Teams, effective teams, are the backbone of any organization. Without them, the work just doesn’t get done.

Teams that function well, both among themselves and with other teams within the organization, are a thing of beauty. They not only get outstanding results, but they also foster and promote the growth of the individuals on them as well. This growth can continue to have a positive impact on the organization for the life of the employee’s experience.

But building outstanding teams takes effort; they don’t just happen on their own. It takes time to find the right people and members to build rapport together. If you’re struggling to take your team to the next level, focus on these key things:

Create a Shared Goal

The best teams start with a shared goal in mind. Think sports teams, which are singularly focused on winning a championship. This shared goal may be initially identified and communicated by the leader of the team, but eventually the group’s dedication to this goal creates the momentum needed to sustain it.

Goals should not be created in a silo. As a leader, you can help create a shared goal by communicating a motivating vision of the future for your team. Be sure you answer the question of what’s in it for the team and that the team has both buy-in and a stake in deciding the goal and in reaching it. If team members don’t believe in the goal and don’t see the purpose for it, they’ll be hard-pressed to help you reach it.

Ask yourself and the team: Will reaching a new productivity goal mean less overtime and weekend work? Will landing a new client account mean bonuses? Will pushing through a new initiative mean they all have a safer environment to work in?

Build a Culture of Listening and Respect

Team members feel valued when they know their opinions have been heard. As a leader, it’s up to you to set the tone and create a space where team members listen to and respect one another.

How do you do this? You go first. Listen and demonstrate respect. You seek out opinions from your team and you really listen when they are given. You ask for feedback and you act on what you hear. It doesn’t mean you accept what everyone says or always let their input change your opinion. It just means you hear and consider and keep the conversation open.

Understand and Accept Differences

Any group of people is going to have differences–in personal background, in experiences, in work style, maybe even in training or area of focus. The best teams not only accept these differences, they work to understand and celebrate them as well.

Differences help teams move beyond blindspots. They help create a stronger product by bringing together differing perspectives. And being open to talking about differences and learning from them builds stronger teams and more powerful team members. 

If you’re the leader of the team, accepting differences starts with you. It’s your job to keep the lines of communication open and celebrate the differences you see within each team member. When differing opinions come up, ask questions and take time for others to react appropriately. But also set expectations around how your team will make decisions in the face of diversity and differences.

Address Problems Early

Even when you have teams running well, problems are likely to arise. When they do, it’s tempting to ignore them, but this is often a mistake. Team members need space to work through issues on their own. You should even encourage them to do so.

But, when it becomes clear that they are at an impasse or that the issue is causing a distraction for the rest of the team, it’s up to you to step in. Remind them of the shared mission and the goal your team agreed on together. Reiterate how important all parties are to the team and that they must work together toward the common goal. Clarify expectations for their performance and offer suggestions on how to mend ties with other team members.

As the leader, it’s your responsibility to lead but not to parent. Give team members the autonomy they need to work through the challenges together as much as possible.

At the end of the day, it’s the team that will help your organization move forward and achieve the goals that move you closer to your vision–but it’s your job to make sure the team is running well.

Sometimes this means developing more successful mindsets among team members. For help in this direction, download my Four Pillars of a Success Mindset resource and share it with your team.