One of the most common characteristic of a ‘team’ is that they function most commonly as ‘groups’. As a manager, if this is your struggle, you are not alone. Whether you are a new manager/leader for the team or whether you’ve been leading them for a while, the sooner you begin making changes, the sooner you will inspire teamwork.
Communication can be one of the most powerful tools in building teams. As a leader, your style of communication with members of the team WILL impact the style in which other members interact with each other. If you are overly-dramatic, conflict driven or indifferent to others, your team will reflect that attitude. Exemplify the behavior you want your team to display. I used the word behavior because usually even if a person is not naturally team-oriented, behaving in the right way can cause sustainable change in attitude.
In terms of team interaction, the first step is to provide regular opportunities for focused and meaningful conversation within the team. For example, have the team meet briefly once a day or as often as possible during the week to share work goals and progress from the week. You can call these priorities and accomplishments or something else more relevant. This helps teams work more cohesively. They know what their teammates are doing, everyone stays updated about the team’s progress which creates a sense of belonging. Keep these brief meetings under ten minutes, if possible and set the right expectations about the time each one has to speak. Even though this meeting is set to be task oriented, encourage casual conversation once in a while.
Any sign of favoritism from the manager towards one team member can ruin teamwork. Even if you have a friend in the team, treat the entire team favorably. You will notice a remarkable difference in teamwork and entrepreneurship when your team believes that you actually like them.
Feedback is another important tool that can impact team-spirit. Pour positive feedback on team members publicly. This is usually the easy part. The part that becomes a little tricky is when the feedback is not positive. In cases when the feedback involves a confidential matter, it’s best to address it with the individual team member. However, I have noticed that minor performance issues, namely punctuality, email response time, failure to meet deadlines – issues that the team is impacted by and is aware of – could be discussed as a team issue. This definitely requires a strong yet friendly leadership style and trust between team members. From personal experience, this sort of open accountability can also inspire trust.
When dealing with team conflicts, encourage the resolution to be based on honest facts because feelings can be baseless. Even in a cohesive team, conflict resolution between two members should not be advertised to other team members. This definitely helps in easier resolution.
Even if you are not a fan of ‘hanging-out’ with your team after work, it does help build relationships when people engage in non-work activities once in a while. Potlucks, team-days, coffee/tea breaks, sports, book clubs, other team interests can be effective tools to build your team.
As a manager, be part of your team. Teams don’t build themselves and it takes regular and consistent effort to inspire change. It will take a while for you to see results. Maybe a few months or perhaps a whole year, but don’t give up. The outcome will be worth the time.