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Five Tactics for Effectively Working in Teams

Managers and employers can take advantage of each stage of team development to improve teamwork, communication, efficiency and effectiveness. Read on to learn about the current trends in team-building and ways to strengthen your company’s teams.

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Working effectively in a team

A team is a group of individuals who work together to achieve common goals. As a team member, you contribute individually while sharing a collective responsibility with other members. Typically, each team is influenced by the individual characteristics of its team members. There are various types of teams.

Cross-functional teams (CTFs)

These teams are comprised of players from various departments who collaborate on projects and report to a team leader. Also called multi-disciplinary teams, these groups offer varied functional expertise to complex projects. This combined effort can develop innovative solutions and offer a competitive edge.

Functional teams

Generally, this type of team is comprised of individuals with different responsibilities who work for a single department and manager. These teams are generally stable and support ongoing business processes. Examples of functional teams include the cleaning crew of a building or a chef’s crew in a restaurant.

Self-managed teams

These teams lead by consensus, although members have a relatively high level of autonomy and are expected to manage their own time and workloads. These teams require less supervision and may be comprised of high-level employees with the expertise to accomplish tasks with less direction. They’re given full ownership of their contributions to a project and are responsible for meeting goal markers.

Virtual teams

These teams interact virtually using digital methods of communication. Virtual teams can involve team members from various geographical locations. In today’s workplace, remote work is quite common. A recent Gallup survey shows that at least 45% of American’s work from home in some capacity.

In many cases, face-to-face interviews can be accomplished over the internet. Daily communications are made easiest with integrated communication platforms that allow project members to easily chat with each other and share documents.

How effective teams enrich a project

Great employees bring exceptional talents, enthusiasm and ideas to the workplace. When you group great people with each other, however, the benefits increase exponentially. When teams function well, employers enjoy benefits, such as:

  • Cross-pollination: Teams made of varied members share and grow each other’s knowledge and ways of thinking. This effect is exponential in nature and can lead to advancements in innovation and problem-solving.
  • Employee engagement: Individual and collective responsibility in teams can boost employee engagement. Employees in a group tend to work harder and pay more attention, so they don’t let team members down. Teams also offer camaraderie and intellectual challenges, which keep employees engaged.
  • Higher performance: When they function well, teams deliver more than an equal number of individuals. This is because people can inspire each other to perform at greater levels.

Five tactics for team-building

Why do some teams outperform others? It’s not always about the individuals; it can be about how teams are built and function. Here are some tips to create better teams:

  • Work with the right people
  • Use participative leadership
  • Form small teams
  • Communicate effectively
  • Evaluate team performance regularly

1. Work with the right people

Start your project off right with the team members who will thrive in the team culture you envision. Each employee brings their own skills and personality to work. Great teams are fueled by the right combination of those individual assets. When building the perfect team for your project, seek out candidates with:

  • Complementary skills and traits to the project and other candidates
  • The hard and soft skills that are necessary for success

Before beginning any new work project, make sure everyone involved is provided with a document outlining goals and everyone’s core responsibilities. Train and coach all team members in their primary roles, providing extra education as needed to ensure the success of the project.

In choosing a project leader, look for someone with interpersonal skills who will not only organize and direct, but also inspire team members to work collaboratively. A project leader, or team leader, should believe in your company’s core values and help pass on that vision to employees.

Related: Setting a vision for teams

2. Select participative leadership

Participative, or democratic, leadership can improve the effectiveness of a team. Typically, a team leader delegates tasks, monitors performance, makes changes to project flow, keeps the project on track and takes overall responsibility for the team’s performance.

With participative leadership, the team leader encourages the input of team members in the decision-making process, improving employee engagement and team performance.

3. Form smaller teams

Instead of creating larger teams, opt for small teams that tackle individual projects. Compact, project-only teams can help you choose team members with skills that precisely match project requirements. Smaller teams are often easier to manage and more cohesive than larger teams, so they’re likely to adapt quickly to changes as well.

In big companies, it’s often best to coordinate direct and high-level management teams, such as in a cross-functional team style. This way, a chain of command can help keep teams structured and able to recognize and carry out their duties.

4. Communicate effectively

Effective, clear and transparent communication is essential. Use communication to:

  • Achieve group consensus: Including participants in major decisions, such as changes to project direction or workflow, can improve the team environment.
  • Solve conflicts: Communicate, and turn conflicts into opportunities. For example, to understand a team member’s pushback, start a dialogue and work toward a compromise that takes the individual’s feelings and perspective into consideration. In the end, even conflicts can strengthen team relationships if handled properly.
  • Improve engagement: A group of individuals becomes a team when achievements are acknowledged. Remember to celebrate team efforts, but celebrate individual contributions as well.

5. Evaluate team performance regularly

When you take a close look at a team’s performance as well as the performance of individuals in the team, you can identify strengths and weaknesses. From here, you can craft a strategy for improvement.

Invest in continuous improvement to grow your business and workforce’s skills. Continuous improvement ensures teams are fresh, new ideas are generated and areas for improvement are identified. Team building activities can be a wise investment, as they provide your team with improved relationships and more industry knowledge when they participate. These activities can:

  • Strengthen bonds and trust between colleagues
  • Improve communication and teach new communication and team tactics
  • Solidify creative thinking in problem-solving by practicing with out-of-the-box scenarios and exercises
  • Introduce employees to each other in meaningful ways that can create friendships

Related: Definitions of team building

When evaluating your team’s performance, seek out performance-based metrics to develop your standards. You should also use top-down feedback about leaders from team members and bottom-down information about employees from their managers to see the bigger picture in your team relationships.

Working effectively in a team FAQs

What if team members develop negative traits like distrust and lack of goal clarity?

It’s up to the project or team leader to make sure that everyone is working together and to mediate conflicts if they arise. If communication completely breaks down or conflicts escalate, the individual team members or the entire team can be referred to human resources for appropriate counseling. It might be appropriate to remove or add people to a team mid-project, though this is not ideal.

How can a team work effectively when members are in different time zones?

It’s increasingly common for people to work in different cities or even countries while on the same team. Make sure all team members are aware of the time differences, so provide them with a schedule that outlines everyone’s availability.

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