Today’s educational system, from Kindergarten through college, puts a focus on team work. However, while you may learn who gets their work done versus who is counting on everyone else to get an “A” grade, your scholastic team experience probably did little to prepare you for business teamwork.
When you think about it, every business relies on the performance of teams, yet few companies ensure their employees have the tools necessary to be cohesive and successful. Many leaders have trouble identifying how effective their teams are, especially when they are meeting goals. However, just because your group is achieving desired results doesn’t mean they are as productive as they could be.
Take the pulse of your team by answering a few questions, True or False:
- Team members receive a great deal of feedback regarding their performance
- Morale is high and there are few complaints
- Team members communicate openly, dealing with conflict professionally and productively
- Communication occurs regularly, not just during meetings
- Everyone on the team recognizes and appreciates what we do and why
- Team members feel valued, and value each other
If you answered false for any of the above questions, there is work to be done in order to create a successful team. You may be asking, “What makes a team successful?” Well, let’s start by looking at some of the traits that make any relationship a positive one:
- Trust. For people to communicate effectively, there has to be a level of trust. If you feel there is someone on your team who doesn’t pull their weight, lies, and/or isn’t competent in their job, you are not likely to spend time talking to them. And, if you don’t get to know your co-workers, how will you ever be able to express ideas, opinions, and feelings to create a comfortable and competent working relationship?
- Honesty. While honesty may not always be the best policy, it is an important part of creating good relationships. People need to know they can count on you to tell the truth, although, sometimes additional tact may be required. Honesty builds trust, and we know how important that is.
- Communication. Considering the number of ways people communicate today, effective communication is often more difficult than ever. Email, text, in-person and across the Internet – it’s never been easier to “say” the wrong thing!
- Common goals. Studies on military tactical teams show that a “shared mental model” allows a team member to anticipate what is needed to complete a task based on how other members will act and respond. When each member has a shared understanding of what the outcome needs to be, and roles and responsibilities are clear, a team operates more efficiently.
- Emotional Intelligence. Of course, I have to mention EQ, as it brings together an intrinsic ability to work together effectively and efficiently. When you know and regulate your actions, and can be empathetic and understanding of others, good relationships flourish. If every member of your team works to increase their EQ, you’ll find a more cohesive and productive team.
Creating an atmosphere of trust, honesty, communication, common goals, and emotional intelligence isn’t something you do once and everything’s perfect. Developing a good team is an on-going process that involves education, skill-building, and practice. Previously, I worked with a law team to help develop their communication skills. During the training they seemed to understand how making a few changes in their actions and words would create a positive impact for their team and clients. But, when I ran into one of them a couple years later, she said they hadn’t continued building their new skill-set after my training. Needless to say, they were experiencing some costly staff turnover, and had lost some accounts.
The longer your team experiences a lack of trust, or has difficulty communicating, the less effective they become. So, take a hard look at your team and create an action plan that will not only improve productivity, but create a more enjoyable workplace for everyone. Contact me if you need help developing and/or implementing your plan.