As leaders start to move up in their careers and take on more responsibility, they often realize they don’t have time, skills and knowledge to get everything done on their own. Goals and initiatives simply become too difficult to navigate solo — even for the most capable and skilled performers.
The reality in business is that we almost always have to rely on the abilities and knowledge of others if we want to accomplish important and impactful things for our organizations.
In short, we need a team.
What is a Team?
First, we need to break down what a team really is. A team is a group of people organized to work together, both interdependently and cooperatively to accomplish a purpose or goal.
Between having large diverse teams and remote working, togetherness isn’t always a given. But this idea of togetherness should go beyond being physically near one another. Instead, it should be centered around the idea of being “in it” together — meaning everyone on the team understands the collective purpose and goals and each individual contributor agrees to participate in achieving those objectives.
So, how do you create a collaborative team spirit?
Balancing out the Weaknesses
No matter where they are in their career, everyone has strengths and weaknesses. Even highly accomplished leaders are going to have areas where they naturally thrive and others where they are less advanced — even if those weaknesses are not necessarily holding them back. Understanding this, and using it as an advantage, is an important leadership skill.
Leaders who are part of a connected team of professionals can balance out those areas of weakness with the strengths of others. For example, a pragmatic leader who is data-driven and highly analytical can sometimes struggle when it comes to taking risks and being decisive. But if they have people on their team who are more comfortable with risk, it can help decrease an over-reliance on data and inspire the leader to make important changes when necessary.
To make this possible, leaders first need to encourage an atmosphere of teamwork.
The Power of Aligning The Team
There is a considerable body of research suggesting that when people feel they are part of a team they work harder and are more motivated — in part because they don’t want to let their coworkers down. As leaders, we can foster an atmosphere of teamwork by emphasizing that we’re in this together, and we have each other to rely on and strive for through our work. This motivates many employees to come together, work harder and produce better results.
Effective leaders are able to build a strong team and use the strengths and motivators of each member to deliver results. They create team morale around common goals and shared success and drive engagement by creating a sense of ownership of the work. They invite, appreciate and credit the contributions of others.
As Chinese philosopher Lao Tzu says: “A leader is best when people barely know he exists, when his work is done, his aim fulfilled, they will say: we did it ourselves.”
Team Building Through Work
Fun activities can get people to relax and get to know each other on a more personal level. In our experience, some of the best team-building activities are work-related.
Here are six ways to build a team atmosphere in the office:
- Encourage and make space for team members to recognize the successes of their peers, which can often feel more meaningful than praise from the boss. We call this “victory laps” — where individuals have the opportunity to share their own successes and call out the successes and support from others. This encourages an environment of positive feedback and celebration.
- Clarify the roles and responsibilities for team members. Work on hammering out an agreement on individual versus shared tasks and processes, team member expectations and desired approaches for projects. Many times a lack of clarity causes the most disruption to the team dynamic.
- Promote collective team goals and emphasize that everyone’s contribution is important. Stress the importance of teamwork, communication and respect. Focus on using “we” language instead of “me” language.
- Ask team members to provide input. Encourage them to share perspective and potentially challenge recommendations. Schedule time dedicated to do this. Whether it is a strategy session or tackling a project, having time to hash out ideas and share challenges and opportunities helps facilitate a discussion around solving problems — together.
- Acknowledge others’ viewpoints and consider how different perspectives may be valuable in achieving key goals. Affirm and illustrate that differing perspectives have been heard and understood. Explain the benefits of diverse thinking and how these perspectives only add value to the team.
- Show and regularly communicate appreciation for the work that people do. Celebrate major milestones, accomplishments, wins and successes. Find ways to celebrate that are motivating to the individual and team. These can be low-cost and simple, a potluck lunch or brown bag breakfast. Encourage your team to come up with ideas and create these team gatherings.
If you have a team of people aligned around the same set of goals, you will be able to get far more done in less time than you would on your own. In fact, effective teams that are aligned and pushing in the same direction are the foundation of success for any leader or organization — and an investment in cultivating a team-first atmosphere is one that will absolutely pay off.
Success Labs is a full-service, strategic organizational and leadership development company located in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. For more than 25 years, our expert team of consultants has worked with hundreds of companies to explore their business potential and improve their company and cultural performance. Contact us to get proactive about your people strategy.