Here’s How to Make Your Team More Effective

Teamwork can make or break a business.

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BY Rhett Power - 14 Dec 2018

PHOTO CREDIT: Getty Images

Teamwork can make or break a business. Are you doing enough to help your teams be the best they can be?

Teamwork is the cornerstone of business success, and it's all due to the powerful effects of collaboration. As team members bounce ideas off each other, diverse perspectives combine to catalyze creative solutions to business problems.

But teamwork can also present unique challenges. For companies hoping to increase productivity and employee engagement, it's critical to manufacture a little team-building magic.

Getting Past the Barriers

One of the biggest hindrances to effective teamwork was highlighted in the most recent edition of Gallup's State of the American Workforce report. Researchers asked survey respondents whether their "associates or fellow employees are committed to doing quality work."

Only 3 out of 10 respondents strongly agreed with the statement. However, doubling that number could reduce turnover by 29 percent and boost profits by 11 percent, according to Gallup. The survey shows that there are huge engagement and productivity benefits to making sure your team members function well together, respect each other, and believe that everyone is doing their best work.

How can managers work toward this utopian vision of togetherness and camaraderie? Team cohesion starts at the top: Leaders should be democratic and include employees in decision-making efforts. When leaders don't engage, they alienate employees and weaken team spirit.

Team motivation also demands healthy conflict management. Without it, morale can sag, and distrust can grow. Creating a team in which diversity is clearly valued and conflicts are resolved respectfully can go a long way toward enhancing harmony.

In order to supercharge your workplace with a spirit of enthusiastic teamwork, consider these three strategies.

1. Don't lose the draft.

Recruit team players who will support the team through its inevitable ups and downs. Interviewers should look for traits that are most associated with fostering team spirit--and not just friendliness and excitement. Dustin White, CEO and founder of Made Brand Management, a direct-to-consumer brand investment company, recommends hiring candidates who exhibit motivation, humility, and resilience.

For example, you might ask recruits what gets them out of bed in the morning or how they cope with mistakes. "It's essential to have team members you can depend on and be transparent with," says White. "These individuals keep you grounded and help you avoid wasting time on negativity. When so many obstacles can come between your business and success, make sure one of them isn't who makes up your team."

2. Align the goals of cross-functional teams.

Cross-functional teams are an effective way to enhance your operations and spur innovation, but it's important to make sure that everyone is working toward the same overall goal and level of quality. Teams whose members are inadvertently undermining each other's progress can be a big drag on efficiency. Plus, it's impossible to collaborate with misaligned key performance indicator--no small matter, considering just 8 percent of cross-functional teams see clear objectives from leadership, according to PwC.

Big companies like Apple, IKEA, and Lego look at ways to avoid these sorts of misalignments. For example, they've made some of their cross-functional teams permanent, rather than project-based, entities. Some organizations are converting R&D divisions into cross-functional groups led by chief innovation officers. However you do it, it's crucial that these patchwork teams recognize wins together by working toward common goals.

3. Keep everyone accountable.

Teamwork is about collaboration, and that means each individual has to pull his or her own weight. Every team member must meet expected benchmarks in order for a group effort to succeed.

To maintain standards of accountability, start by outlining the expected goals for each role. It's also vital to keep communication channels open. Offer a safe forum--a weekly team meeting, perhaps--for sharing concerns about a project, including what's going off track, confusion about the objective, or even imbalances in team members' contributions.

Teamwork won't work without a little assistance: It often needs to be helped along by careful and responsive management. By recruiting team-oriented employees, standardizing goals across cross-functional teams, and encouraging accountability, you'll have everyone doing their best work--and doing it together.

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