Building extraordinary workplaces and high-performing teams takes a lot of continuous work. According to SDT (Self-determination theory) researchers, Edward L. Deci and Richard Ryan's book "Self-Determination and Intrinsic Motivation in Human Behavior," three essential psychological needs motivate self-initiated behavior of individuals: autonomy, competence, and connection.
This article details the importance of teamwork and what team leaders should do to establish the four foundations for success.
Decades of research demonstrate that when people feel psychologically fulfilled, they tend to be healthier, happier, and more productive.
Of those three psychological needs, connection in the workplace has always been the toughest to cultivate. As a manager, you have the tools to help employees satisfy their autonomy and competence needs. Attracting and retaining talented employees is just half of the equation. The other half is to get them to like each other and function as a team.
Over the years, as teams have grown more diverse, dispersed, digital, and dynamic, collaboration has become more complex.
Fostering relations between team members during the pandemic has been even more challenging. While working from home has been great for autonomy and competence, the lack of physical proximity to colleagues took its toll on connection and personal bonds.
But while teams everywhere face new challenges, their success depends on a core of fundamentals. J. Richard Hackman began researching teamwork in the 1970s and discovered that neither personality nor behavior matters most, but whether a team has a direction, structure, and supportive context.
In their research, The Secrets of Great Teamwork, Marine Haas and Mark Mortensen have found that teams need those three “enabling conditions” now more than ever. But their work also revealed that current teams are especially prone to two corrosive problems: “us versus them” thinking and incomplete information. Overcoming those pitfalls requires a new enabling condition: a shared mindset.
Teamwork. We talk about it, read about it, do exercises to build it, and even go to keynote speeches and workshops to understand how better to implement it in our organizations. So, what is teamwork? And why do we talk about it so much?
Teamwork is “the collective action of a team to achieve a goal or a task most effectively and efficiently.”
Teamwork is a crucial part of a business, as it is often necessary for colleagues to work well together, trying their best in any circumstance. Teamwork means that people will try to cooperate, using their skills and providing constructive feedback, despite any personal conflict between individuals.
Teamwork is selfless. It focuses on the end goal, and it runs on the concept that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. When the entire team focuses on doing great work, however, the particularities of team members turn into strengths that help meet and even exceed the overall goals.
There is very little dispute surrounding the importance of teamwork and collaboration at work. Most leaders understand that working together is crucial to the success of an organization. Companies need collaboration to survive with the business world and workplaces constantly changing as new technologies and innovations arise.
As team members share their experiences and knowledge, they can come to strategic and creative solutions. Every employee brings different skills and perspectives to the table, and multiple viewpoints help companies innovate and excel in the current fast-paced world.
Most people understand the importance of teamwork. Yet working as a team still plagues many organizations. Even though the understanding is there, the application is often not.
When employees work together and succeed as a team, they form bonds that can turn into trust and friendship. It is human nature. And it is excellent for your organization since employees who like and trust each other are more likely to:
Imagine you have a workforce of 10 employees working in separate rooms. Each one works to their strengths and suffers from their weaknesses, with nobody to teach or learn from.
Now put them all in the same room, working together on the same project. Soon, the employees will learn the strengths of the others and correct their mistakes. The overall employee performance will improve.
If you're looking for inspiration on how you can promote teamwork, we have a curated selection of teamwork quotes, that you can use anytime.
Let’s continue the scenario one year later: what happens to the same team of 10 members when they have learned all they can from each other? They will soon start to compete with one another to prove their ability and chase promotions or other incentives within your organization.
Provided the challenge and rewards are in place to promote competition, team dynamics can keep improving.
The division of labor was a pillar of the industrial revolution and a foundation of modern civilization. That is just another way to say teamwork.
Employee teamwork enables your workforce to:
In a nutshell, teams make work more efficient. That can lead to improved productivity, reduced costs, greater profitability, and many other benefits.
“There is immense power when a group of people with similar interests gets together to work toward the same goals.” ― Idowu Koyenikan
When a person works alone, they have total autonomy. What if that person starts to work slowly or ineffectively? Who will set them straight? Nobody.
In teamwork, many people have responsibility for the same goal. When the performance of one team member dips, the others have the knowledge and motivation to help them improve. Without management intervention, effective teams can self-regulate their performance.
The amazing illustrator @successpictures on IG crafted this picture that explains the concept better.
There are usually countless solutions for any task or problem. When one employee tackles a project, they might be able to think of a few different ideas given time. But when a team tackles a problem, the project benefits from multiple perspectives, skill sets, and experiences.
A team approach can therefore lead to faster innovation.
Being part of a great team at work is a sweet cocktail of emotions - excitement, challenge, safety, success. You are pumped to get out of bed in the morning and energized throughout the day.
Still, many workforces suffer from poor communication, lack of trust, and low engagement, eroding the chances of great teamwork in the workplace.
But, people still want teamwork. And 3 out of 4 employers consider teamwork very important.
The key is to give your team the right conditions to develop and grow. When you want to build teamwork among your workforce, we have some tips to share. Enhancing the teamwork aspects is not straight forward, however it's not impossible. Here are 12 teamwork “healthy conditions” to consider:
If you want to build great teamwork, start from the top. Leadership is a crucial driver of teamwork, and all they must do is to lead by example. They are the ones that the rest of your company look to for direction, so managers should establish teamwork as the norm.
Ensure leadership is involved in effective communication so employees at all levels can understand the overarching company goal towards which they are working.
“A team is successful only when they have a common goal. Not only does this goal need to be set, but it also has to be communicated to each team member.” - Laura Noodapera
The key pillar of collaboration is communication. Teamwork develops when team members feel like they can speak openly, share ideas without getting shot down (and build on those of others), make suggestions, and voice their opinions. Make sure communication is not just flowing downward but also upward, and between team members. Multi-way communication is the goal.
Team members don't always have to be on the same page. Creating a safe space for open communication leads to finding a solution and moving forward as a team.
Here are the main steps to create a culture of open communication:
When it comes to building a solid team, employee rewards and recognition rank very high on the list of perks that attract quality jobseekers. Rewarding successful collaboration creates an incentive for people to do so more frequently. Find ways to publicly acknowledge the hard work of effective teams, whether by giving them an award in front of their peers or by sharing their wins in a writeup. Teams who win together will continue to work well together.
Don’t you know how to reward teamwork? Here are our ideas:
Every member of a team should know what the company's long-term goals are. Sharing clear goals ensures the team projects are purpose-driven and valuable, have clearly defined and measurable objectives, and that everyone on the team moves in the same direction. Teamwork is impossible in an environment where no one is sure what the team is working toward. You need to be sure that everyone on every team is on the same page.
Related: Learn how to setup clear employee performance goals.
"97% of employees and executives surveyed believe a lack of alignment within a team directly impacts the outcome of a task or project." - Salesforce
Teams should feel like standalone units even as they contribute to your larger organizational goals. If you don’t give your teams some degree of autonomy, they won’t work as a collective because they will always be waiting for management to issue orders from on high. As much as possible, let teams set their deadlines, develop their workflows, and work out their issues.
Research shows micromanagement is one of the top three reasons employees leave a team. It is a creativity killer, causes undue stress, and demoralizes your team. Here are tips to stop micromanaging your employees.
Some companies approach conflict resolution with a wait-and-see approach, but that doesn’t work very well for team members’ disputes. Because these disputes can quickly grow into serious issues that interfere with projects, team members must address them proactively. Ensure interpersonal conflicts are written and bring in mediators to work through issues between colleagues.
„Meeting is a start, staying together is progress, working together is success.” - Henry Ford
Knowledge is power, so if you want to know where your workforce is when it comes to teamwork, why not just ask them? Soliciting feedback doesn’t have to be complicated or time-consuming. You can create an anonymous poll in an employee app like Blink or do short interviews with team members to see how projects are coming along. Just be sure you are committed to taking feedback seriously.
“When a team works well together, it’s because its members are operating from the same mindset and are clear about their goals and norms,” says Roger Schwarz, an organizational psychologist and the author of Smart Leaders, Smarter Teams. Regular feedback creates cohesion among your team.
Focusing on the weaknesses of your team members affects engagement and lowers the team’s productivity. According to Gallup’s research, employees who use their strengths every day are six times more likely to be engaged in their jobs.
Everyone is different - we have different strengths, passions, and weaknesses. One of the cornerstones of a good team leader is focusing on individuals’ strengths and bringing together a team of people with a combined skill set to get the job done.
“Coming together is a beginning. Keeping together is progress. Working together is success.” - Henry Ford
Introverts, early risers, night owls, and caregivers can all be valuable team members, so don’t ignore them when considering the improvement of teamwork in the workplace. Offering employees flex work options like telecommuting and quiet workspaces ensures that your entire workforce can be as productive as possible and take advantage of opportunities to work collaboratively.
Before implementing flexible work within your team, check that there are policies in place to ensure that your organization will enjoy the benefits and avoid the common traps.
And I don’t mean aerobics. I am referring to team-building activities. Before deciding on a team-building exercise, it is crucial to assess what specific challenges your team is facing. For example, does your team need to become more familiar with each other, or do they need to recover from a conflict? You may pick different exercises for each of these situations.
Team building doesn’t have to happen while you are actively working. Taking breaks together can result in higher productivity levels and help reevaluate goals.
One week, you could round up the team and grab a coffee together. Getting together in a less formal setting will encourage better communication, sharing, and bonding between team members. If you want to start small, break up the day by stepping outside to have one of your team meetings on foot.
Celebrating your success as a team will bring people closer together, encourage conversation, and boost happiness. Celebrations don’t have to be big, but they should be frequent. By doing this, you are reminding people that your goals are achievable and worth striving for, which will keep motivation high.
Here are some ideas on how to celebrate success:
High-performing teams gather individuals with specialized expertise who collaborate, innovate, and work toward achieving precise results. But building a great team means more than just pulling together a group of talented people with the right skills. It requires careful development of key characteristics, behaviors, and best practices.
Now you know what makes the ideal team great. What about your team?
As a team leader, you may see some things work smoothly, but others not as much. You may know what takes your team from good to great. But how will you know what needs to change?
Here are eight high performing-teams attributes to cultivate within your team:
Candidates with strong teamwork skills are sought out by employers for many reasons - they demonstrate leadership, collaboration, and good communication. Employers expect employees to be team players. Teamwork is required for almost every industry, ranging from business solutions to information technology to food services.
Regardless of your role, you need to be able to work well with others and convey your teamwork skills to hiring managers, recruiters, and prospective employers.
Scan any job listing, and you will see that even ads that seek “self-starters” also inevitably use the phrase “team player.” Teamwork skills like communication and a positive attitude can help a team be more productive.
Below is a list of the most crucial teamwork skills that employers seek in candidates:
Being a good team member means communicating your ideas with the group. You must be able to convey information via phone, email, and in person. You want to make sure your tone is always professional but friendly. Both verbal and nonverbal communication types are essential when working within a group setting.
Other communication skills might include:
2. Conflict management
An essential teamwork skill is being able to mediate problems between team members. You need to be able to negotiate with your team members to settle disputes and make sure everyone is happy with the team’s choices.
Important conflict management abilities:
3. Active listening
Another crucial part of communication is listening. You must be able to listen to the ideas and concerns of your peers to be an effective team member. By asking questions for clarification, demonstrating concern, and using nonverbal cues, you can show your team that you care and understand their ideas or concerns.
Relevant active listening skills:
You want to be a reliable team member so that your coworkers can trust you with time-sensitive tasks and company information. Make sure you stick to deadlines and complete any assigned work.
The characteristics of reliable persons include:
People will be more open to communicating with you if you convey respect for them and their ideas. Simple actions like using a person's name, making eye contact, and actively listening when a person speaks will push your team members to feel appreciated.
The characteristics of respectful managers are:
“Talent wins games, but teamwork and intelligence wins championships.” - Michael Jordan
Improving teamwork skills at work can be accomplished by fostering communication, collaboration, and trust between team members. Encourage team members to ask questions and share ideas openly, practice active listening, and work with each other to brainstorm solutions. Taking the time to develop relationships with colleagues and recognizing the contributions of each team member will also help create an atmosphere of teamwork.
Here are 10 additional tips to help you improve teamwork skills at work:
Teamwork has never been easy, but it has become much more complex in recent years. And the trends that make it more difficult seem likely to continue as teams become increasingly global, virtual, and project-driven.
Taking a systematic approach to analyzing how well your team is set up to succeed - and identifying where improvements are needed - can make all the difference.
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