Unit 1: Week 1: Building an Effective Team

Unit 1: Week 1: Building an Effective Team

Essential Questions

  • What makes a good team?
  • What are the best ways for people to work together?
  • How can I meet my own goals while working with others?

Big Ideas

In most businesses and industries, people work in teams. It’s difficult to find a career that most people are interested in that does not rely on a team. Even people who appear to work independently, like actors, writers, musicians, and other artists rely on a team of people to promote them, support them, and help them reach their goals.

There are strategies and processes that can help teams work better. When teams work well together, individuals can reach personal goals at the same time the team reaches group goals. A successful team can accomplish more than an individual alone.

Connection to Student Lives

You’ve probably already participated in groups or teams. Sports teams and performing groups (music, theater or other) are some more formalized examples. But you have likely been asked to work in less formal teams, especially in school. You probably have experiences of teams that have worked well and those that have not. You can learn from both experiences and apply them to building an effective Help Desk Team.

Framing Problem

The Help Desk team has to come together as a group. They need to establish and follow standard operating procedures (e.g., rules) as well as generate norms for how they want to work together. Each team member needs to understand their role(s) in the team and how the team will establish and reach team goals.

The Help Desk team will begin by establishing norms for participating, identifying potential roles each team member might play, and explore contracts and other resources that can help the team be more effective.

Cornerstone Assessment

Teams create norms and agreements for their work together. They set and agree on personal as well as team goals that are monitored by the supervisor (aka the teacher).

HDI Standards

  • 3.1.1 Define a team.
  • 3.1.2 Identify characteristics of successful teams.
  • 3.1.3 Describe the value of teamwork.
  • 3.1.4 Identify the behaviors of an effective team member.
  • 5.13.2 Define empathy.
  • 5.13.3 Identify the value of demonstrating empathy by using empathy statements.
  • 5.13.4 Define Conflict
  • 5.13.5 Define conflict management
  • 5.13.6 Identify signs that conflict may be developing.
  • 5.13.7 Identify techniques to reduce and eliminate conflict.


  • The definition and purpose a work team.
  • Characteristics of successful teams.
  • How the value of teamwork is realized through work.
  • Behaviors of an effective team member
  • What empathy is and the value of using empathy statements
  • Conflict and conflict management
  • Signs that conflict may be developing and techniques to reduce or eliminate conflict


  • Use a group contract to establish and monitor personal goals
  • Use a group contract to establish and monitor group goals
  • Collaborate to create group norms
  • Follow steps to resolve conflicts when norms are not being followed
  • Identify and follow prescribed roles
  • Reach consensus with others to help the team reach its goal

Weekly Map


Introduction to problem: Creating an effective team


Review content resources related to teaming and creating norms with whole group

Establish teams and norms


Hands-on exploration with IT professionals

Team progress check with supervisor (using project plan)


Hands-on exploration with IT professionals

Team work time


Team progress check with supervisor or sharing of progress with whole group

Lesson Ideas

Collaborate with students to generate norms (“how we want to work and learn together”) and agreements based upon those norms.

Help students understand the different roles they might play in collaborative teams. Determine how teams will be assigned. Follow industry practice and avoid randomly assigning students to teams and roles. Consider having students “apply” for their preferred roles and create teams after applications and interviews. Consider how often teams will be reconstituted: every unit, once every 9 weeks, never, other periods.

Introduce team contracts that provide the team to create and monitor group goals as well as for each team member to create their own goals, determine the actions they will take to follow them, and to monitor individual and group progress.

Introduce a protocol for helping students resolve conflicts, if they arise. Link them to the norms and agreements and help students understand they are all accountable for their own progress and the progress of the team and the steps teams must take to document and resolve conflict or non-participation.

Potential Resources

HDI-CSR Competencies

A team is a group of people with a full set of complementary skills working together towards accomplishing a common goal by sharing ideas and/or completing a task, job, or project.

Characteristics of successful teams may include:

  • Have defined goals, objectives, and expectations
  • Work collaboratively to achieve goals
  • Encourage trust among team members
  • Are willing to assist and defend each other
  • Receive leadership and support from management
  • Proactively share knowledge among team members
  • Communicate effectively within and outside of the team
  • Create, update, and follow processes to ensure quality
  • Encourage participation in decision making
  • Reward and recognize individual and team performance
  • Are well regarded within the organization

The value of teamwork is realized in:

  • The sum of Individual contributions— individual efforts and contributions enables the success of the collective team
  • Collaborative efforts—team members feel the need to work cohesively in support of common goals
  • Increased motivation—team members share knowledge with one another, have a desire to communicate amongst the team, and contribute to the overall team
  • Flexibility—individuals that make up the team are adaptive to change
  • Strong commitments—all team members have a sense of ownership in the collective decisions

An effective team member may display the following behaviors:

  • Collaborative and shares knowledge
  • Participates in team’s activities
  • Displays courtesy and respect for others
  • Contributes and solicits ideas and opinions
  • Maintains a positive attitude
  • Is enthusiastic, flexible, and dependable
  • Trust others
  • Offers encouragement to others
  • Follows through on tasks in a timely manner
  • Actively listens to ensure competent understanding

Empathy is the identification with and acknowledgement of another’s situation, feelings, and motives—without agreeing to the emotion or getting caught up in it.

The value of demonstrating empathy by using empathy statements include:

  • Increases customer confidence and trust
  • Creates rapport and bonding with the customer and team members
  • Can calm customer’s emotions, enabling the service and support professional to get to the facts and resolution quicker
  • Helps the customer focus
  • May result in the customer providing unsolicited, unexpected, and helpful information

Conflict is defined as a struggle, disagreement, or opposition between people with opposing needs, goals, and beliefs. Conflict Management is the process of recognizing and handling any conflict in an organized and professional manner.

Signs that a conflict may be developing include:

  • A change in the person’s rate of volume, tone of voice, or verbiage
  • A shift in the person’s body language
  • A person who becomes withdrawn, giving little to no feedback or eye contact
  • Use of the words showing emotion or frustration

Techniques to reduce and eliminate conflict include:

  • Empathetic listening
  • Maintain eye contact and positive body language
  • Let the person vent and refrain from interrupting the customer
  • Be empathetic
  • Be respectful
  • Offer assistance
  • Find a resolution or identify the next step
  • Remain positive and confident
  • Set and manage expectations
  • Use the individual’s name

Additional Resources

Jen Cort emphasizes the power of developing norms collaboratively with a story in her article Creating Norms when Nothing is Normal.

Todd Finley describes three types of norms: 1) those that pertain to safety and health, moral norms, and discretionary norms in his article reviewing the science behind norms for Edutopia.

Forming Ground Rules by Marylyn Wentworth for School Reform Initiative provides a protocol with detailed steps on creating norms in groups.

Two articles from Thom Markum: How to Foster Collaboration and Team Spirit (April 18, 2013) on MindShift that shares a list of considerations for improving team interactions and dealing with them when they don’t, and From Groups to Teams (April 13, 2011) on Edutopia that details a seven-step process for improving collaboration within teams.

This group contract is from Manor New Tech High in Texas and is part of a Step-by-Step Guide to the Best Projects by Mariko Nobori from that school

At the end of a unit, or whenever it is appropriate, you can use this short survey so that students can self-assess their contributions to their team. (Clicking on this link will ask you to create a copy of the survey in your Google Drive that you can edit. Be sure you are logged into your preferred Google account.)

10 Lessons for Teaching Conflict Resolution Skills from Fairfax County Public Schools, VA.

See the lessons beginning on page 33 in the Peacebuilding Toolkit for Educators: High School Edition for lessons on identifying and managing conflicts, communication skills, negotiation and mediation. The Toolkit was developed by the U.S. Institute of Peace.


5 Keys to Effective Conflict Resolution: Customer Service Training 101 (4:07)