever mandate you’re working on.

The easiest way to do this is to ensure people can see the big picture. Share a process map, or a project plan. Tell them the client’s overall objectives, so they understand how their work helps you achieve your goals.

This week’s tip: improve the effectiveness of your remote work teams by fostering these five characteristics:

  1.  Psychological safety
  2.  Dependability
  3.  Structure & clarity
  4.  Meaning and
  5.  Impact





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