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Creating high-performing teams is a bit of a buzz phrase lately. It’s natural that every company wants their employees to work well together and do great things, but establishing a successful and motivated team is far easier said than done. People are individuals with unique needs and traits so what motivates one won’t necessarily motivate another and when those individuals share a common goal? Well, it can be a challenge to make sure the team runs more like a well-oiled machine and less like a car with three wheels.
There are ways to help teams come together and function at their best to achieve shared goals. While some team members will be go-getters who can naturally take the reins to help guide the team forward, it ultimately comes down to the manager or supervisor to take steps and make sure things are happening. Great leaders will take the time to identify ways to improve their teams and help make them shine.
Great leaders also recognize where they need to brush up on their own skills to help their team. That may mean reading up on time management, taking project management courses, gaining an understanding on conflict resolution, asking for help in managing personnel or even having team members do a blind review to help determine what skills could be improved.
There is a multitude of ways for a team builder to go about creating a functional team that works well together. As the saying goes: teamwork makes the dream work. Here are our top 5 ways to create a professional, rock-solid team.
1. Get to know each team member’s role and the value of it. When a leader thoroughly understands what each team member does, they are better able to spot the places where help is needed or encouragement will contribute to results. Leaders should also be able to communicate how an individual’s role benefits not only the team’s objectives but also that of the company so that the team member can see and appreciate their place within the organization and how their contributions matter.
This leads to the importance of encouraging team members to also get to know and value each other as the unique individuals they are. If the team knows John is reading a lot of self-development books that are somewhat historical in nature, they will turn to him when someone references the importance of a tactic noted in The Art of War. Alternatively, if Karen is a fashion-buff, they may ask her about the look of a logo or the layout of an ad.
2. Understand the motivation of each team member as an individual and as a member of the team. Everyone has different forms of motivation. Some people are naturally more productive with a carrot, some with a stick and some with a balance of both. While most people are better with a carrot approach, even that differs between individuals. Some want praise, others want time, still, others want flexibility. These different methods of motivation will also change when it comes to being part of a team. Sometimes the motivation for a team member working on a group project will be team-oriented. (Think a pizza party on completion of a major milestone or a planned evening out at the local pub as opposed to an extra day off or a Starbuck’s gift card.)
3. Set goals, then celebrate them, regardless of the outcome. Celebrations bring people together to give themselves credit for working together and creating something new. It doesn’t have to be successful in terms of the goal for it to be successful in terms of the team. Good leaders find the positives, set new goals and stay focused on the benefits achieved. In successful outcomes, a strong leader will praise team members for doing a good job and try to find a contribution from everyone. In failures, names should never be mentioned and blame should never be placed, everyone should stay focused on what could be done differently and moving forward.
4. Communication really is the key. It gets stated a lot, but truly, communication is the key to great teamwork and achieving better outcomes. Good leaders will find communication tools that work for everyone on the team. Mary may hate texting or using her phone for team discussions, but really likes a certain app that can be downloaded onto her laptop as well as other team member phones. Encourage everyone to take part in finding the best communication tool for the team and one that promotes achieving a project plan and the milestones leading up to it.
By communicating openly and honestly, team members will be better able to let go of the things that can’t be controlled and find ways to work together to explore new solutions or help each other when things get hard.
5. Encourage team brainstorming and team consensus as idea generation and decision-making tools. Brainstorming allows a team to work together to find a solution, be open with ideas and create a better zone of safety within the team. When people know their ideas will be heard in a positive environment, they are more likely to continue to share – tossing out the wild and crazy as well as the vanilla – to lead to a wider range of possible solutions. When a solution needs to be decided on or another decision needs to be made, a good leader will ensure everyone has input and will try to achieve consensus. Having everyone agree to the same thing isn’t always possible, but when robust discussion can take place around the options and each team member feels heard, they are more likely to agree to the final decision even if it wasn’t their first (or second) choice. It’s easier to support something when everyone’s opinion is on the table.
Creating a highly-functional team isn’t easy. It take time, commitment and patience to build towards team success. Great leaders will do what it takes to establish the elements necessary for team members to feel included and essential to the team so that everyone can feel part of the process of wins and improvements down the road.