Teamwork: Assessing and Strengthening a Team

By Rachel Krug,
business.com writer
|
Sep 08, 2020
Image Credit: undefined undefined / Getty Images

Implementing collaborative processes can improve overall productivity by 20 to 30%.

  • Implementing collaborative processes can improve overall productivity by 20 to 30%.
  • Employees are 4.6 times more likely to be empowered to do their best at work when they feel their voice is heard. This aspect of communication is crucial to a team’s efficiency. Highly engaged teams manifest 21% greater profitability.

Work done in teams or by collaboration can save a considerable amount of time and effort. With the division of labor and duties, individuals can focus on one or more areas of the entire process, allowing a final work product to come together more quickly. Team members can focus on accomplishing their delegated tasks, knowing that their teammates have other areas covered. 

Additionally, when employees can fully commit to their work, they can hone certain skill sets. While this focus helps develop the individual, having to work with a team will also help improve interpersonal relationships and understanding.

What makes great teamwork?

There are no objective determinants to what makes a team great. However, this does not mean that excellent teamwork is born from a hit-and-miss approach. It takes a lot of patience, perseverance, commitment and understanding to ensure a healthy dynamic of a group of individuals.

That said, it is essential to ascertain that each member is not only actively involved but is also appreciated and recognized by the group. As for the team, here are some aspects a business can use to assess how well people are working together and organizational synergy.

Communication and chatter

Listening is essential to understanding. Do team members and teammates actively listen? Are they able to ask questions and show comprehension through appropriate and open-ended responses? By listening actively and responding appropriately, teams strengthen their everyday communication.

To effectively share one's ideas, it is as important to be understood as it is to effectively explain thoughts. When people speak, is their message clear and compelling?

Effective teams allow each member to freely express themselves. Of course, sharing hobbies, likes, dislikes and even family matters could be great ways to establish better connections, however, these are not the main reasons for discourse in a great business team. That said, some personal conversation is crucial to the development of relations between members.

Free-flowing communication within the team encourages open discussions. Evolving ideas, getting second opinions and the open deliberation of ways to overcome challenges and enhance progress are constant topics in a conversation.

Beehive mentality

It's all about the team.

No matter how good a person is, if the intent to work for the team is not there, then he or she is only working for him or herself. For a team to reach its peak performance, this is not what members should be doing. Instead, each should be looking at what is best for the group.

As Marcus Aurelius once wrote: "That which is not good for the beehive cannot be good for the bee." In a sense, what benefits the group will also benefit the individual. To gain a better understanding of this concept, let us try to paint a picture. Let's say that one team member has most of the materials (e.g., laptop, worksheets, etc.), and she's set a meeting with another team at a certain cafe. It is within walking distance from her residence, however, it is an hour or more away for the other member. While it is convenient for her, it isn't exactly beneficial for the collective.

By the time team members reach the rendezvous point, they could be out of breath, stressed by the commute or drive, or they could be too distracted to focus on the matters at hand. Knowing this from the first meeting, she decides to change the location. Compromising to gather in another cafe 30-40 minutes away from each teammate's residence, she sees that she has not only cut travel time, but most members are in better spirits. Not only can she start as soon as people arrive. but discussions have become more dynamic.

Was it best for the team member with the materials? Probably not. She had to go out of her way to commute or drive to a further location. This meant that she had to wake up earlier to prepare herself and the materials. While it wasn't exactly convenient for her, it did improve team performance. Discussions were smoother and more engaging. In the end, she benefitted more when she made a few sacrifices for the team.

Appreciation, criticism and recognition

The best indicator of a great team is how well members can deliver appreciation, criticism and recognition.

Despite appreciation supposedly eliciting positive emotions, it may result in feelings of superiority or inferiority amongst teammates. In Ichiro Kishimi and Fumitake Koga's book, The Courage to be Disliked, the authors give a clear explanation as to why. According to them, the giving of praise implies the passing of judgment from a person of ability to a person of no ability.

However, if a team can establish "horizontal relationships," wherein every member is treated as an equal and thus has the right to give praise, express gratitude or encouragement, and give constructive criticism, such issues would not arise. A great team can use appreciation, criticism and recognition to boost morale and improve overall performance.

The role of the team leader

A team leader is responsible for listening to colleagues' concerns regarding other members and themselves, be it performance-wise or personal. As the go-to person and delegator, the leader is subjected to understanding all members of the team.

This includes each's team member's strengths, weaknesses, and potential for growth, as well as interpersonal dynamics and how each team member interacts with the rest of the team and the organization.

The team leader must see the potential of each individual and use it to the advantage of the team, and create organization and systems to garner respect from teammates. As such, while the team leader is also expected to take part and contribute to the group dynamics, he or she is given the authority to call the shots.

To be a team leader though is not easy. Despite it being something a person can earn with skill, knowledge, and commitment, remaining in such a position is earned through one's capabilities to keep the team together. For this, it is good to implement team bonding and team building activities.

What's the difference between team building and team bonding?

It is easy to mistake one for the other, particularly team building. Many corporate offices are willing to pay for team-building excursions, however, some make it a reason to have team bonding sessions. This is why many find it hard to differentiate between the two.

Arguably so, both are aimed at developing or enhancing group dynamics. The main difference between them is how they work toward this outcome.

Team building centers its efforts towards improving performance. With productivity enhancement as the goal, members are assigned tasks that they must accomplish together – be it in one whole group or smaller subgroups.

While these activities are not necessarily connected to work, they are created to help enhance the overall performance of each individual, as well as the team's agility and sense of synergy. Although they do have an element of fun, such activities focus on developing systems and objective collaborations.

To accomplish tasks, members should have a good grasp of each other's abilities and skillsets.

Team bonding, on the other hand, is a good way for the team to know more about each other. For most, this happens after office or working hours. Unlike team building, it focuses solely on establishing connections and gaining an in-depth understanding of one another. As such, activities aimed toward enhancing bonds amongst co-workers are more free and spontaneous. Some activities that fall under this category are karaoke, movie nights and game nights.

Can the two be combined?

When thinking about team building and team bonding, a business might ask: Which of the two holds the most importance? Can team building and team bonding be combined? Naturally, team building must have an element of excitement, otherwise, participants would become lackluster or might not partake in the activities at all.

In such settings where members are driven to accomplish a shared goal, bonds can form. That said, team building and bonding can co-exist in one setting. However, if the level of competition becomes too high, there is a tendency for teammates to start playing the blame game or to focus on winning the competition rather than working together.

Choosing team activities

So, for a team to better their strategic approach, collaboration, and relationships, the team leader must choose appropriate team-building and team-bonding activities. Team leaders and small businesses can look at these activities for reference and use them to boost team morale, connections, and dynamics.

Two sides to a coin

It's hard to stay positive when business plans go south. In the workplace, it is a critical skill to predict setbacks and create solutions for any that surface. For this to happen, members should learn not to wallow in their failures and instead see positive takeaways.

The Two Sides to a Coin activity will help members harness that skill. In addition to that, it will help boost morale and increase empathy amongst teammates.

Guidelines

Break the team into groups of two. Have pairs appoint a Partner A and B. Partner A will share a negative experience to Partner B. It can be in the personal or professional setting so long as it is a true incident.

After this, Partner A retells the whole ordeal, but this time focuses on the positive aspects of the experience. Partner B will help explore the silver lining of the incident. Once done, they will switch roles.

Mine Field

Business is a battle. We can fight it alone or we can fight it alongside others. Sometimes we need an extra hand to help us get through. For this to happen, it essential that trust, communication and listening are present.

In a team, such aspects must not only be there, but they must be constantly maintained as these are essential to a team's efficiency. This fun and exciting game will put trust, communication and listening to the test.

Guidelines

Find an open space such as an empty parking lot or park. There, position random objects (cones, bottles, etc.) sporadically across the area.  Assign a starting and endpoint. To raise the difficulty of the activity, create a specific route for the team to follow.

To start, break the team into pairs. Ideally, it would be good to group those with lesser chemistry to enhance team bonds. Have one member blindfold themselves. The pair must make it across by one leading the other.

The blindfolded person cannot speak at all, therefore, he or she must listen and trust the instructions of the other.

Only one question

Sometimes we don't get second chances. This is why we must think before we speak or act. In a team setting, thoroughly analyzing a scenario before jumping in is crucial. Even the smallest rash decision could make or break a team. This activity will help teammates build their quick-thinking skills as well as encourage problem-solving discussions among the team.

Also, it is common in a team for some members to remain quiet or uninvolved. This game is the perfect opportunity to give everyone a chance to be in the spotlight. In addition to that, it allows members to gain a deeper understanding of one another and to see things through other people's eyes.

Guidelines

Have participants group into smaller teams. Give a scenario wherein a question must be asked to determine a person's suitability. Some situations could be hiring a babysitter, entering a marriage or interviewing for a position.

Allow members to discuss among themselves as to what question they would ask. Five to 10 minutes should be an ample amount of time. Once done, each subgroup should present their question and the reason as to why that is their query.

Getting started

Implementing collaborative processes can improve the overall productivity of a team and help team members do their best work. Start assessing the dynamics of any team using the tips in this article today, and leverage these team building activities to strengthen team dynamics.

Rachel is the Director, Growth Operations at Business.com. She is a strategic business leader who grows companies by revitalizing acquisition, retention, revenue and referral initiatives through a deep understanding of customer needs and market conditions and a focus on execution.
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