5. Seven Secrets to Effective Teamwork
Teamwork is essential in today’s business world. It is an important ingredient of successful organizations, and for that reason, everyone needs to work successfully with one another. Effective teamwork doesn’t just happen — it takes good problem-solving skills, decision making, communication and interpersonal skills. Making a great team requires a completely new set of soft skills that don’t come easily. Members have to voice their opinions, deal with aggressive personalities, and work through differences. Above all, members must take personal responsibility for delivering results
Smart leaders know that for their teams to work well, they must accurately identify employees’ skill sets and assign them tasks that are well suited to their abilities. When putting together teams, they choose people they sense will work together well. The combined efforts of their team members produce superior results and build a sense of solidarity within their organizations. So how do you know if your team is working together at a championship level?
- Set clear goals
Imagine you and your team are climbing Mount Everest. But instead of prepping your team in advance about what you’ll be doing and why you’re doing it, you simply tell them to start hiking. And then direct them where to step next. Step after step. Your team becomes disoriented and unmotivated, ready to give up when the ascent gets difficult. This is exactly what it’s like if you don’t set clear goals. As a manager, you end up handing out task after task. People don’t understand the greater context of their work and why it’s important, so they feel that their work is endless, pointless, and exhausting. Your team needs a specific, measurable goal to help them prioritize what’s important, drive them towards a definitive result, and give them a sense of achievement when they reach it.
- Create transparency
Transparency means making everything — all information, numbers, plans, and challenges — readily accessible to everyone on your team. When you create transparency, you can harness the full intelligence and motivation of your team. Everyone not only knows what you’re doing but why you’re doing it, and they understand how even the smallest task fits into the bigger picture. With transparency, you can set clear goals and get everyone on your team on board.
A board or a computer display is the place for you to set a goal, map out a process, assign ownership, and track where everything stands. One simple board holds all the information, and it’s there for everyone to see. No confusion and no meetings.
They have all the information they need to do their part to contribute, and may even be inspired to find innovative and creative ways to reach your goal.
- Decide what you’ll complete each week
No one can make sense of where a three-month long project stands from the tasks it’s composed of. You lose connection from reality when you start to obsess over a detailed project hierarchy and which subtask falls where. In real life, actual work is always planned by dates, deadlines, and assignment of responsibility.
Managing by time is simple as making a detailed list of all the tasks your team will complete this week. Assign ownership to make it clear who’s doing what. Reemphasize your goal, and then get to work. Working towards a concrete deadline creates a sense of urgency and forces your team to make smart decisions to reach your goals. As a team, you can then review what you’ve achieved and celebrate your shared success.
- Recognize people’s accomplishments
Loads of scientific studies show that people’s single biggest motivator is not money, but recognition. Being congratulated with a simple, “Great job for completing [fill in the blank]!” increases employee productivity ten-fold. But when you mark a task as “complete” in a traditional project management tool, what happens? It disappears. No one knows. This kills people’s motivation.
When you complete a task, you can mark it as a green. It’s incredibly satisfying, and even addictive, to mark everything as green and see all your accomplishments line up at the end of each week. And when you and your teammates can easily congratulate each other on a job well done, there’s no better way to build effective teamwork.
- Focus on processes, not tasks
Most team management tools rely heavily on hierarchy. The problem with that is that hierarchies are really hard to navigate, and there’s always a few different ways to construct them. Almost everyone uses spreadsheets or grids to manage their work. It’s a simple way to map out a process and even better, you can replicate it for future processes.
- Track your work visually
When you look at a text-based system — and they’re all text-based — you need to read to understand where things stand. That’s a problem. As humans, we take in visual information way more quickly than we do verbal information. That’s why traffic lights are colours, not words. The coloured statuses immediately tell you if something is “done,” “stuck,” or “in progress.” When you display a board on a screen in your office, everyone on your team knows exactly where things stand. Visuals are effective, not open to interpretation, and clear to everyone.
- Communicate in one place
Email, check-ins, chat, staff meetings, and Skype calls — there are endless ways to communicate. And yet crossed wires and broken games of telephone are a continual problem for teams. The result is more meetings, more email, and more wasted time. The advantage of centralized communication is that all updates are always in context, and people can drag and drop your files (images, docs, whatever) directly into the update. All the information you need is there, visible to everyone on your team.
In the end, effective teamwork can be summed up as simply as: it’s about people, not projects. So many project management tools treat people as a by-product or a secondary resource amidst the hierarchy of tasks and subtasks. But that’s a mistake. When you focus on what makes people tick — what drives them, what comes naturally to them, what they find enjoyable — you can harness their full potential to move faster and achieve incredible things together.