Teamwork is essential among workers, but it's not always easy to establish a positive relationship and workflow between employees. In fact, it's a concern that often comes up in the Business.com community, as it did for member Zack Lombardi. So, we interviewed experts and outlined four ways to improve team dynamics.
1. Know your team, and ensure they know each other
Think about a sports team. Your employees are like players on a soccer field or basketball court, each with their own skillset, working together to achieve a common goal. But as their leader, much like a coach, you need to understand each person and their talents and interests.
"Playing on individual's strengths and weaknesses is a great way to construct cohesion among members," said Akiva Leyton, COO of Falcon Marketing LLC. "Further than that, if you can incorporate the likes and dislikes of individuals and allow them to work on tasks that interest them, productivity improvement is enormous."
Acknowledging each worker's strengths and weaknesses might also prevent conflict among workers. When an employee is particularly talented at something, they may assume that everyone else on their team is as well, not realizing that they possess a skill that others don't, said Anne Brackett, chief engagement officer at Strengths University. This one-track way of thinking can be dangerous for teams.
"The way people see, think about and interact with the world is heavily influenced by their talent set," said Brackett. "Say you have an employee who is talented at networking and connecting people. That person is going to look at their co-workers and projects in a much different way than someone who is more talented at analyzing information. Both can be huge assets to a team in different ways, but because of how they see the world, it might also cause friction."
It's important to acknowledge the individual contributions of every employee, and to make sure each teammate does the same. You wouldn't bench a soccer goalie for their lack of footwork skills. Acceptance of and appreciation for differences will breed a strong team.
"Diversity isn't just about race or religion," said Brackett. "Diversity of thought is equally important. When teams start to learn about the value of what each member brings to the group, they better understand where conflicts come from and more importantly, how to resolve them."
2. Define roles and responsibilities
When roles and responsibilities aren't clearly defined, employees often overstep boundaries or feel the need to compete with rather than work with their teammates. For instance, like players on a field, each person needs a position so they know what their task is and how to collaborate with those around them, rather than colliding.
"Some may feel as if their strengths aren’t utilized while other may feel as if their toes are being stepped on," said Robin Schwartz, PHR and managing partner of MFG Jobs. "Clearly defining who is responsible for specific tasks within a group will alleviate much of the confusion and prevent tension between team members."
"Nobody wants to be confused about their responsibilities," added Leyton. "Make roles clear, and responsibilities as clear as possible. Make sure that everyone understands what you expect of them, this way they can be made accountable for their successes and failures."
3. Focus on communication
Teams of every sort need to communicate to get the job done. That's why quarterbacks yell out plays, and basketball coaches call time-outs to discuss their tactics. As a leader, you need to ensure your team understands what you expect from them, and vice versa.
"Communicating the goals of your team and organization is essential to strengthening team dynamics," said Schwartz. "When people have common aims to work toward, they are more likely to focus on how to achieve them together."
This should be achieved through weekly meetings, daily chats via group messaging systems, etc.
"Whether with task management systems like Asana and Trello, or with real time messaging through Skype, Slack or even WhatsApp, make sure that team members have a way of communicating in a way that increases accountability," said Leyton. "Group chats are the golden rule, and allow all team members to be aware of statuses for tasks."
4. Have some fun
As a leader, you should make time for exercises that don't necessarily pertain to work. Building relationships in a relaxed setting can make work feel more comfortable and natural.
"It is important for the team to mesh well together, so team building exercises, and extracurricular activities are necessary for cohesion," said Leyton.
While everyone wants to win, and your goal is to reach success, your priority should also be to enjoy the process. If your team is doing what they love, with people they enjoy being around, they'll perform much better.