The Five Elements of Successful Teamwork

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Teamwork is the foundation of collaboration and innovation in any workplace. When employees work as a single cohesive unit, it becomes easy for corporate managers to delegate roles, monitor projects’ progress, nurture leaders, solve workplace conflicts, and to guarantee job satisfaction for all employees. A solid team will, without a doubt, bring unbelievable results and give your company the much-needed competitive advantage in the marketplace.

However, creating a cohesive team isn’t child’s play. It involves bringing together people with varied cultural backgrounds, different ambitions and career goals, sometimes contrasting personalities, competing skills and expertise, and varied productivity levels. If you have a multinational team, issues of religious differences, language barriers, and geopolitical tensions become prevalent.

With that in mind, how do you build a solid team? By understanding these common elements of successful teamwork:

Open communication

Colleagues at work communicate on multiple levels, both vertically and horizontally. But successful teamwork necessitates more than basic, regulated communication.

From a vertical perspective, i.e. when team members communicate with the leadership, they need to feel free, empowered, and appreciated enough to offer their views on different company strategies and goals. As a leader, you need to make the workplace a safe space for differing opinions, especially when some opinions contrast with your personal beliefs or your style of leadership.

For horizontal communication, i.e. when employees communicate amongst themselves, train your team members to offer constructive criticism when necessary and to refrain from shooting down other people’s ideas. Train them to listen and respect one another because listening is a critical part of any meaningful communication.

Besides internal communication, team members also communicate externally with clients, business partners, and other teams within the organization. Team leaders must ensure that all members are on the same page before making any external communication. Two contrasting messages from the same team show discord and divisions in the team, and competitors can easily capitalise on those cracks.

Open communication in the workplace allows team members to build respectful relationships with their managers and peers. They are, therefore, more committed to their work due to the better working relationships they experience with the persons they work and interact with at the workplace. They’ll have peace of mind at work from understanding that their colleagues and supervisors are trustworthy and reliable.

In short, open communication in a team can help nurture strong working relationships among teammates, which can fast-track the accomplishment of the company’s goals.

Pro tip: If team members need to share large files, synchronise documents across multiple tech devices, or store files in the cloud for easier team collaboration, it is advisable to first convert the documents into zip files. Compressed zip files can be shared with ease via email, plus they are safe from data spies.

Diversity as a competence

Diversity can make or break a team depending on what you make of it. Be keen on leveraging the diverse competencies in your team by using the strengths of one team member to cover for the weaknesses of another member. Avoid pitting members against each other and never allow the wide range of capabilities within your team to drive a wedge between team members. Successful teams also value and celebrate members’ sexual, political, religious, racial, and cultural diversities as opposed to looking down on the minority groups.

Team members from varied backgrounds can provide a wide collection of different abilities, skills, and experiences, which may not only benefit their work performance but also the company. A wide range of abilities and experiences within the team allows teammates to draw valuable lessons from each other. It also promotes the development and implementation of innovative ideas, especially when there is collaboration within the team. While one individual may be good at coming up with great ideas, another person may have the required skills to implement it.

A diverse team can help you navigate the cultural differences, religious differences, and language barriers associated with expanding your business abroad. Having team members who understand different cultures and speak different languages can help your business operate at a global level and manage a broader customer base. A team that consists of multiple nationalities also makes your company more relatable. What’s more, it enhances employee retention because professionals prefer to work and associate with a company that accommodates all backgrounds and encourages equality.

In a nutshell, diversity is a great strategy for anyone in any business. The best way to build a diverse team is to make inclusivity a fundamental part of your decision-making and actions.

Clarity in role definition and allocation

Roles in successful teams are assigned as per the skill set, productivity, commitment, and thinking style of an individual employee. The roles are never rigid; they can shift as employees grow and skill sets evolve, but they are always clearly defined. If a role involves measurements and metrics, for example, it has to go to the team member with the best numbers game. If a role is methodical and detail-specific, then it has to go to the member with the best organizational skills. There are no favors in staffing. Everyone is stationed where they thrive best.

A 2000 study of 25,000 managers and supervisors by Ferdinand Fournies concluded that the main reason for team members not doing what’s expected of them is that they aren’t aware of what’s expected of them in the first place. This is definitely a sign of poorly defined roles and responsibilities.

…the main reason for team members not doing what’s expected of them is that they aren’t aware of what’s expected of them in the first place.

If clear goals are the cornerstone of all team activity, then clarity in role definition is what defines expectations, allows seamless performance management, and ensures accountability among team members. As a leader, role clarity enables you to map priorities and understand training needs. It enables everyone in the team to maximise their abilities. 

Trust

Trust breeds a unique inter-member reliance, transparency, honesty, and chemistry. Everyone knows that his/her colleagues have their back. Colleagues who trust one another do not second guess each other, but they are quick to point out, admit, and rectify errors when and as they happen. They always know that the decisions and actions taken by one team member are for the benefit of the whole team. Most importantly, trust makes it easy for members to share their joys, struggles, and insecurities with colleagues, and that makes them more of a family than just workmates.

But when there’s no trust in a team, the outcome will be suspicion of hidden motives, miscommunication, micro-management, and inability to meet the company’s overall goals. In fact, a 2016 meta-analysis study concluded that levels of trust in a team significantly impact its overall performance. The findings of the study revealed that people perform impressively in a high-trust working environment where they feel they are critical members of a tight-knit team. 

…people perform impressively in a high-trust working environment where they feel they are critical members of a tight-knit team.

When teammates know exactly what’s expected of them and are confident in not just their capabilities but also the capabilities of others, they are highly likely to be innovative by trying new things and bringing new ideas to life. Team members will be willing to take risks and make mistakes when they’re confident they’ve got the undivided support of their peers. This builds a culture of collaboration within the team and enables each member to share ideas as well as make the most out of each other’s capabilities.  

Mutually beneficial conflict resolution mechanisms

Successful teams are founded on the understanding that each person is accountable for the success or failure of the group. All team members see the broader picture and accept that the overall team goal is bigger than their ambitions. With that understanding, it becomes very easy for team members to remain calm and professional amid conflicts. They can follow the right mechanisms to manage and resolve conflicting ideas. This enables them to minimise friction that damages their working relationships.

By dealing with their conflicts professionally and respectfully, they can work better with their colleagues, nurturing strong work relationships. Having solid conflict resolution mechanisms in place also reduces disruptions, resulting in increased employee morale and a healthy working environment.

Great conflict resolution mechanisms are extremely crucial, as it’s always sensible to keep a disagreement from happening instead of dealing with its negative consequences. Due to excellent conflict management mechanisms, stress automatically goes away, team members feel motivated and cheerful, and the job becomes enjoyable and satisfying.

Conclusion

Teamwork is undeniably critical for any successful business. It won’t be easy, but it definitely will be worth every effort. If not for anything else, it will help you retain employees, build your employer brand, and grow your profits.

About the Author

Ruby Whites is a business analyst with 6 years of experience. She enjoys using what she has learned from 6 years of different challenges in her business to help different starters achieve business growth and also help them establish clear goals that take their business from where it is to where the business owner wants it to be.

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