Successful teams are cohesive because team members work cooperatively, sharing common goals as well as the resources to achieve them. They are productive, not because team members never disagree, but because they have worked out ways to resolve conflicts when they occur. They are efficient because tasks are assigned in a way that takes into account each member’s skills and interests, rather than letting the team be dominated by the most verbal, most aggressive, or most popular personalities. Managers play an essential role in developing and leading teams that work in these ways. Knowing how to work with and not against a team is a vital resume builder as well as a survival technique within the workplace. In order for a team to operate with the most synergy, it is important to take into account the diverse talents and interests of each team member, as well as to make sure that every member feels like a valuable and significant part of the team. Read on for a few tips and tricks to keep in mind when building your most effective team in the workplace.
Do Not Assume
Avoid assuming that you have clarified the greater goals of the team in the most effective way. Just because you, personally, believe that you have clarified and re-clarified the common goals and objectives of the team, it is still important to keep an open mind for questions and concerns from team members. There is no such thing as a stupid question or suggestion! Each of your team members may have a completely different learning style and just because you verbally explained the team’s objectives and goals, another team member may benefit more from a visual depiction; keep these different learning styles in mind at all times. In the same vein, it is important to let your team members know that you, as their leader, are open to questions and concerns. When a team member is voicing a concern or new idea to you, keep quiet and really listen to what team member have to say. A particular member may have previously experienced an example of how a particular objective could go wrong if X and Y occur; these concerns could save you in the long-run. If you want your team members to feel comfortable voicing concerns and new ideas to you and other team members in the future, do not shoot them down right away; this will only deter members from ever voicing concerns in the future, which will make them feel invaluable and replaceable within the team, which will eventually lower their production; it all adds up. So listen up!
Lead by Example
Many team members will feel out the company within the first few weeks at a new job. Team members will look to other team members and their leader to understand the covert norms within a company. This could include aspects such as dress code, lunch policy, what to do when emergencies arise, and how conflicts are resolved. If you want your team members to speak up when a family emergency arises, you as the leader also need to communicate with your team on certain matters such as these. If you want there to be a certain level of dress within the company; start wearing nicer outfits even on days when you will not be interacting with clients. Certain policies such as these will be written and clear, but when they are not, be the first to try them out. If you cannot see yourself taking certain steps to change different aspects of your company’s work environment, how do you expect your team members to do the same?
Help Team Members to Effectively Interact at Meetings
Do team members mainly address questions and suggestions directly to you, or do they first seek out the help of other team members? Encourage team members to seek out each other when problems arise as well as offering up their abilities, without channeling it all through you. If you want your team to be a team that works together effectively, encourage them to start working like a team. For some, it can be difficult to ask for help or to offer up their help; some people are just more independent than others and part of your job as a leader is to lead team members into working effectively with one another. This requires collaboration, not competition. The dominance of a group by a manager, supervisor, or even a team member; can limit the chances of a group achieving real synergy. Also, competition within the team may increase as members vie for the manager’s attention. It is all about striking a balance!
Pay Attention to Conflicts When They Arise
As a team leader, you will become familiar with signs of distress and conflict in your team. It’s natural for conflict to arise when people work in groups. Conflict when handled well, has the potential to produce constructive, groundbreaking, ideas. Sometimes team members will annoy each other, step on each other’s toes, or hurt each other’s feelings. Honest disagreements can become personal and heated. Work processes that seemed efficient can break down. It’s important to recognize that some degree of conflict among co-workers is normal. Let problems come to the surface. Avoid the impulse to demand that your employees “drop it,” “forget about it,” or “just cut it out.” Also, anticipate that more conflicts may occur whenever there are changes that affect the team’s membership or goals.
Work Out Ways to Resolve Conflict
Now that you have become familiar with signs of distress and conflicts within your team, it is also important to come up with ways to resolve, push through, and become a better team during times of conflict. While conflicts can help team members understand what annoys other team members, it is also important to lead your team in coming up with ways to resolve these conflicts, and learn from the experience.
- Make sure each person has a chance to give their input.
- Isn’t it annoying when others interrupt you? Keep this in mind, and work hard to avoid interrupting other team members when they are speaking.
- In the same vein, set clear ground rules to make sure that no one is interrupted, put-down, or that their feelings are not validated; if this requires that there is a talking stick and only the person holding the stick can speak when holding it- then that is what has to be done to make sure everyone gets to have their feelings and ideas heard clearly without being interrupted.
- Encourage team members to resolve conflicts and problems themselves; if another team member does something that hurts their feelings or undermines their success, help your team members know that is okay to walk up to this person and express their concerns as well as how the conflict made them feel while also not saying things that will hurt or upset the other person. It’s a lot to remember, but practicing this process will help you to become a pro at conflict/resolution!
- After conflicts are resolved, ask team members what they learned from these conflicts and what they are going to do in the future to ensure these conflicts do not arise again. If you do not have a takeaway message of conflict/resolution then how is your team going to move forward and grow?
Have Some Fun!
All work and no play? It is important to reward your team when it is necessary. Tell your team members when they have done a good job and that they are on the right track. If possible, encourage all team members to provide meaningful feedback to one another. Be sure to also give each team member positive feedback about their success and role that they play in the team; if they bring something unique to the team that was beneficial in some way, express that this unique talent helped the team and is not seen as a downfall. Focus more on the positive aspects of your team rather than constantly bringing up what they did wrong. Acknowledgments of incremental successes can be more motivating than big end-of-project rewards. Celebrations could range from pizza at lunch, to dinner at a nice restaurant, to a bonus, or to a congratulatory letter from a senior executive that goes in each employee’s personnel file. Keep in mind that the team review can never take the place of individual performance reviews.
If you are up to the job, being a leader can be a very rewarding experience! Keep these tips and tricks in mind, and you will be on your way to leading a team that works well together, values each member, works through conflict effectively, and feels like a valued team member. What techniques have you developed to effectively lead your team to success? Let us know more in the comments below; let’s have a conversation about the workplace!