In today’s competitive marketplace, the benefits of individual achievement—while always important—pale in comparison to what can be achieved through high-performing teamwork. If you’ve put in the time, strategy, and effort to hire the right people for your positions, then it only makes good sense to encourage collaboration for both short-term and long-range projects.
Effective teamwork can significantly accelerate the completion of key initiatives, while also acting as a powerful employee retention tool. Employees thrive in a culture where both teamwork and individual initiative are valued and are less inclined to consider other opportunities for employment.
However, if your teamwork efforts are falling short, consider these action steps:
1. Select a leader. A group of employees without a leader is like a rudderless boat. Every team needs someone to take charge, address any conflicts that arise and set the tone and pace for the work to come.
2. Emphasise collaboration and open discussion. The whole point of teamwork is for individuals to bond and share their knowledge and expertise. Your job (or a manager’s job) is to provide all the technical resources necessary to achieve this goal, including:
- A shared digital workspace, where team members can find documents and other information needed to move forward on a project
- Easy access to the digital workplace, whether team members are in the office, on the road, in their homes, etc.
- Opportunities to communicate informally, via chat, video, email, group forums, and so on
3. Delegate intelligently. Different employees bring different skills and qualities to the table. For a team to become more productive, it makes sense to delegate key responsibilities to those individuals best equipped to take on the tasks at hand. Assign these tasks with clearly outlined roles and responsibilities, while making sure everyone feels they’re contributing equally to the project.
4. Empower the team to make decisions. As a project or initiative moves forward, a time will come when key decisions must be made. Problems can arise when the team leader lacks the authority to make such decisions, and must instead defer to senior management and/or the CEO or business owner. Not only does this slow progress, but it also undermines the team’s confidence in its own ability to handle responsibilities.
As much as possible, empower the team to decide what actions to take (while, of course, keeping all relevant parties informed), so the process is more efficient and effective.
5. Keep your own involvement to a minimum. Teamwork suffers when there’s too much micromanaging from above. Resist the impulse to hold frequent meetings to stay updated on the team’s progress, or to email team members on an overly frequent basis. Give the team more time and space to focus on what you’ve asked them to do. Brief, once-a-week updates are probably all you need in order to stay on track with what the team is doing.
6. Make sure remote workers are part of the team. In some cases, a remotely located employee may offer specific benefits to a team project. It’s critically important to keep this individual (or individuals) in the loop and to make every effort to solicit their input during brainstorming sessions.
Chats and emails are fine, but “you learn more about people when you can watch their mannerisms and facial expressions.” With video conferencing tools, team members can “really connect with the members of their teams living in different parts of the world.”
7. Recognise and reward. Finally, be sure to recognise the achievements gained through teamwork and reward the individuals involved. Public acknowledgment of what the team has achieved offers a strong incentive to do more of the same, and helps promote a company culture that values both individual and team contributions—and wants to retain the talented employees who make it all happen.