Strategy & Operations » Leadership & Management » Top 10 tips for great teamwork

Doing great teamwork or being an inspirational team leader are terms we often hear bandied in our workplace or perhaps in the plethora of management aid books now available. Leader, player, server of teams – we all have a part to play. Yet, how well are you playing your part? In the first of a new series of articles by global job board CareersinAudit.com, Simon Wright, operations director, provides a top 10 teamwork checklist.

1. A team without a mission is like an eye without vision

Top teams have team goals and objectives as well as individual ones. They have a clear understanding of the team’s overall guiding mission. While individual objectives simply lack punch if not linked to the bigger picture, providing direction and purpose to the team transforms aimlessness into purpose and supplies fuel for optimal productivity. As a team leader, make sure you communicate your objectives and where you want your team to go.

2. Clear roles, tight goals and firm budgets

Clearly communicating roles and setting individual objectives is paramount.  Every member needs clear clarification on what they bring to the team, how they will contribute and what resources they have at their disposal. Tight goals mean specificity – there’s no room for misunderstandings.

3. Mutual support is a must

A valuable approach is the “coaching” philosophy, where members support each other and personal growth matters. Expect and celebrate diversity within the team. Accommodate differences in style, temperament, attitude – from “chunk” size (“big picture” versus “detail” people) to communication, to pace. A strong team respects and flexes to adapt to diversity.

4. Teams need processes, review and feedback 

Well-equipped team members will understand and utilise the mechanisms for decision making, team communication, recommending improvements, and resolving conflict. There will also be a process for individual and team feedback, preferably 360° (bottom to top feedback, as well as top to bottom). Feedback should be respected and acted upon.

5. ‘It is not a question of how well each process works, the question is how well they all work together’,  Lloyd Dobens

The key to great teams is synergy – the whole being greater than the sum of the individual parts. Members need to appreciate interdependencies – how their roles connect – to maximise inter-group relations. Openness and good communications, as well as a strong culture of co-operation, is important.

6. ‘Wearing the same shirts doesn’t make a team’, Buchholz and Roth

Shared team values are vital. Trust, loyalty, honesty, reliability – from each and every team member. Establish team-specific “ground rules”. These are the unwritten norms that guide how the work gets done. Example: “we have flexi-time but everyone gets in early”. Members need to know what to expect and understand the team “norms”.

7. Consistently communicate and play your part in the team

The best teams have open lines of communication to proactively address potential concerns and issues. That is, open lines of communication that are actually used by the team members. This comes down to the individual. Open communication from top to bottom builds a collaborative environment where every member’s strengths and talents are utilised and appreciated.

8. ‘I have the power’

Studies have shown that the feeling of having some control is important to morale and performance. The sense of helplessness can be relieved by democratic process, including: consultation, or some means to give individuals ”voice” and a degree of personal autonomy. Long hours are a classic example; yes, they have to be done but some individual flexibility sometimes goes a long way to getting member “buy in”.

9. Take time out and embrace different roles

The team needs to chill outside of work, to bond and reconnect. This is a chance to air concerns and frustrations, to work together and empower individual solutions.  And it’s not just down to the leader; the best teams have members fulfilling the following roles:

  • The Encourager – supports individuals, accepts contributions, bestows recognition and praise
  • The Harmoniser – reconciles disagreements, relieves tension, helps explore differences constructively
  • The Gate Keeper – brings in everyone, keeps communication channels open to all
  • The Standard Setter – reminds group of norms, encourages feedback

10. ‘Inventories can be managed, but people must be led’, H Ross Perot

Effective teams have a clear leader, with a clear role. The leader institutes an appropriate level of supervision and establishes an unambiguous line of command. Great leaders are strong decision makers but ultimately it also comes down to being adaptable to what shows up on the day.

Simon Wright is operations director at CareersinAudit.com.