“Teamwork is the ability to work together towards a common vision. The ability to direct individual accomplishments toward organizational objectives. It is the fuel that allows common people to attain uncommon results” – Andrew Carnegie
Teamwork. It is what we often define as part of our success strategies. We need to build cohesive, yet diverse teams to ensure growth for our organisations. We cannot achieve success when we build a group of high performing individualists that seemingly work towards a common goal. In order to achieve the common goal, there has to be communication, transparency and above else: Trust.
Building trust is often times no easy feat and something that we feel is very hard to achieve, especially when we build a diverse team with different backgrounds, experiences, and viewpoints.
In general, great teams amount to more than the sum of their individual constituents.
The 5 foundations of effective teams
The foundations for great teamwork are building trust, engaging in constructive conflict, committing to decisions, holding peers accountable and focusing on goals. Luckily it is possible to build high performing teams and here are a few things to consider:
Everything starts with trust. Establishing trust between team members is the foundation for building well-functioning teams. Just like in any relationship, teams that are able to develop trust, lay the foundation for success. In order to build trust with others, team members need to be able to be vulnerable with each other. This means sharing their strengths, weaknesses, wins, and losses. But having the willingness to be vulnerable is not easy in the often times cut-throat environments that we face.
So how can we build trust then? Who should start to talk about vulnerabilities first? It starts with us as leaders. We need to lead by example, walk the talk and share our weaknesses and mistakes open and honestly. By doing so we are laying the groundwork for the team to follow. Showing this kind of vulnerability will encourage others to do the same.
Healthy conflict is an important aspect of making the best decisions for an organisation. We make good decisions based on varied, often clashing perspectives. Some conflict is beneficial, but it must be constructive in nature – meaning everyone focuses on the common goal at hand, rather than on their own agenda. If the team still lacks trust, they will avoid conflict at all cost and this will inhibit the team from being creative. Building trust enables conflict because team members who trust each other will be comfortable even when engaging in passionate team debates.
When we are having these healthy conflicts, we usually tend to say, “let’s agree to disagree” or “let’s compromise”. The challenge with this approach is that those who compromise, feel as if they are not heard. This makes their commitment to fulfilling the goal low. We all have been in a meeting where some people make the decisions. Meanwhile the other part of the team second guesses these and nothing actually gets done. The meeting time passes, and we leave the room without making a decision. In consequence, this makes us feel as if just wasted an hour in a meeting that didn’t have an outcome.
High performing teams know that the key to success is making decisions and to keep the organisation moving. In a well-functioning team, we can openly share our opinion and then commit to a greater goal. The fact that everyone is heard is many times enough, as most people don’t necessarily insist on their opinion prevailing. They are satisfied when everyone participating gives their opinion a genuine thought.
When we think about accountability, the traditional thought is that accountability starts and ends with the leader. In well-functioning teams, this is handled differently with peer-to-peer accountability. For most of us, this is awkward as we feel we are sticking our nose into someone else’s business. Unfortunately, if we do not call each other out, it will make for less accountability within our teams and results in missed deadlines or goals.
Naturally, we believe that conflict is something negative. It is something that we try to avoid as it can spoil some of our best relationships.
I want to challenge this thinking. If we never address any of the challenges we are experiencing with others, the sentiments just continue to build up. It’s similar to a snowball effect. The less we have these conversations, the more this one behavior or attitude will continue to upset and disappoint us. In the long run, this decomposes trust and the relationship that we have built with other team members.
At the end of the day, peer pressure is by far the most efficient and effective way to maintain high standards of performance. Team members who fear they will let down others that they have respect for will naturally make them work hard and improve their performance.
In high performing teams, members understand that shared goals take precedence over individual goals. If there are individuals that put their own goals above the goals of the team, then this will also spread to the rest of the team members. This will ultimately put us at risk to lose talent within our organisations. It is important that we clearly define the goals of the organisation and make them achievable. If the intended results are clear and leave no room for interpretation, then it is not possible for any individual to move away from the team goals to achieve their own.
When we embrace common goals, we as individuals will support and help each other out even across lines of responsibilities. A great way to implement this within your teams is by setting Obejctives & Key Results which is a system that is embraced by large companies such as Google, IBM and others.
Great teamwork is a powerful competitive advantage that we all can leverage.
Are you ready to elevate the performance of your team and ultimately make your organisation better performing? Contact us at [email protected] to learn more about our “Team Development” and our “Objectives & Key Results” programmes.