It’s always great being a part of a team, especially when you get into that sweet spot where you feel excited, motivated, and challenged. It’s a momentary bliss, even when the stakes are high.
However, a lot of workplaces suffer a lot, whether it is from miscommunication, low engagement, emotional manipulation, or even a lack of trust.
Yet, we crave teamwork and thrive upon it. According to research, it seems that at least 3 out of every 4 employees find teamwork to be rather important.
That’s a lot of people.
While teamwork can be stifling, it can produce the right results, especially if you and the others are open to it.
Think of it this way:
- You are exposed to the insights of other parties, making you cultured
- You’ve expanded on your current knowledge base, becoming the bigger person
- Others have also learned from you, enabling your confidence as a subject-matter expert
With the right level of support and conditions, whether it is environmental, emotional or financial, teamwork can produce optimized results relative to individual projects.
If you are a leader, and you want to optimize the culture surrounding your team, consider these insights:
1. The Leader Sets the Benchmark
Before diving deep into teamwork, we have to consider the big boss at the very top. You might be the boss, or perhaps someone else is the boss.
Either way, when you lead a team, you have to lead by example. The rest are looking to you for guidance, and the precedents you set are going to be the norms of tomorrow.
If you yell or scream, your team will likely cower in fear, and not provide any substantiative feedback. If you’re too soft, they're going to override your authority.
Either way, your insights and behaviors will permeate onto the individuals below you, and eventually, it will become the cultural norm, for better or for worse.
2. Teams Thrive on Daily Communication
At the very core of a good team is reliable and ongoing communication. This means that team members are not afraid to express their expert insights and the leader is not afraid of it either.
Together, brainstorming sessions commence, and even if two parties cannot agree on a final product, they can always set compromises, as well as cost-benefit analyses.
- Being clear and succinct
- Anticipating potential miscommunication barriers ahead of time
- Being an active listener instead of a talker
- Checking in with individual employees (if needed)
- Taking advantage of the various communication software tools
- Capitalizing on collaborative platforms
3. Teams Need Solidarity
Team building exercises, while seemingly silly at times, helps build rapport between dissimilar members. Instead of picking or choosing a venue just for the sake of choosing it, consider what activities the team can do that is directly tied to the task at hand.
Furthermore, you can also consider these questions:
- How long will these tasks take? A day? 10 minutes? 1 hour?
- Are these cost-efficient exercises? Do they provide a short-term or long-term incentive?
- Does this activity require substantial travel or accommodations?
- Is the task very specific or relevant to the challenge you are facing?
- Does this exercise help improve communication or active listening?
- Is the team familiar with one another already?
Overall, while taking into account team-building exercises, just remember to pace your team, and provide opportunities across the months.
The more frequent you have these exercises, the more frequent and longer-lasting these events will have on the overall performance of the team. Perhaps 1–2 events a month are in order.
Remember if you take budgetary short-cuts, it might easily blow up on your face.
4. Establish, Reaffirm, and Adjust Rules
While the prospect of rules is quite boring, rules set parameters in place. We often have a tendency to overanalyze, generalize, or even fail to take into account multiple third-party variables that can affect the performance of a team.
These can include, things like:
- Terrible weather, like a snowstorm
- An unreliable or spotty internet connection
- Illness in the family
- A lack of resources or money in the group
When drafting such rules, don’t make them so rigid. Things can and will go bad, so it’s best to plan early. However, you wouldn’t want them quite flexible either, as some people may prefer a sense of directionality.
Directionality is easy to follow; ambiguity lends itself to miscommunication. Either way, if multiple members are unsure about a rule, it’s best to address these and ensure you have a good reason for doing so.
Rules can include the following:
- Don’t work outside of your office hours, just in case things go south and there’s no one in the office to help you at that time
- Be transparent about any mitigating issues (such as illness) that could potentially influence your ability to pay attention clearly
- Take clear notes, but refrain from using cell phones during the chat, but keep laptops on hand in case you need to research something
- Actively listen, and don’t interrupt others until they are done talking
5. Specify a Clear Purpose
Teams sometimes don’t always understand why they need to work on a specific task because the managers fail to explain the purpose of the job.
This is where miscommunication first stems from, but a good manager is clear and succinct on the relevance of the project in relation to a bigger picture.
If the team knows the bigger picture, they’ll be more inclined to support you, be enthusiastic, and can offer more appropriate ways to resolve the specific situation.
Without that understanding or motivation, the team will make slightly ill-informed decisions and it’s not going to their fault, because they didn’t know any better.
6. Set Up Rewards and Appreciate The Team
Those who work hard often receive something, as a token of appreciation. Being appreciated leads to satisfaction and more sustained interest in the topic at hand.
If you want a stronger team, incentivizing certain goals with prizes or gamification techniques may help employees work together competitively.
These prizes don’t always have to be financial. They can include:
- An email of appreciation of thanks
- Company-wide memos highlighting specific individuals
- A rewarding lunch or dinner
- An ongoing prize raffle
- A promotion or a snazzy lateral movement
- Extra vacation days
- A special bonus for doing extra work
7. Optimize Office Spaces
Most people don’t pay too much attention to their environment. However, the productivity of one’s space is reliant on how things are organized around you.
For example, dedicated spaces that are specialized for a specific but repetitive task may be important, while entire project rooms can be used for the latest conferences.
In the cases of remote working, collaborative tools can be used to replace physical project rooms.
Plus, having some fresh air, access to windows and some nice green plants may help to spruce space, in case the place is looking dreary.
Overall, the health and needs of the team can be reflected in the space around you. For example, consider spaces where individuals can chat amongst one another productively, and places where certain parts of the project can be done quickly.
8. Allow for Breaks
People are not robots. We cannot be expected to work 24/7. With a break, people are often more energized to get back working, especially if some periods of time have passed.
Research can verify that higher cognition and motivation is associated with those who take reliable breaks versus those who don’t. Plus, in the time you are taking a break, your mind is silently calibrating ways to resolve the problem.
Your brain is doing that without you being conscious of it. When you get back to the problem, it becomes much easier to resolve. If you’re the manager, you can help foster this culture of taking breaks by:
- Allowing members to grab a coffee or snack
- Allowing for remote work during the week
- Allowing for more comfortable office attire to be worn
The possibilities are endless, but these are just a few primers to get you started.
9. Highlight Strengths and Show Appreciation
Harping on the weaknesses of a specific team member or multiple members does no one any favors, and will lower the overall morale of the team. If you capitalize and optimize the strengths of each team member, each member will do their part most diligently, leading to a much more successful product.
Each person is different, and rather than shoving people into a clean box, you can instead allow each person to play an equal role that complements the skillset that they most ideal for.
A good team knows when to hand over the reins of one part to another party, especially if we view the team as an entity full of revolving parts. This party is not static, and each member was hired for a specific reason.
As long as all parties contribute, weaknesses are not good to focus on.
10. Show Happiness, Gratitude, and Celebrate
Overall, it can hard to show gratitude towards others, especially if we’re the type to not really warm up to others. However, taking the time out of your day to provide compliments to each person might make their day, and keep them going.
Plus, think of it like positive feedback. Since we’re focussing on the positives, team members will appreciate the opportunity that was afforded to them.
Steered in a specific direction, people will likely reciprocate thanks back onto. Thanking someone increases their:
- Sense of worth
- Willingness to succeed
That’s just the tip of the iceberg. However, the trick is not to do this all the time — we want to be timely and genuine, after all.
Finally, we get to the best part — the celebratory part. Once you reached your deadline, you’ve finally got a chance to unwind for a bit, let your brain calibrate a bit, and then take proactive measures for the next task.
The way you can celebrate a project doesn’t have to be fancy but should be frequent enough that engagement is sustained. After all, you don’t want an entire team quitting once the project is done.
For example, you can:
- Have a meeting discussing the successes of the project and include silly props if you need to
- Take your employees out for some event or provide a discount on a service
- Do a raffle party, where funny prizes can be dispensed
Instead, validate and foster interest in others and keep your motivations high. The rest will follow.