There are no mysteries behind the benefits of effective teamwork: whether in the boardroom or on the playing field, a strong, well-organized team will consistently outperform a disjointed unit (not to mention an individual). There are a number of vital characteristics of effective teams, as well as strategies that can help retain team strength. I describe the attributes and characteristics of effective teamwork below, but you might find a whole world of insightful information from this case study on teamwork published by Edith Cowan University.
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Unification Around A Goal
Teams exist to accomplish goals, plain and simple. The most effective teams are those that are unified around a goal that every individual member is passionate about and wholly devoted to. There is an enormous difference between the idea of working as a team and sharing the exact same ideas; the latter is actually a disadvantage when it comes to solving big issues. An effective team should consist of individuals who all desire the same thing, but who collaborate in a way that is healthy enough to sustain a colorful palette of ideas. More on this soon.
Setting goals isn’t enough. Teams need objectives, strategies and tactics to ensure that both short and long term goals are met and that motivation is in constantly supply (and just as important as motivation is the satisfaction of routinely meeting goals and objectives). Beware: this is far easier said than done. Goal setting is not as simple as saying, “Let’s double revenue by next year.”
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Captain. Manager. President. Every team needs a strong leader, but not necessarily a monarch. A good leader provides guidance and motivation without hindering freedom of thought or expression. The best leaders are very nearly members of the team; they are approachable, focused, timely, passionate, etc. The best leaders are easily identified: their teams respect them, work hard under them and turn to them in times of need (in which case, good leaders do not disappoint).
Nothing nurses malcontent and dissatisfaction more than closed lines of communication. Members of the team must not only be welcomed to speak their minds, but willing to do so. This includes peer-to-peer and employee-to-supervisor. Beyond being willing to speak up, communication needs to be constant, rapid and efficient. More than almost anything else, this will ensure that problems are solved as quickly as possible and that deadlines are not just met, but met with superior results.
While related to communication, interpersonal skills represent the art behind the masterpiece. Yes, communication is essential, but knowing how to communicate in ways that keep the team strong are just as important. This includes things like being honest (but not malicious), being trustworthy, being open to new ideas, being supportive and respectful of teammates and always putting the team first when entering into debates among individuals. It can be easy to forget everyone is on the same team and working towards the same goals. Interpersonal skills allow communication to happen without fracturing team structure. You can pick up 7 tools to communicate tactfully with this class by speech professional Michael Williams.
Standards Of Excellence
It may sounds harsh when you hear the saying, “A chain is only as strong as its weakest link,” but there is at least a grain of truth in it. The individuals in a team must all be held to a standard of excellence. If there are disparities between work load and responsibilities, then there is almost certainly going to be unrest. Effective teams move forward together, everyone pulling and pushing equally.
Diversity in a team is often underrated. If you need proof, read this Forbes article published in January 2014 on how diversity benefits modern businesses. The reasons are numerous and profound: from documented benefits of better ideas and harder working individuals to enhancing globalization. A diverse team motivates each other and, naturally, has the most diverse selection of ideas and experiences to draw from. I also recommend this blog post on examples of diversity and how variety strengthens your business.
Internal And External Support
I touched on this in “Leadership” and “Unified Around A Goal,” but internal and external support cannot be overstated. By internal support, I mean team members encouraging and praising one another. Knowing that you’ve earned your peers’ respect does more than boost confidence. It boosts effort and motivation moving forward, which is all part of the circle of (team) life. Without internal support, teammates attitudes will gradually stiffen and a sense of uncertainty begins to grow (obviously, not what you want).
External support, from supervisors and managers, is equally important. This informs the team as a whole that they are finding success. If a team feels like it is never “good enough,” it will start performing that way. It is very easy to resent the company or leader for whom the team is working so hard when there is little sign of appreciation. Compliments are more than just team builders; they are fundamental aspects of human decency.
Inevitably, conflict happens. This is not always a bad sign; in fact, it probably means that a plethora of ideas are flowing back and forth and that people are very passionate about moving forward. Dealt with incorrectly, however, conflict becomes nothing short of devastating. Conflict protocol should be considered well ahead of placing a team in action, and there are a vast number of ways to handle conflicts with healthy and productive outcomes. The idea, needless to say, is to identify and explain the positives of the situation while mitigating the source of unrest.
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