Four contextual factors appear to be most significantly related to team performance. These include adequate resources, leadership and structure, a climate of trust, and performance evaluation and reward systems.
As part of the larger organization system, a team relies on resources outside the group to sustain it. If it doesn’t have adequate resources, the team’s ability to perform its job effectively is reduced. This factor appears to be so important to team performance that one research study concluded that “perhaps one of the most important characteris- tics of an effective work group is the support the group receives from the organization.”32
Resources can include timely information, proper equipment, encouragement, adequate staffing, and administrative assistance.
If a team can’t agree on who is to do what or ensure that all members contribute equally in sharing the work load, it won’t function properly. Agreeing on the specifics of work and how all the team members’ individual skills fit together requires team leadership and structure. This can come from the organization or from the team itself. Even in self-managed teams, a manager’s job is to be more of a coach by supporting the team’s efforts and managing outside (rather than inside) the team. See the “Developing Your Coaching Skill” box for more infor- mation on coaching skills.
Members of effective teams trust each other. And they also trust their leaders.33 Why is trust important? It facilitates cooperation, reduces the need to monitor each other’s behavior, and bonds members around the belief that others on the team won’t take advan- tage of them. Trusting the team leader is also important because it means the team is will- ing to accept and commit to the leader’s goals and decisions.
The final contextual factor of an effective team is a performance evaluation and reward system. Team members have to be accountable both individually and jointly. So, in addition to evaluating and rewarding employees for their individual contributions, managers should consider group-based appraisals, profit-sharing, and other approaches that reinforce team effort and commitment.