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How To Work As A Team

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by David Jones, managing director of Frontline Communications

We hear it so often that it seems like a mantra: teamwork is essential to a good company. Yet behind the cliché lies a truth that bears repeating. Without teamwork, you, your company and everyone around you are about as useful as dead ducks floating in the water.

But how do you ensure you get the best from your team? How do you stop egos from clashing and blowing the project to pieces? Here’s how:

Focus on Teamwork from the Beginning.

Although every company values teamwork, precious few include it in the performance review process. And this is a crying shame, because moving good teamwork from something ‘desirable’ to something official can make a huge difference. If new employees know good teamwork is directly related to management’s view of their performance, they will put in the extra effort from the get-go.

Develop Team Norms.

It’s very rare that team members sabotage projects out of spite or vindictiveness. Usually, the problem arises from unclear boundaries or miscommunication. That’s why a detailed list of team norms can be essential. Otherwise known as relationship guidelines, this set of rules works as a charter for the team: telling members what is expected of them in terms of relationships, interaction in meetings and how ideas are communicated. In short, they give members a clear framework that offsets any misunderstandings.

If you’re assembling the team for a one-off project, it can even be helpful to ask them to draw their team norms up together. This will give all those involved a feeling of engagement with the rules, and an added stake in making sure they’re followed.

Group Reflection.

With your team norms in place, you now have a good jumping off point for group reflection. Whether things are going well or badly, gett the team together at regular intervals to reflect on the project gives everything a degree of transparency and openness that’s vital to a healthy team. Ask people to consider what they think is holding progress back, or what has been helping everyone move forward and make sure everyone gets to say their piece. A good, calm, reflective session can help identify problems and solutions without ever becoming acrimonious.

Be Reciprocal.

As leader of a team, you’re essentially expecting people to help you implement your vision (or your interpretation of your supervisor’s vision). The best way to ensure that goes well? Help them first. If you’re the sort of leader who takes time out from a busy schedule to help out your teammates – be it with something big or small – you’re more likely to get that help back with interest when you need it most.

Ask for Advice.

Teams are assembled to deal with problems and projects beyond the scope of a single worker. As leader, you may like to think you’ve got all the answers, but the truth is that you probably don’t… and that’s OK. Be open about asking members with different skill sets what they would advise doing about a particular problem. Team members will feel like their input is valued – especially if you follow through on that advice. It also shows that you put trust in people to do their jobs; something everyone likes to see. After all, no-one likes a micromanager.

Negotiating Differences.

No matter how strong your team is, or how clear cut your team norms are, you will inevitably run into conflict at some point or another. When this happens, it’s a good idea to ensure there are already guidelines in place for how the team will deal with disputes. Think of it like signing a pre-nup: no-one wants to think everything might fall apart, but when it does, it’s useful to have a written blueprint for what happens next. Make sure these guidelines have a focus on transparency and fairness.

Incentives.

Tasked with founding Britain’s NHS with a large group of surly and uncooperative doctors, Nye Bevan famously remarked that he succeeded because he “stuffed their mouths with gold.” That’s sage advice. Although most of us want to do a good job, it can be frustrating to work our absolute hardest, only to receive a simple “thanks” – no matter how heartfelt it is. By offering monthly rewards that are genuinely desirable (say, dinner at a nice restaurant or some cold, hard cash), you’ll show members exactly what that hard work means to you. Just make sure you are 100 percent fair when it comes to doling out the prizes.

Unwind Together.

It’s obvious, but it bears repeating: spending social time with your colleagues will endear them to you, each other and the whole project. Aim to go out once a week and, if you’re leader, be sure to stump up for everyone else’s drinks. It’ll do wonders for group cohesion.

 

David Jones

David Jones is the managing director of Frontline Communications, a telephone answering company and as such has a large work force working for him. A key role is to ensure that the team underneath him are all pulling in the right direction and that all possible conflicts that come from working in such a job are resolved efficiently and productively.