When a group of two or more people work together to accomplish a goal, that’s teamwork. How effectively and happily the team works together is another matter entirely, and getting a disparate group of employees or volunteers to work as one is frequently difficult. Nevertheless, building a teamwork mentality is essential for businesses, volunteer organizations and even families. The first step is establishing trust.
1. Establish trust among teammates and leadership. According to the University of Florida, trust among coworkers — and teammates — is essential for a productive and happy work environment, and is necessary for working together as a group. Trust builds over time; it can’t be established overnight. However, you as a manager can build a solid foundation immediately by always keeping promises, not engaging in backstabbing or damaging office chatter, and demonstrating reliability by always showing up on time and delivering quality work. These steps not only establish trust, they motivate others to perform.
2. Hand-select a team to solve a problem or improve a process. Meet with a team and give them an actionable directive. In other words, give them a problem that they have a reasonable chance to solve by their qualifications, experience, and area of expertise. You can ask the team to establish its own leader or spokesperson, appoint one yourself, or have everyone take turns. Don’t play favorites. It kills enthusiasm and causes resentment among teammates.
3. Check in, but don’t micromanage. Trust your team and let them work with the understanding that they’ll have a fair amount of autonomy, but with the understanding that you’ll be checking in periodically to review progress or provide guidance. It helps the team get to know you if you are willing to share with the team some of your own experiences. Keep in mind that all team members should be present at all team-related meetings, to avoid hurt feelings. Team members should actively communicate with each other and with you — and that means listening as well as talking — in a diplomatic way.
4. Have fun. Professionals often establish offsite team building activity days or go out to dinner to have a few laughs outside of work pressures. You can also engage in “icebreakers,” quick and easy activities that encourage teammates to get to know each others’ personalities and habits. For example, at the beginning of a meeting, team members can toss around a softball until each person has caught it at least one time. Each person says something about himself whenever he catches the ball. The act of tossing and catching the ball physically establishes a team feeling, and the information shared establishes familiarity.
5. Celebrate success. Don’t single out individual team members for accolades. Instead, reward the entire team, and preferably publicly. While financial bonuses are nice, it’s not the only route. Try awarding team members with a comp day or movie tickets, or host a gathering to which they can bring their families.