Do you know what Lego, Google, and Tesla have in common? Aside from being wildly successful, these businesses place a strong emphasis on teamwork and innovation. When teams are able to communicate and work together effectively and bring their unique knowledge and skills together in pursuit of the same goal, that’s when the magic happens.
The issue? A lot of teams don’t work together in the most effective way. While teams can be incredibly powerful, they can also backfire when team members don’t have the support and tools they need. In teams where people lack of trust, misunderstand each other’s mindsets, or feel the need to “fend for themselves,” innovation and creativity suffer.
Thankfully, you can avoid those pitfalls by following a couple of suggestions that can help your team thrive.
Lead by Example
Want collaboration? Then you should collaborate. Senior members in the organization need to practice what they preach. In other words, if they want their staff members to work cohesively together as a team, they need to display a spirit of camaraderie and collaboration. In a 2007 study, Gratton & Erickson found that when employees are in an environment where the upper echelon has a “fend for yourself” kind of mentality, they have a tendency to mimic it.
Your action for today: Understand your own mindset when it comes to collaborative problem-solving and makes it easier for others to collaborate with you. Share stories about how collaboration among senior managers has led to major breakthroughs and business triumphs.
Encourage Group Socialization
It’s easier to share ideas and opinions with people you know. Create ways for team members to get to know each other on a personal level, so they can work together more effectively. According to research from Gallup, people who are friendly with their coworkers are seven times more likely to be engaged in the work they are doing (2017).
Your action for today: Depending on the size of your team, facilitate a fun group game like two truths and a lie or start planning an out-of-office activity to increase camaraderie. You can’t force people to be friends, but you can make sure team members feel more comfortable with each other.
Make Sure Every Voice Is Heard
If team members feel like they can’t get a word in edgewise, that’s a problem. It’s normal to have people in a team who are highly vocal, but those people shouldn’t be the only ones spouting ideas and directing the work. Everyone should have the opportunity to speak and express their opinion. The quietly observing Integrator in your group might very well have the next breakthrough idea! So let them speak.
Your action for today: Work hard to keep everyone involved in the discussion. Set up a virtual comment area, or take turns speaking at your team’s in-person or virtual meetings.
Keep an Open Line of Communication
Clear, open communication is the hallmark of a healthy team. You’ll see evidence of it in open-door policies, group chats on platforms like Teams or Slack, and regular meetings between members. Be intentional about what type of information can be communicated via message and what needs to be shared live (in person or virtually). If it’s life, set a clear agenda for your meeting to make it easier to discuss ideas quickly and find solutions that work.
Your action for today: Take the time to research different messaging/communication channels and find one that works for your team. Many of them are free. We personally like Slack and Troop Messenger, but there are plenty of other ones out there!
Foster Debate, Not Conflict
Diverse teams are better at innovation, but only if people on the team know how to elicit different ideas and debate them in a healthy way. Applaud team members for their creativity. Don’t shame them for having a “ridiculous” idea. If humans had only stuck to the familiar, you’d still be accelerating your vehicle with a buggy whip. Creativity ignites growth. It may show up as ideas that sound awkward or implausible, but when you foster creative problem-solving, you increase your team's ability to adapt to change, and that’s always a winning strategy.
Your action for today: Next time someone proposes an idea you find a little, resist the urge to roll your eyes. Instead, consider their idea and articulate what you like about it. Then express any issues or concerns as an open-ended question.
Reward Good Work
Your team is working hard to meet its goals. They’ll be happier and more likely to contribute if they feel like their work is valued. Make sure people get the recognition they deserve from both peers and management. Researchers found that a six-to-one ratio of positive feedback to negative feedback is what you need to effect behavior change. It’s positive reinforcement for the win!
Your action for today: Give your team members a compliment on their work or professional skills. You’ll be pleasantly surprised at how much they appreciate it.
When it comes to improving processes and moving projects forward, team members often have a good sense of what can be changed for the better. Give them the opportunity to provide their suggestions, observations, and recommendations either in person or through a virtual platform.
Your action for today: Ask for specific feedback and recommendations regarding a group project. You might notice some commonalities between answers that lead to a major breakthrough!
These seven strategies can help your team thrive. They’re easy to start. They’re free. Do one a day. Build them into your team rituals. Once you make them a habit, they become part of what helps your team thrive. Take the time to implement these strategies so you can become one of the success stories.
Gratton, L., & Erickson, T.J. (2007, November). Eight ways to build collaborative teams. Harvard Business Review. https://hbr.org/2007/11/eight-ways-to-build-collaborative-teams