Editor’s Question: How do you encourage your team to work well together?

Editor’s Question: How do you encourage your team to work well together?

Team collaboration is essential for creative thinking and project development. If your teams don’t work well together, there will be roadblocks in everyday work processes. But what is the key to help teams work together? Individuals all have their preferred ways of working and different strengths and weaknesses, so it can be difficult to join all these varied people together to work smoothly as one.

The following four experts explain how there are ways and means of effective collaboration, and there isn’t one solution to fix all. There are different methods to try and also different scenarios, as your teams may be fully remote, hybrid or in the office.

Our first response below is from Nathalia Klein, Chief People Officer at the Allsopp & Allsopp Group:

In my opinion, effective teamwork is felt and embraced before it’s encouraged and that comes from alignment, team culture and by setting the right example. As a leader, I promote that by constantly reminding the team that our collective objectives come before our individual ones – growing the company, becoming fulfilled professionals and continuously learning. We do this by always leveraging our individual strengths.

I believe that establishing and maintaining a collaborative team culture starts with intentionally building teams that bond well together, pairing individuals that share the same core principles of collaboration, cooperation and the definitions of success, and building relationships beyond office walls – after all, you spend most of your time at work and your work relationships and routines influence who you are. 

Above all, and probably the most important of the three: leading by example.

When your leader collaborates with other functions within the company, they do not encourage a culture of aggressive competition. You feel inspired, encouraged and safe to do the same: push for solutions instead of problems, collaborate and share commitments instead of striving for individual wins.

And of course, celebrating collective achievements and celebrating the team’s success before their own. This is a culture where teamwork is truly embraced before it needs to be encouraged.

Just as in volleyball where no single position can score or win the game alone, at work, no individual can achieve success without the collaborative efforts of the entire team.

TJ Person, CEO, Bluechip Insights:

This is not business as usual for tech start-ups; following the downturns caused by COVID and the subsequent tech boom and now after a period of cooling off, we’ve entered a new phase of uncertainty. We find ourselves at a juncture where the need for efficient resource management conflicts with the need for growth. In this phase of rapid expansion and shifting market demands, fostering effective teamwork has become more difficult but remains incredibly important. With over 18 years of experience in building and managing technology start-ups, I have established three core principles: fostering open communication, ensuring alignment with shared goals and committing to ongoing team development.

Fostering a culture of open communication

I believe that open communication is fundamental to effective teamwork, especially in the dynamic environment of technology start-ups. We strive to create an environment where every team member feels valued and heard, regardless of their position or seniority. This is achieved through regular, structured team meetings and open forums that encourage feedback and ideas. We start each week with a Monday morning meeting where each team member outlines their goals and challenges for the week ahead. This forum allows everyone to understand what others are working on and how it contributes to the company’s overall objectives. As CEO, I sometimes question and challenge their goals, but we always conclude with a clear plan. I intentionally refrain from asking for progress updates during the week, tempting though it may be, and instead, we conclude the week with an all-hands Friday lunch, where everyone discusses their progress towards their self-set goals. This approach ensures that communication remains open, transparent and accessible, cultivating a culture where every voice contributes to our collective success. Open dialogue not only facilitates the swift exchange of ideas but also preemptively addresses potential misunderstandings or conflicts, thereby bolstering team cohesion.

Emphasising shared goals and objectives

Aligning with shared goals and objectives is vital for enhancing team performance. We make a concerted effort to ensure that each team member understands how their work contributes to the company’s larger vision and objectives. Every January, I share my primary goal for the year with the company and every new employee. I challenge each employee to set a personal goal for the year and identify the tasks necessary to achieve it. This approach not only fosters a sense of ownership and accountability but also cultivates a culture of collective achievement, celebrated as a team effort.

Investing in team building and professional development

We invest heavily in team building and professional development activities. This includes dedicated team offsites, workshops and training sessions aimed at enhancing both technical and soft skills. We also promote cross-functional projects and hackathons, which not only drive innovation but also encourage understanding and collaboration across departments.

Michael Licenblat, CEO, Bounce Back Fast:

Leaders have many approaches to encourage their teams to build collaboration and work well together. The challenge, however, may come from relying on a preferred approach or a familiar way of relating to people.

Henry Ford once said: “If you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll always get what you’ve always got.”  To create something different you may need to do something different. Finding a different approach to building an engaged team might start with looking at the intention behind your leadership and communication style.

If your intention is that of the cheer squad who is the eternal flame of positivity that lights up the optimism and joy in people, then make sure you take a triple dose of Berocca!  Fixing low morale by filling the gaps with your own energy is a sure-fire recipe for exhaustion. Whilst you carry a lot of accountability on your shoulders, you are not responsible for the happiness for other people. Being the cheer squad trains your staff to depend on you to be their motivator, saviour or personal counsellor who lifts the energy when they haven’t taken the initiative to do so themselves. You cannot give people what they deny themselves.

Perhaps you are the team player who gets in, helps out with everything and fixes everyone’s problems. You are a do-er and like to ‘get stuff done’. As there are so many things on your never-ending list, there isn’t always time to listen deeply and empathise with each conversation. It is easier to jump to the solution, give direction and get on with things. Whilst you can’t be faulted for your work ethic, the lack of breathing space in your day results in more one directional conversations and you becoming involved in too many items. Although efficient, people don’t necessarily feel heard, issues tend to repeat and you become an irreplaceable cog in the machine.  

The head coach approach looks at the big picture and is then selective with what they involve themselves in. There are many moving parts to a head coach’s day, however they closely consider which aspects require them to be involved and which they don’t touch. They decide which conversations require time and attention and which can happen in passing. They understand that their team will have moments of growth that will be uncomfortable and require direct feedback. They also recognise that their team just want to feel valued. 

How could your time spent in cheer squad leadership, team player leadership and head coach leadership be better dispersed?

The quality of your team’s engagement and collaboration starts with the intention behind your words.

Łukasz Koczwara, COO, STX Next:

As a team leader, implementing reliable and transparent structures to enable good work is an important first step. Development projects can be incredibly complex, with lots of moving parts. Project management tools that act as a central hub for each member in the team are vital, so that everyone can keep up to speed and aligned on what is needed.

In the same vein, pre-agreed and organised channels of communication are also essential, as this improves communication by facilitating frequent interaction and the clear expression of ideas. It’s also useful to garner a good understanding of the best method of communication for all of the members of your team. 

This way, each individual in the group has a clear and equal voice and feels as though they can contribute to team projects. It’s important that this trust between employees is maintained and leaders should take extra steps to ensure that teams are collaborating and communicating clearly.

For leaders, your team members will flourish if you show them that you believe in their potential and give them the space to express their ideas and grow their responsibilities. Widespread remote working has shown that people can do their jobs well without being physically present and that technology can facilitate effective work.

In the recruitment process, soft skills are another key enabler for team cohesion. With the distance that comes with more remote work, culture fit has never been more critical. Bringing in a new team member shouldn’t be a process of finding someone exactly like others in the business. In fact, fostering a healthy environment in which different views and ideas can coexist is a vital part of what makes an effective team.

Taking steps to build an inclusive and welcoming culture allows teams to build trust, goodwill and camaraderie. A unified team will diagnose and fix technical problems faster and they’ll be able to create something much more valuable than any one individual could have produced on their own.

The onboarding process also plays an important role in welcoming new staff and ensuring they can work well with their new colleagues. Carefully guide new recruits through the nuances of the role, help them understand processes and management frameworks, and provide a combination of both formal and informal pastoral support. Alongside this, new joiners need frequent, interactive workshops to help develop their skills from either a remote or office environment.

To be successful, the modern developer should have a much better understanding of the wider goals of the business and have the skills necessary to form important parts of cohesive and productive teams, be effective communicators and, should they wish to do so, become leaders themselves in the future.

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