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The Merriam-Webster dictionary provides these simple definitions for the word “team”:

  1. a group of people who compete in a sport, game, etc., against another group
  2. a group of two or more animals used to pull a wagon, cart, etc.
  3. a group of people who work together

I’d argue that all three definitions apply to eLearning teams without, of course, considering the diction which happens to be contingent. At times, our teams need to compete against other groups to get the contract or assignment. And on rough days, being part of an eLearning team might feel like you’re an ox being used to pull a heavy wagon. But most often, it’s the third definition—a group of people that works together—that most accurately defines an eLearning team.

Although the definition of the word “team” might be simple, creating a successful eLearning team requires thought and effort. In my experience, if your work group exhibits three key attributes, you’re set up for success.

Capable leadership

Both of my kids play sports, and I played teams throughout my youth as well. My time on the field, on the sidelines, and working as part of corporate teams has taught me this: you really can’t underestimate the role an effective leader plays in a team’s success. I’ve watched my kid’s coaches closely (yes, I might be a wee bit protective) and it’s clear—coaches who don’t have a vision, who yell, and who forgot the purpose behind their role (encourage kids to enjoy healthy activity) simply aren’t effective. On the other hand, a capable team leader sets the tone, removes roadblocks, inspires great work, and most importantly keeps a team moving towards the same goal. Those are the leaders who bring together a team that delivers results.

Variety of strengths

Marcus Buckingham’s book, Now Discover Your Strengths, made me a believer in the power of a strengths-based team. We all have specific skills, abilities, and talents. It might be tempting to put together an eLearning team made up of people who “get” each other, or who have the same skills. But what happens when you have a team in which no one is comfortable talking with executives? Or a team that lacks a project manager? Or maybe, there’s a shortage of people who can code or who understand instructional design? A team made up of people with a variety of strengths is better prepared to develop exceptional content, handle challenges, and deliver eLearning products that meet audience needs.

Commitment to work together

At the end of the day, a team may have an incredible leader, and be full of people with varied, outstanding strengths, but if those people aren’t committed and willing to work together, the team will eventually fail. So if your eLearning team struggles with inner politics, negative interactions, or (gasp!) backstabbing, it’s time to address those issues and make a commitment to work as a team. It may sound sappy, but it’s true: we’re all better when we work together.

If you’re part of a team, or if you’re looking at joining a new team, take a moment to evaluate whether or not the team has these attributes. If it does, you’re in a great spot. If it doesn’t, look for ways you can influence the team to move in a new direction that embraces and exemplifies these three qualities.

LizSheffieldBioLiz Sheffield is a freelance writer with a background in training and development. She specializes in writing about everything related to the human side of business. You can contact her via LinkedIn or Twitter.

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