How to Improve Teamwork, and Do Great Work, in 2023
Having a great team is an essential part of great work and being happy while doing it. Just a few of the benefits of teamwork are better problem-solving, a diversity of thought and ideas (and the creativity and innovation that comes with it), and happier workers.
And while teamwork has always been incredibly important, the rising popularity of remote work and “hybrid teams” is changing the landscape of how teams function and making good management practices even more important.
But while there are certain nuances to managing a remote or hybrid team, the basic principles of good teamwork – and how to make it possible – are pretty constant. So if you’re looking to get the most out of your employees, for the sake of your business and for the sake of everyone’s job (and life!) satisfaction, there are some things you can keep in mind.
Here are nine of them:
Strong teams have a shared vision
One of the most fundamental aspects of teamwork is that a group of people are working towards a single overall goal – and share a unified sense of purpose and vision. This means communicating the overall company mission and making clear how and why the team is essential to achieving it.
Instilling a sense of shared purpose, both in new employees and to veterans, during regular meetings and team-building activities helps to keep everyone connected and motivated and working towards the same goals.
Set goals and celebrate milestones
Inseparable from the idea of mission and vision is the idea of setting and achieving goals. And making sure to recognize when those goals are achieved – or even exceeded – is a vital part of retaining your employees and encouraging them to keep doing great work.
Goals on a team level
As a group, shared goals keep everyone’s eye on the big picture – and working towards them keeps the team moving in a particular direction at a coordinated pace. Clearly communicated objectives and project deadlines are an essential part of keeping the work organized within a group of people with different responsibilities.
Meeting goals and making time to recognize and celebrate successes can also create a sense of shared achievement that is vital to team bonding – and emphasizes that each employee is part of an awesome and inspiring whole.
Goals on an individual level
Setting goals for individual employees is obviously an important way of making sure the work gets done. But goals can also be a part of a worker’s personal and professional development – helping them to grow in their roles, take on more responsibility, learn new skills, or build their reputation in their field.
Setting expectations with an employee, taking seriously what they hope to get from the job, and setting regular check-ins is a vital parts of being a good manager. Recognizing and rewarding individual achievement is also essential, as feeling underappreciated is a frequent reason why people quit.
Every team member should have a clear role…
If a manager is going to set goals for a team and its members, it follows naturally that everyone on the team needs to have a clearly-defined role. Making sure every employee has a clearly defined role also ensures that there is someone responsible for everything that the team needs to achieve.
If an employee isn’t sure what they’re supposed to be doing, they can’t do it – and if a team collectively isn’t sure who is doing what, chaos will reign. Having work get duplicated or not get done in a timely way because nobody knows what they’re supposed to be responsible for is obviously a huge waste of time and resources (and patience). And furthermore, employees need to know who to turn to with specific questions or for information on a specific piece of the big puzzle that is a team project.
…but flexibility is still important
That said, while a clear and detailed way of organizing and assigning work is needed, it’s also important to remain flexible – either because new challenges might appear suddenly or because even the most perfect plans don’t always work as hoped. Sometimes workflow will need to be reorganized in order to meet an unexpected deadline or change in course.
Also, sometimes an employee is given a role that proves not to be the best use of their skills, and a good manager is often willing to rethink how the team is organized rather than get suboptimal results or let the employee go. This is especially true if the employee is well-regarded, committed, and has a valuable skill set that could be used in other ways.
Encourage Diversity and Differences
In a good team, everyone contributes something different but essential towards achieving a shared goal. This is why it’s important to build teams around the idea of diversity – whether that diversity comes from having team members with different identities, hard and soft skill sets, personal and professional backgrounds, and ways of thinking.
In addition to simply making sure that all the bases are covered, diverse teams are shown to be more innovative, better at problem-solving, and make smarter decisions.
Make time for team-building activities
Much like setting shared goals and celebrating shared milestones, team-building activities can give team members a sense of connectedness and belonging and even be a fun way to socialize. Well-designed activities can also be used to strengthen a team by focusing on trust, skill development, brainstorming, and communication.
Though team-building activities occasionally get a bad rap, being seen as cheesy and forced, there are all kinds of resources out there with suggestions on different kinds of team-building activities for different situations.
Establish good communication habits
Workplace communication is a huge and important topic. If a team isn’t communicating well internally, and receiving clear communication from management, they can’t work together efficiently and effectively – and they can’t thrive professionally and even personally.
While communication and teamwork is worthy of its own post (or several), here are some basic concepts to keep in mind:
- Leadership should communicate frequently with team members to offer updates and inspiration and establish and maintain a sense of shared vision and purpose..
- Schedule regular team meetings to share updates, exchange ideas, and generally “check-in.” Create and stick to agendas to make sure that meetings are productive and stay on track.
- Make time for regular one-on-one with individual employees to discuss goals and projects and create space for constructive two-way feedback.
- Make sure employees, especially junior employees and new hires, feel empowered to share their ideas in group settings.
- For the sake of organizational efficiency, establish and stick to policies around what kinds of tools (email, messaging software, etc.) are used for different kinds of communication and collaboration. Having the right online tools is especially important when managing remote and/or hybrid teams.
Good communication hinges on good relationships between team members and with management. That’s why team-building exercises can be an important part of developing good communication habits. It’s also why it’s important to…
Foster an environment of trust
For teams to function optimally, employees must feel safe speaking their minds and know that their colleagues have their backs. This can mean sharing an idea without fear of being rudely shot down, or receiving feedback that is constructive and supportive, rather than harsh or unclear.
It also means empowering employees to try new things, manage their own workflow, and come up with solutions on their own – in other words, giving them autonomy rather than micromanaging them.
Another way to create a trusting environment is by encouraging collaboration rather than competition. While a bit of competition can be motivating, employees who feel like they need to outdo each other to succeed will be reluctant to share information and ideas or have each other’s backs. That’s why it’s important to understand the difference between healthy and unhealthy competition and discourage the latter.