Great teams are the building blocks of any organization. A great team has shared goals, clear roles, transparent processes for solving problems and making decisions, and the ability to deal with conflicts constructively. A good team may have some of these elements; a great team will have them all. It is up to you as a leader to make sure all of these elements are in place.
Like all coaches, a successful team leader needs a playbook to guide them. If you are leading a new team or want to enhance the performance of an existing one, follow these eight tips.
1. Emphasize Common Interests and Values: Getting group members to agree on objectives, strategies, and the need for cooperative effort greatly facilitates a strong identification with the group. Great leaders emphasize mutual interests rather than allowing members to dwell on their differences. Identify shared objectives and explain why cooperation is necessary to attain them. Encourage group members to share information and ideas and to help each other.
2. Talk about the Importance of Building Trust and Collaboration: Building trust and collaboration is vital when tasks require team members to share information, equipment, and other resources, help each other, and work in close proximity for a long time on stressful projects. If either of these elements is missing in a team, success will elude you. Lack of trust and acceptance is likely to be a problem in newly formed teams or teams with members who disagree sharply about work-related issues. The leader must reinforce the need for cooperation and trust in team success.
3. Increase Incentives for Mutual Cooperation: Basing incentives on individual performance encourages people to compete with each other. Great leaders use incentives based on group performance to encourage cooperation. One way to increase cohesiveness and team identification is to emphasize formal incentives such as a bonus based on improvement in team performance. Another way is to use informal spontaneous rewards to emphasize the importance of service to the team.
4. Create a System that Allows you to Easily Integrate New Team Members: Great leaders help assimilate new employees faster, transmit culture and values, and build a sense of community among members through orientation programs. The scope of these programs varies widely. Some organizations spend an hour or two going over key policies and procedures and asking new employees to fill out paperwork. Other organizations use the orientation as an opportunity to immerse them in the team’s culture and values.
5. Brand Your Teams: Work with a new team to help them create a group identity. Encourage them to brand their team by developing a team name, slogan, logo, or insignia. Team branding creates strong group identification, especially when group members agree to wear or display the symbols of membership. Ceremonies and rituals can increase identification with the group and make membership seem special. Ceremonies aimed at celebrating achievements or marking an anniversary of events in the history of the group are most effective when they emphasize the group’s values and traditions.
6. Teach the Importance of Conflict Resolution: No matter how clear the team’s goals are, conflict is inevitable when a team works together or in stressful situations. When people with different styles and skills work together, they need to know how to react to one another when differences of opinion arise. Teams that can handle conflicts and disagreements constructively ultimately find the best solutions for team and company problems.
7. Build Your Team Inside and Outside the Office: A group of people become a cohesive team when members get to know each other on a personal level and find it satisfying to interact socially. As a leader, you can help foster such relationships. Assign a room that team members can use as their break room or meeting area. Host social activities, parties, and outings. Getting your teams out of the office will help them learn more about each other, create shared memories, and give everyone a chance to have fun, bonding experiences.
8. Celebrate Team Achievements and Successes: Recognize the teams’ hard work and success when they have a big “win.” You can celebrate team achievements by placing posters in common areas, rewarding the team with a free lunch or a half-day off, or by presenting them with an award at an event. Do something to recognize your team’s success.
Your people make your company unique. They set you apart from every other company and drive the company’s success. By developing strong teams, you enable your people to better solve problems and accomplish shared goals. Creating strong teams is one of the most important things you do as a leader.
These tips will help you lay the groundwork for successful teams, but even the best team leaders need some extra help at times.