12 Tips for Fostering Teamwork in the Workplace
Effective teamwork is the way leaders achieve big goals. Learning to work well as a team strengthens coworkers’ collective performance. Many managers have difficulty building a cohesive team, which limits their potential for success. Leaders who learn how to foster teamwork can take their companies to new levels of financial performance. A leader must be able to communicate in ways that promote the principle of teamwork and motivate team members to work for the team’s success, vs. just their personal achievement. Here are some teamwork tips that successful leaders use to help their employees work well as a team:
1. Clarify All Roles and Responsibilities.
Team members need to clearly understand the tasks that each person is supposed to perform. Without clarity on these basics, confusion abounds. When the group is left to figure out for themselves who is responsible for what, inevitably misunderstandings and power struggles emerge. The ambiguity often leaves employees with stronger personalities to intuitively start taking control and delegating on their own, which fosters resentments and disillusionment with the team.
In such circumstances, talented people leave to find work in more organised environments. So, as the first order of business, define and document everyone’s individual roles and responsibilities, and what the team shares responsibility for accomplishing, and plainly state the chain of command.
2. Clarify Goals and Objectives.
A motivated team can accomplish amazing things. They can break records and set new standards for productivity and quality. However, they must have clearly defined shared goals, and clear measures for gauging their progress. The Wall Street Journal offers a sharp analysis of the value of measuring team success in building a high performing team. Vaguely defined objectives cause people to feel unsure of their personal ability to succeed and of the team’s direction. That sense of insecurity naturally leads to diminishing team spirit. People need to understand the team’s short- and long-term goals and the objectives that support those goals.
Progress toward goals and objectives needs to be measurable, in order for people to be able to feel secure that management knows how they’re doing individually and as a team. Establish achievable benchmarks and milestones, for each individual worker and for the team as a group. Being able to see good progress is the best possible confidence-builder for people in themselves and in their team.
3. Let Individuals Use Their Best Skills.
The team is best served when all the members are doing the kinds of work they do best and enjoy most. Cross-training is valuable, to ensure that everyone has some familiarity with everything, in times of unexpected change. But, each person brings different skills. To manage your team effectively, figure out how individuals’ talents and skills fit together in the most productive way.
As you discover how your team members’ skill sets each fit into your workplace’s system, also prepare to adjust employees’ roles as time goes by. Employee development is a key management responsibility. So, expect people to increase their knowledge and build new skills. Helping them all continue to work in ways that complement each other’s talents to achieve optimal team performance is the ultimate accomplishment of team leadership.
4. Set Clear Rules.
Establish a hierarchy, so that every person clearly understands to whom they report. Follow advice from the Harvard Business Review in setting simple rules for conduct, periodic performance reporting, making budget requests, submitting complaints, resolving problems, and so on. Clarify who will be in charge in your absence. State the policy for settling disagreements on processes, etc. Impress upon the team members the importance of the rules and your commitment to ensuring that everyone follows them. Plainly state the consequences for individuals’ failures to operate within the rules.
Use your company’s employee handbook and relevant stated policies as your foundational system of formal rules. Make sure every team member has read and signed off, to indicate their clear understanding of the rules. Defer handling of serious and/or repeated violations to your company’s HR professional.
5. Cultivate Thinking as a Team.
Review each worker’s contribution to the team’s objectives and goals during periodic performance evaluations and during regular one-on-one feedback sessions. Point out the employee’s performance level in relation to set benchmarks for his or her role and for team members in general. Review the employee’s strengths, and offer guidance in areas of needed improvement.
Many companies provide employees with performance ratings in particular areas of their responsibilities and overall ratings. This helps workers better gauge management’s perspective on their level of performance. It also provides workers with a starting point for improvement and for understanding management’s judgment of their progress toward higher productivity and quality. Create an evaluation for the team as a whole, and provide them with their own set of group ratings. Their evaluation should include members’ efforts to help their teammates achieve their goals too.
6. Encourage the Team to Hold Each Other Accountable.
People may feel uncomfortable approaching fellow team members about performance issues, rule infractions, etc.. Such matters do need to be handled with great care and professionalism. A confrontational atmosphere can destroy team spirit and quickly increase employee attrition rates. The idea here is for employees to hold each other accountable while providing each other with mutual support and help in a kind manner. Encourage teammates to adopt a code of supporting each other.
If team members shy away from holding each other responsible for striving to do their best work, the team members who are working hard will become discouraged with the team. As the team leader, show errant team members precisely what they need to do to get back on track, provide coaching as needed, and follow up with reassessment of the particular performance area in question.
7. Engage the Team in Group Decision-Making.
Involve your team in making some decisions regarding their activities, when practical. Ultimately, you will need to make the final determination on what the team will do, but having a part in decision-making helps people be more fully engaged with each other and management. People are more committed, if they believe their ideas have been heard.
Each person should join in the discussion. Make sure that quieter team members are contributing their opinions. A balance of everyone’s contributions is necessary for success in making a team decision.
8. Address Problems as They Occur.
Occasional interpersonal issues and other problems are unavoidable in any workplace. The nature of working together is that problems tend to increase when greater numbers of people are involved. Managing workplace conflict can become necessary when small issues arise, or more serious problems emerge that can threaten to unravel the bonds of the team.
Prevent problems from growing out of control. As resentments build, they become much less likely to work themselves out without intervention by leadership. Remind employees individually and as a team, from time to time, that you’re available to ensure that all problems are resolved in a respectful way. Listen, and let everyone be equally heard. Let team members express concerns and come to their own mutually-beneficial resolution. Or, if necessary, make a decision and direct all parties to adhere to it.
9. Sponsor Team Building Activates.
Team bonding activities are very valuable. Just as it’s essential for a family or a group of friends to do share some quality experiences together to keep those relationships healthy, work teams also need some bonding activities. So, in order to develop a stronger sense of really belonging to the group, have the team members actually do some activities as a group.
There are so many team-bonding activities you can do, without taking the whole department to a distant resort. Just start by Googling some games and other kinds of activities recommended for team building that your group can do on campus, preferably away from the immediate workspace. Some are cost-free and take only 10-15 minutes to do. They give the team opportunities to relax a little and share some light moments together. Simple diversions can do much to help tighten team bonds.
10. Engage the Team in Brainstorming Together.
Inc. magazine offers some great insight on the value of collaboration. The process automatically generates a sense of teamwork. Brainstorming is an excellent, creative exercise in collaboration to gather ideas and coalesce them into potentially actionable solutions. An energetic brainstorming session, stimulates a feeling of achieving something meaningful with teammates. It allows everyone to contribute ideas and enables people to appreciate the benefits of working together to solve problems.
Embrace all offerings of ideas as helpful. After all, discovering how everyone’s thought processes are working is valuable in and of itself. So is having people hearing each other’s ideas. Steer the discussion along the track toward resolutions. List ideas offered, and have the team work through it to assess and identify the best available concepts.
11. Reward Strong Team Performance.
The most motivating force for a person or a group on a project is the sensation of realising strong progress toward its important goal. After all, what makes shared goals exciting for a team is the promise of the satisfaction they will share when they achieve them. Celebrating reaching milestones along the way drives home the realisation that the team and all the people on it are moving toward a larger success.
As your team meets benchmarks and approaches milestones, give your positive assessment of the progress. When they reach a major milestone, celebrate that important progress. Show the team that their contribution to the success of the project, the department and the company is recognised and appreciated. Maybe budget in a pizza lunch, or something else to make it an occasion. On reaching the final goal, maybe have a little ceremony, complete with cake, and perhaps some appropriate bonuses or other rewards.
12. Focus on Effective Communications.
Lastly and most importantly, well-developed communications skills for leaders are essential to effectively managing a team. As your top priority, listen to all employees. You can’t know if what you’re saying is being heard unless you hear what your listeners are saying. Give and receive sincere feedback. Ask for confirmation that everyone receives and clearly understands written and verbal communications. Use face-to-face communications when possible, and use email and when necessary. It’s easier to convey intended meaning when issues are discussed directly.
Make sure everyone is clear on the company’s mission and understands the reasons why it’s worthwhile. Explain to each team member how his or her individual roles directly contribute to the team’s and the business’s success. Clearly lay out individual and team timelines, so people can understand how they can progress and maintain pace with the team and stay on track to meet goals.
On Team Leadership
The above tips are offered with the assumption that you’ve already hired the right people for each position on your team and that you maintain fairness and impartiality in managing them. Fostering teamwork builds on those good hiring and leadership practices. It serves to develop a workplace culture that is optimally efficient, flourishes with collaborative problem solving, and inspires people to an attitude of mutual accountability and support. Working in such an environment, toward shared goals, empowers employees and promotes a greater sense of belonging for people on the team.
Get to know all your team members. Provide them each with the tools and guidance they need in order to fully realise their potential. Nurture the team by promoting relationships of mutual respect and honesty. Succeed in these areas of leadership, and you can expect teamwork to thrive and performance to excel.