“There is no I in teamwork” and “simply stated, teamwork is less me and more we”, are two very common adages these days. Although they may sound as cliches, it’s definitely good to keep on repeating these phrases. Actual (valuable) teamwork does however require a lot more than just the knowledge that a group of people can achieve more than the sum of the individual team members can.
It’s a very challenging task to organize your teams in such a way that they become highly efficient. To quote Paul Goyette from Eagle’s Flight: “The lack of a team focused culture can kill productivity, negatively impact morale, and ultimately hurt the bottom line.”
In other words, wrongfully assigned teams will generate less value –in terms of both output and corporate wellbeing- than if there were no teams at all. A strange paradox indeed. Set up your teams the right way and your office will suffer less problems, differences between colleagues remain harmless and, most importantly, your teams will get a lot more work done.
Even though the advantages of proper teamwork are as clear as day, individuals are not always keen on being part of a team. Some have had troubling experiences with working in teams in the past, others fear that teams won’t be set up correctly and others yet again have numerous “reasons” as to why working in a team would be inefficient for them.
That’s why you need to make sure that your company is focused on :
1. establishing the right teams in the right environment
2. teaching its employees that team work, when done right, saves them time and offers them (and you!) better results.
Below you’ll find seven tips that come in handy when you’re trying to maximize the output of your teams.
There are 2 ways to help employees realize what they can truly achieve while working in a team. You can either organize a large scale team building event like a family day, which shows your appreciation for them and their work. It brings people together and bonds them, which steeply increases the likelihood of your employees actually wanting to work more closely together. Or, if you’re facing smaller, immediate issues concerning the way your teams operate, you’re better off with a team building activity that’s smaller in size, but digs in deeper on the problems at hand. Keep in mind that a team building activity, large or small, is always valuable –even when it seems like your teams are already performing at their best, for looks can be deceiving.
Make your organization team-oriented
Ensure that teamwork is one of your core company values. Give your teams the authority to work on their own and give them ample time, but stress that team members will be held accountable for the work delivered.
Stimulate informal teams
Informal teams are usually more successful than their formal counterparts. Encourage your employees to work together as much as they can, which results in more problems being solved without management having to interfere. You’ll end up with a lesser work load for both your top management and your employees.
Get misaligned team members back on track
When some or all team members are focusing too much on their personal beliefs –which results in time spent arguing instead of finding solutions-, simply ask all team members what they can agree on and have them focus on those matters.
4. Ensure effective communication
People often (mis)interpret the same sentence differently. “I want this done by the end of the day”, for instance, can be interpreted as the end of the working day at six p.m. or at the end of the actual day, at midnight. Explain this to all team members and stress the importance of clear communication that can’t be doubted. Being specific is key here.
Cynicism is detrimental to innovation
Plenty of employees, and more reserved people in particular, have great difficulty with expressing all their ideas during a brainstorm session. Their fear of being ridiculed prohibits them from speaking freely. As there are no bad ideas (during a brainstorm session, an idea that seems terrible at first, can often lead to multiple grand ideas), it is very important that you discipline those who dare to mock a colleague during the session.
Reinforce relationships and working together
In the long run, there’s only one way of absolutely making sure that your employees want to work together: form bonds between them. It enhances communication, problem solving and conflict management. Organizing a team building activity helps a great deal in this, as said before.
Set clear goals, for everyone to aim at
Don’t forget to reassess them during the project however, as the ever changing needs and possibilities of your organization require other goals than the one you started with. A good way of implementing this, is by installing a little democracy in the workplace: ask all team members which two things they think should best be focused on and focus on the goal with the most answers.