Success in business today requires that your entire organization focus on common objectives. A commitment to teamwork can help increase office productivity by encouraging a collective sense of purpose. Teams integrate the work of individual staff members with different perspectives and skills, encouraging innovative ideas and solutions by bringing together people with diverse viewpoints and experience.
Here are some tips to help you encourage your staff members to work cohesively as effective team members:
- Communicate. Teamwork calls for frequent and open communication. Clearly express your expectations to team members. When assigning tasks, make sure that your team understands all requirements and deadlines.
- Drop the games. Clichéd team-spirit builders such as “Hawaiian Shirt Day” or blindfolded trust exercises will be seen as pointless, if not ridiculous, by most employees. You’ll gain more credibility if you forget the bells and whistles and concentrate on creating an environment in which teamwork is encouraged and supported 24/7, instead of paying lip service to the concept with occasional games.
- Don’t reward divisive behavior. Refuse to reward sneaks, tattletales, or runaway egos. There’s nothing more disruptive to group productivity than employees who take personal credit for an accomplishment that was earned by the efforts of many hard-working people. Don’t buy in.
- Set an example. Demonstrate your own enthusiasm and excellence, and create an office climate where employees have the tools and support they need to do the best possible job. The more enthusiastic and skillful you are, the more likely it is that your staff will follow your lead.
- Be flexible. Team members must be ready to help each other out, and you (as manager) should demonstrate your willingness to do the same. The more flexible you are when unexpected problems arise, the more effective you and your employees will be as a team.
- Give employees ownership. Encourage everyone’s participation. When employees feel a sense of responsibility and ownership, that they are making a valuable contribution to the team, productivity soars.
- Laugh it up. Humor is a powerful tool in building more cohesive groups. Differences among team members can be minimized by humor, which is effective in reducing tension and breaking down barriers. Humor can smooth ruffled feathers when, for example, one person’s idea is chosen over another’s. Warning: “using humor” does not mean flooding your team members’ e-mail inboxes with jokes you find on the Internet. Really.
- Stay positive. Focus on solutions rather than wringing your hands over problems. Determine staffing needs and whatever else may be required to get the job done. Give each and every team member a chance to participate in solving problems.
- Balance critiques with praise. When mistakes are made, be direct and honest in addressing them. If the quality of a team member’s work is substandard, talk to him or her privately with the objective of improving performance. Never criticize one staff member in front of another. Share your concerns in person, emphasizing the individual’s strengths but also discussing which areas need improvement.
- Make sure folks feel appreciated. Share credit for success and take responsibility when things go wrong. When your team gets exceptional results, recognize the contributions of as many individuals as possible, both in writing and in person. Your staff will learn from your example to promote a spirit of positive teamwork in the workplace.
Your own actions have a direct impact on your company and its long-term success. The better you are at being a team player yourself, the more likely you are to nurture that energy in your staff. Remember: devotion to work is contagious — by observing your actions and upbeat attitude, your people will take the same approach in their own jobs.