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How to encourage teamwork in your business

From playing on your first sports team to working on a group project in primary school, we’re constantly reminded of the value of teamwork. It’s kind of an accepted truth – everything just runs better when people work together in harmony. If you want to progress as a business and hit those all-important annual goals then teamwork is going to be key.

Good teamwork comes from effective communication practices and is a reflection of high morale and engaged employees. High morale makes workers more productive and ultimately improves profits. For SMBs with excellent teamwork going on, problem-solving is easier – since people with different skills and knowledge will work together to produce a creative solution. It’s an all-round win-win.

If you want your employees to work together and produce fantastic results, here are some great tips to improve teamwork within your organisation.

1. Share your vision

The most important element of teamwork is sharing a common vision so that everyone can work together toward it. When everyone on your team knows your goals and vision, they better understand their role in realising it. Don’t be shy about communicating your true vision and goals to your team. Do you hope to be the best in your suburb? In the world? Do you want to provide the best experience for every customer that walks through your doors? Tell your employees, so they can all look to your vision for guidance and inspiration.

2. Specify goals

All employees should be clear on the long-term goals of the business. This should be covered during the onboarding process for new employees and regular updates should be made via company meetings. If the company doesn’t have clearly defined, measurable goals – then it’s hard to keep everyone on the same page. If everyone knows that the organisation’s goal is to generate 1 million AUD in revenue for the year, this will influence all team communications and keep everyone moving in the same direction.

With goals for the business clearly stated, you can now set goals for individual teams. Your content team might have the goal of doubling website traffic and producing two blog posts per week. Because the goals are specific and measurable, it’s obvious if the team is on track or not. When you have clear goals to work towards, communications become streamlined and teamwork becomes purposeful.

3. Clarify roles

It’s tough to work well together when you don’t understand how someone’s role is different (or similar) to your own. Clarifying roles is an essential part of running a well functioning team. It’s important to be proactive in outlining team roles. If you wait for questions to arise, it means you’re losing critical productivity and team-building opportunities. As you outline new goals for your team, make sure you’re also outlining each member’s role and responsibilities in reaching those goals – either in a meeting, or one-on-one with each person.

If there is any ambiguity regarding roles and responsibilities, it’s impossible for people to work together effectively. Even worse, you may end up with situations where workers are unfairly delegating their work to others – which creates resentment. To combat this, it’s important for roles and responsibilities to be clearly documented. This documentation should be available for all to see, so people can refer back to it if there is a clash of opinions regarding obligations. While it’s not essential for workers to know the exact responsibilities of every person in the business, workers should be crystal clear about the responsibilities of their immediate team mates.

You may wish to create a handbook for each team, detailing objectives, roles, and projects. For common tasks which involve multiple team members, workflow images help greatly in clarifying how and when each individual should contribute.

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4. Celebrate individual traits

Remember the saying: “there is no “I” in team”? This philosophy would be appropriate in the industrial era when workers were replaceable and all processes were systemised. Denying the individuality of your workers is a bad idea if you want to keep them engaged. People have different personality types, skills and preferred ways of working. In a study by Aachen University in Germany, it was found that 10% of people are early risers, 20% of people are true night owls and the other 70% fall somewhere in the middle. Despite evidence that genetics play a significant role in our body clocks, most businesses are tailored to early risers. Similarly, ask any introverted employee what they think about working in an open-plan office and you’re likely to get a brutal response. Ironically, forcing everyone to work in the same open-plan office environment, on the same time schedule is not going to improve teamwork. When you allow employees to work in the ways that make them the most productive, teamwork will naturally improve. Encouraging flexible working practices such as remote work, creating quiet workspaces within your office and respecting the individuality of each worker will help to boost engagement, teamwork and employee retention.

5. Specifically reward teamwork

One of the best ways to build camaraderie in the workplace is to give formal recognition for employee achievements. One of the best things to praise your employees for is excellent teamwork. If an individual goes above and beyond their role to help the organisation as a whole, ensure that they feel appreciated for their efforts. Also remember to appreciate employees who go out of their way to help others in need, even if this doesn’t correlate with business goals. Showing gratitude for altruistic behavior is an excellent way to create an awesome, friendly culture. When you have a workplace where people are rewarded for helping one another, teamwork will naturally improve. Recognition can come in the form of kind words from a direct manager, or perhaps a photo in the company’s internal newsletter with a description of the achievement.

6. Give the team space

When it comes to teamwork, one of the most detrimental forces is a management team that micromanages. A team functions best when they are empowered to make important decisions and complete the critical tasks that move an organisation forward. If you treat your employees like children who can’t be expected to work like unsupervised adults, don’t expect them to work together like an effective team. In order for teamwork to flourish, respect is required. It’s important to specify goals, set deadlines and give employees all the tools they need to perform to the best of their abilities, but when you micromanage, employees will be less inclined to work effectively and more inclined to do what’s required to please their direct manager. Even if an employee is fully committed to the business, they will never perform to the best of their abilities if they have someone breathing down their neck. As an alternative to micromanaging, build a culture of trust, respect and honesty. If you create a wonderful culture, teamwork will naturally flourish.

In some cases, you may need to be overt about empowering your team. Tell them that you expect and encourage them to be self-starters, to take tasks on themselves and to complete things without typical “approvals” (if possible). By doing so, you’re sending a message of trust and respect to everyone on your team.

7. Use project management tools

Embracing flexible working practices can dramatically improve teamwork, but only if you use the right tools. Fortunately, with tools such as Zoho Projects, Basecamp, Asana, Hubgets, Slack and LiquidPlanner, your team members can communicate and collaborate effectively without the need for face-to-face interactions. While email and instant messaging can be great for keeping people on the same page, you might want to host a weekly video conference so that team members can communicate via a more intimate channel.

Teamwork isn’t something that we can forcefully impose upon our workers. Instead, good teamwork will naturally occur when there is a healthy workplace culture, where employees are treated as individuals and open communication is celebrated. There’s no need to be dogmatic and stick to management principles that were effective 50 years ago. By taking whatever steps are necessary to get the most out of each employee as an individual, you will also get the best performance from your teams. When your team functions well together, you’ll feel it – and leaning on these tips will help make sure it stays that way for the long-term.

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