Attention on world class organisations, productive services and talent management, together with a natural inclination to safeguard our own roles and careers, could leave a crucial building block neglected: the team.

Though some appear to emerge spontaneously, the best teams are not built overnight. The challenge for health service managers is to build productive teams from the members and materials we have or can generate.

Your team will need a reputation for performance

Being familiar with the main ingredients of high performing teams helps us to know how well your team is comprised. For example, to be fully functional your team needs to have a unique and valid identity. Manifestly linked within your directorate and organisational strategy, a sound team remit will state your common aim, values and objectives together with outcome measures. To be effective, the remit must be understood and owned by each team member. It will be known and valued by beneficiaries inside and outside the organisation and there will be an agreed plan to see the remit delivered.

Your team will also need a reputation for performance. Identification of key performance measures, linked to organisational objectives, is a prerequisite. Evidence of team performance should be available and used to confirm the added value your team is bringing to its users and stakeholders. Within a competitive and resource-limited environment, bashfulness about declaring what you have done and for whom is not an option. Your future performance must also be assured: strong team leadership and innovation (including implementation of best practice) across the team will be critical.

Another ingredient is to operate from a supportive base. A strong team spirit will abound and be a necessary factor in sustaining your team through turbulent periods.

Also necessary is that the required competencies and resources are available to the team. Used wisely, they will also be optimised. Members will be clear about their unique contribution to the team and each will be seen to deliver their apportioned responsibilities. The team will use each other’s talents appropriately.

Knowing these key attributes gives you the chance to take a systematic, rather than reactive, approach to developing your own high performing team by:

  • assessing your team’s current stage of maturity against the range of criteria;
  • prioritising areas for improvement into a meaningful team improvement plan;
  • embarking on your plan for improvement;
  • measuring progress and continually refreshing the plan, addressing development priorities one by one.

Engage your team throughout the process. Encourage each contributor to advise on the team’s stage of development. Jointly review the results and design the development plan together. Ask each to offer their own talents in, or recommend the talents of others, in delivering the team plan. Above all, use the programme of activities itself to build your team closer together.