Whether your company is in its start-up stage or you've been in business for decades, one thing that is essential to its success is good teamwork.
Organizations with strong teamwork skills don't often come naturally, though.
It requires leader that have an understanding of what successful teams look like, what potential roadblocks may arise, and which tactical solutions to apply so your company can perform at its absolute best.
This comprehensive guide will help provide a road map on how to improve teamwork at your company and take your organization to new heights of collaboration.
The Importance of Teamwork
Effective teamwork allows your company to thrive and reach or surpass its goals. High-functioning teams are able to accelerate growth and success in a way that capitalizes on efforts from individual team members.
But it's possible to be on a team that may seem effective on the outside but suffers from dysfunctional characteristics that hinder success.
Consider these five behaviors that create a cohesive team and the problems caused when a team lacks them:
- Trust. Teammates who are not willing to be vulnerable or don't feel safe voicing their true concerns or opinions cannot contribute wholly to the team.
- Conflict. Healthy conflict is good for a team, but when teammates fear conflict, they're more likely to feign agreement and hold back comments rather than have lively, problem-solving discussions.
- Commitment. Without being fully invested in the team, teammates are not committed to decisions and action items, resulting in sub-par efforts.
- Accountability. When teammates avoid calling out others on their behaviors or holding themselves accountable for actions, resentment and lack of productivity can result.
Teammates need to put their individual goals and aspirations aside to make it possible for the team to reach its overall goals.
When your company works as a top-level organization, it values these additional three things needed for effective teamwork:
- Amplifying the unique skills of each team member
- Understanding that people putting in their best efforts individually leads to success
- Capitalizing on each individual's strengths to reach company goals
3 Signs You Need to Improve Your Company’s Teamwork Skills
You may suspect that your team might not be functioning to the best of its ability. But what is causing it and what leads to bad teamwork — or no teamwork at all?
An effective way to find out is to use assessment tools designed to help team members understand how they function within a team and how the personality styles of their teammates affect the team too. The Five Behaviors team assessments, for example, are designed to help your team cultivate trust, constructive conflict, commitment to ideas, accountability and, ultimately, results.
Consider the following three red flags that indicate your company may need to learn how to improve teamwork skills:
There’s Lack of Trust & Liability
Trust begins with leadership, and is vital throughout the entire team. Team members must trust their leader, the leader must trust their team, and team members need to trust each other.
Think of your current company culture as you go over these tell-tale signs that a team is suffering from lack of trust:
- The team leader is micromanaging the team.
- The leader and/or team members are withholding information and secretly working on initiatives on their own.
- Select team members or the team lead are overloaded because tasks and responsibilities are not being delegated.
- Team meetings are quiet or tense instead of lively and full of debate or sharing of ideas.
- Company culture encourages an "us against them" mentality across different departments.
Your Team Isn’t Dedicated
Lack of trust often results in employees being scared to voice their thoughts and opinions — and that leads to lack of dedication to the team. If a team member doesn’t see their role or purpose in relation to the company or its goals, they’ll be less committed.
Signs that your team isn't dedicated include:
- Missed deadlines or not delivering on projects
- Team members quitting
- Frequent mistakes
- Lack of response to team surveys
- Tardiness to meetings or skipping altogether
- Lack of flexibility to changes
- Lackluster attitude
You’re Not Seeing Results
The clearest sign of a team that lacks dedication is not hitting goals. Part of the problem may be that your team doesn't clearly understand the goals of the company or team. Without a clear vision, you won’t get your desired results.
How to Improve Teamwork at Your Company
Once you have these insights into what's ailing your team, you can take steps to improve your workplace and encourage cohesive teamwork. Arm yourself with the following eight strategies for building a successful team.
Establish Clear Company-Wide Goals
When the different departments within your company collaborate constantly, you avoid inefficiencies, misunderstandings and damaging conflicts. As a leader, you must establish direct goals with your team and across your company.
Be clear with your company-wide goals as well as your team objectives. Most company goals will be either results-based (Increase quarterly profits by X%) or operational (Improve average customer feedback rating to 4.5 out of 5).
Communicate this to your company in a way that is understood by all, and create clear steps to reaching that goal. Each team will be responsible for certain aspects that contribute to the common good. Define each objective with clear strategies and achievable expectations.
Create an Environment of Open Communication
Communication is key at work. Not only should you communicate your goals clearly at the onset of a project, but ongoing communication is even more important.
Employees and employers need to be able to ask questions, get clear answers, offer input and feel valued for their contribution. Ineffective workplace communication leads to a lack of collaboration and is cited by 86% of employees and executives as the main cause of project and product failures across industries, according to Salesforce.
To improve teamwork, incorporate open communication skills in your workplace. Try out these examples:
- Frame messages in a positive way, expressing the desired behavior. "Please help us cut costs by printing double-sided documents," is better than, "Stop wasting paper."
- Use brief and specific language instead of over-explaining or using vague phrasing.
- Utilize multi-functional team messaging apps, such as Slack, Microsoft Teams and Flock as opposed to emails and memos.
- Keep remote workers connected with video conferencing.
- Practice empathy and be aware of how words affect people. Be clear rather than blunt, and think before you speak, especially in moments of frustration.
- Listen. Effective communication is more about how well you listen than how much you talk.
Help Employees Utilize Their Strengths & Define Their Roles
Every team member needs to feel valued and utilized to their fullest potential for them to be dedicated to the team. Using strengths will heighten an individual's dedication.
But what's the best way to figure out what each person's strengths are? You can begin by asking employees what aspects of their jobs they most enjoy doing as well as reviewing their past experiences and accomplishments.
A more precise method of identifying strengths is using team assessment tools, such as those based on the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) or DiSC. These help you understand employee personalities, strengths and blind spots so you can better delegate roles and cater to individual strengths.
Give Individual and Team Full Responsibility
When a person feels ownership over a project, they're more engaged, invested and motivated to create a positive outcome. Avoid micromanaging team members by giving them responsibilities and authority to make decisions.
Ownership and responsibility will help clear up uncertainties. And teammates who have responsibilities build trust with others.
Use the power of delegation to ensure no team members are overworked and tasks are completed efficiently and effectively.
Promote Positivity & Confidence
Some people light up a room when they enter it with their cheery attitude, smiling face and engaging conversation or witty comments. This kind of positivity is contagious, and soon everyone around them is smiling, feels less stressed, is sitting up straighter or feels a spark of motivation.
Imagine if this were the typical atmosphere of your workplace — how cohesive and engaged your team would be. Positive thinking creates happiness, and happy individuals are successful across multiple life domains, including work performance, according to multiple studies.
Set the tone in your company by promoting positivity, happiness and confidence in the workplace and within your teams. These are the elements that drive success at work.
Encourage Teams to Routinely Acknowledge Progress
Effective goal-setting — whether for your business or personal life — always includes identifying milestones that help you track your progress. This not only gives you clear, actionable steps to follow, but it also helps keep you accountable for your progress.
When your team hits a milestone or accomplishes a task, always encourage them to celebrate their successes. This creates cohesiveness among team members and provides motivation to accelerate forward.
Touch base with your team regularly, and encourage them to identify and acknowledge their daily, weekly and monthly accomplishments. Regular check-ins will help align the overall progress of the team with your end goal.
Create Personal Growth Opportunities
The strength of a team is defined by the strengths and weaknesses of its individual members. Bring out the best in your employees by giving them opportunities to grow personally and within their careers.
This can take place by assigning a new responsibility to team members, causing them to stretch outside their comfort zone yet within their capabilities. Be sure to provide the training and support necessary for them to succeed.
A company creates personal growth opportunities by supporting and encouraging continuous learning. This includes making employees comfortable asking questions when they don't understand something and giving regular, constructive feedback.
You can also provide training programs in the workplace and fund online courses and certifications and give employees opportunities to apply their new skills within your company.
Root Appreciation and Recognition Into Your Culture
When employees feel appreciated, they’re more likely to deliver company results. Even a simple thank you from a leader can contribute vastly to building a successful team.
This may seem like an effortless form of recognition, but 70% of employees say that if their managers would say thank you more often, their morale and motivation would improve massively.
Recognition within the workplace can also take the form of written compliments, gift cards or bonuses, group lunches and team-building activities, for example. Find out what language of appreciation resonates with each employee, and create a healthy culture of recognition within your company and team.
Recognize your employees' efforts and accomplishments, and encourage them to appreciate each other’s hard work too. This cohesiveness builds unity, gratitude, trust and loyalty within your team, which translates to productivity.
Effective Team Building Strategies
Team building exercises give you tangible solutions for how to get a team to work together. They're activities and strategies that give team members opportunities to learn how to improve team performance and recognize their own individual strengths.
In order for strategies to be effective, follow these best practices for building teams:
- Foster mutual respect.
- Encourage listening as well as talking.
- Establish rules of conduct so team members can think clearly and problem-solve.
- Negate competition and promote a mutual quest to find meaning.
- Expect that the team will win or lose as a team, and there are never individual winners or losers.
- Give the team repetitive opportunities to work together, find solutions and build bonds.
Use these three examples of how to build teamwork as inspiration for what may work with your team:
Company Lunches & Gatherings
Informal experiences like company lunches, gatherings and get-togethers give people a chance to get to know each other on a personal level. They learn about each others' interests, hobbies, families and other experiences outside of work.
As team members and leaders listen to each other, eat together, play together and socialize, they form bonds that strengthen trust, form shared memories and build relationships. Activities in remote locations or otherwise away from the workplace can be especially successful in improving teamwork.
Work in a Different Environment Together
Teamwork is never a competition between individuals, but having your team compete as a group can be very unifying. This can include signing up as a team in a local sports league, playing games together or solving problems unrelated to work.
Regardless of the setting, working together improves teamwork.
Openly Discuss Strengths & Weaknesses
A team that is able to openly discuss individual strengths and weaknesses in a mutually supportive and respectful environment has limitless potential for excellence. The goal of a successful team is to collaborate and think together to utilize one another’s strengths.
Build on each other’s personal strengths with strategy sessions that discuss how to reach a goal using the strengths of individual team members. This strengthens the team while bolstering the confidence of individuals, creating happier and more productive people in the workplace.
Improve Teamwork at Your Company Today
Teamwork is an essential component of successful companies. When both leaders and team members learn how to improve teamwork skills, the company — as well as individuals — thrive.
While trust, healthy conflict, commitment and accountability produce the results you're looking for, components like open communication, setting clear goals, positivity and appreciation are also essential to building a successful team.