Fostering Team Work: What kind of team do you really want?

teamTeam work is rightly regarded as vital for success at work today. But before you launch into a team building exercise, think carefully about exactly what sort of team work you want. Do people reporting to you need to collaborate to get things done or do they operate autonomously? If the latter, then what cooperation do you need from them? Maybe you just need them to participate more fully in meetings with you. Improving team work must add value to your overall output, not be done just for the sake of it.

If you decide that team work really is critical in your organization, there are 3 key steps you should take. The first is to spend a bit more time together socially, and on a regular basis, so everyone relaxes and gets to know each other. Next, do some analysis of style differences so team members better understand where their colleagues are coming from, what is important to them and how to communicate with them effectively.

The third, and most important, step is to talk through with them what team work should mean in your organization. Everyone in your team should have input into what, for them, counts as good team work. Your team should discuss how they will behave with each other, what type of support and cooperation everyone wants, how they want to communicate and what they want from you. It’s a good idea to agree how you will deal with conflict, how you will deal with criticism nondefensively and how you will foster openness. This means agreeing to thank people for saying unpopular things instead of putting them down or arguing. It’s a matter of defining the success criteria or values you will live by as a team. You should also agree how to measure your performance as a team and how you will reward and celebrate successful team work. To monitor your effectiveness as a team, you might draw up a list of success criteria and assess yourselves as a team against your criteria at least once a quarter, but more often if improving team work is really vital and you have a lot of work to do to reach the level of team performance you need. To change the way your team behaves, it is vital to reward and celebrate team work. The old saying, ‘’you get what you pay for’’ applies here. So, if you constantly reward superstar individual efforts and foster competition between people, that is what you will get, not better team work.