Teamwork is one of those buzzwords that crops up in every corner of the workplace, from the job interview to the board room. Ideally, when team-building works, you’ll get a smooth-flowing operation where everyone works toward a common goal and puts the good of the company ahead of personal gain. Building effective teams takes some work, but by following a few simple steps, you should be able to rouse the troops to join their teammates so that everybody wins.
Put It Together
While people often are just thrown together in teams at work and expected to sort it all out themselves, the most effective teams are those that are carefully planned. For example, you can’t place a group of five leaders on one team and expect them to get any work done. You need followers, experts and reporters to complement each other. Match competencies to get the most out of your people. Put a leader with someone who keeps track of the group’s progress, others who can follow directions well and still others who have the most technical expertise.
When teams have clear goals and directions, they can find ways to overcome challenges as they arise. The goals should be very specific; you’ll never get results with wishy-washy parameters. They’ve got to be measurable, otherwise how will the team know when it’s achieved success? And the goals have to be achievable. You’ll really set yourself up for resistance next time you put together a team if you set them up with unrealistic goals that they could never achieve in the time allotted.
Give It Time
Cohesive workplaces and productive teams don’t happen overnight. You’ve got to give them time to nurture and develop. After you’ve paired off those staff members who best complement each other and have given them a project or goal, give them some space. Let time work its magic and allow the team members to get to know each other and get in sync with how the other members of the team operate. Leaders eventually emerge and the workflow happens, but you can’t rush it.
Support Their Efforts
Teamwork shouldn’t just be a buzzword you throw around to impress your board or shareholders. For it to be effective, you have to give your teams the resources they need to be successful, as well as enough time. You need to lead by example and address the team with enthusiasm on a regular schedule. Once they’ve met the goals, reward them sufficiently. Whether it’s a day off, a shout-out in the company newsletter or a nice, tidy bonus, when teams are rewarded appropriately, you’ll have them lining up to get on board your next project.
Linda Ray is an award-winning journalist with more than 20 years reporting experience. She's covered business for newspapers and magazines, including the "Greenville News," "Success Magazine" and "American City Business Journals." Ray holds a journalism degree and teaches writing, career development and an FDIC course called "Money Smart."