We’ve all experienced it: group meetings where you sincerely felt like you just wasted an hour of your life. Group projects that went nowhere fast. The final results weren’t that great because interpersonal conflicts took over. These occurrences are not uncommon, but they’re definitely unfortunate—especially when teamwork has such high potential.
Teamwork really can make the dream work, but you need to get a few things in place first.
Appoint a Leader
Even if everyone on the team is on equal footing, appoint an informal leader to keep everyone and everything on track. You’ll be far more motivated to complete tasks on time when someone is there to keep you accountable and support you if things go off track.
Keep in mind that the team “leader” doesn’t always have to stay the same. Leader is a role, not a person. Depending on the project you’re working on—and what stage you’re working on—some people might be better suited for the role than others.
Clarify Everyone’s Roles
On teams, people share duties and responsibilities. That works if roles are clearly defined and responsibilities are clearly assigned. If not, tasks can be overlooked (“I thought that wasn’t my job”) or done twice over (“I thought that was my job”).
Clarify people’s roles and responsibilities from the start, keeping their strengths in mind. Try to assign people to work that suit them. The tasks assigned should fit their skillset and their problem-solving style.
Set Measurable Goals
Definitions of teamwork vary, but most revolve around the premise of a group of people working toward a shared goal. So, if team members don’t know the goal, or the goal isn’t clear, that’s a problem. Ill-defined goals lead to wasted time, squandered efforts, and a distinct lack of progress.
Give team members a measure of what success looks like from the start, so they can start actively working towards it. Better yet, set small goals along the way, so they feel motivated and energized throughout the process.
The magic question all productive teams can answer is “Who does what by when?” Teams are at their most productive when everyone understands their roles (who), their goals (what), and their deadlines (by when). Deadlines will galvanize and motivate your team members. When there’s an endpoint in sight, workers will be more likely to work through roadblocks and make the project a priority.
There are plenty of project management apps, like Asana and Trello, to help you keep on top of all the small tasks. There are also platforms like Slack, Asana, and Trello to make team communication easier. As a bonus, project management software will often help you establish clarity about who is responsible for what.
Develop an Agenda for Meetings
Good teams have good meetings, not necessarily lots of meetings, just effective ones. Your people’s time is your most valuable resource. Don’t waste it in meetings that drag or could be handled by a memo. Keep everyone on track with an agenda that clearly states what topics need to be addressed, and impose reasonable time limits.
If you’re in the habit of holding daily, weekly, or monthly meetings, make sure they’re structured and productive. Don’t have a meeting just for the sake of having a meeting. Collect agenda items from your team before the meeting, or go around the table and ask about challenges, current tasks, and next steps one by one. Experiment until you find a formula to suit your group!
With these tips, you can avoid some of the common pitfalls when it comes to working as a team. Put your collective skills and talents together to achieve your goals—efficiently and effectively.