Tips for Building Strong Teams in the Workplace
Team building is a complex, fragile and necessary process. A successful, strong team must have mutual understanding, respect and confidence; members must know their roles and the larger goals of the team; and an effective, confident and assertive leader must take charge. Here are some tips for building the strongest teams.
Assign the role of leader
Leaders are essential to building a strong team. Leadership is a difficult task that requires a willingness to make hard decisions and institute ambitious, yet realistic, standards. Leaders must follow up in order to ensure that those standards are being met, and if they are not, they must both take responsibility for the shortcomings of their team and work to improve their results moving forward. It is a difficult position, so the right person must be chosen for it.
Get to know each other outside the work environment
An effective team is built on mutual trust and understanding, which requires that team members get to know each other outside the work environment. Because environment greatly impacts how people relate to one another, a professional environment can discourage more personal forms of communication; however, effective team members relate to one another on a personal level, so building relationships outside the office can improve how a team performs in the office.
Provide ongoing feedback
Constant feedback ensures that a team is on the right path toward achieving its goals. Leaders should not wait until a problem presents itself to provide feedback—their feedback should be consistent, both formal and informal, and supportive.
Be constructive, not vindictive
There is an art to giving feedback that both critiques and encourages. Constructive criticism should involve both pointing out what can be improved and encouraging existing positive contributions. A vindictive approach that is purely negative will discourage the team by de-emphasizing and discouraging a team member’s skills and assets.
Value diversity and unique experiences
Research has shown that diversity is an asset to teams and companies. Racially diverse businesses “are 35 percent more likely to have financial returns above national industry medians,” according to Forbes. The research has not established exactly why this is the case, but bringing unique backgrounds and experiences to a team can change the way the team members think, make them think outside the box, and help them come up with more effective, creative solutions to problems.
Allow for clear and consistent communication
Encouraging communication within a team ensures that everybody is on the same page. Aside from merely sharing information, effective and consistent communication also builds and maintains trust and respect among team members, which helps them work together more comfortably and efficiently.
Identify needs for resources
Leaders must analyze a team’s goals and determine what resources are needed to achieve them. Some teams might need training on team building itself, or some members might need training related to their functions within the group that others don’t. Once leaders determine the necessary resources, they should ascertain their costs and how to acquire those funds.
Celebrate team members’ accomplishments
The functioning of a team is often a process of education as much as it is one of problem-solving. Different members will have different processes and varying levels of expertise. Leaders should encourage their unique skills and assets and support them through their processes, providing support and the necessary resources.
This support and encouragement involves celebrating team members’ achievements, which reinforces positive contributions and behaviors. Celebrating the small victories can help members take one positive step at a time, instead of just focusing on the distant horizon, which can discourage them and lead to burnout.
Schedule team-building retreats, events and exercises
Team-building retreats, events and exercises are effective and fun ways of encouraging the cohesion of a team. As with getting to know each other outside the workplace, trust-building exercises can encourage members to step outside their comfort zones and learn to rely on each other. There are many resources on effective team-building exercises, games and events available online.
Set clear goals for the team
Team members must understand the team’s broader goals, as well as their individual roles in bringing them to fruition. Leaders must be clear with their goals and standards. Ambiguity of purpose leads to uncertainty and diminished performance. Knowledge of the team’s goals encourages confidence and enhanced performance of individual tasks, which aids the team in effectively and efficiently accomplishing those goals.
Leadership for the future
Building and managing strong teams is the surest way to deliver dividends to oneself and one’s employer, ensuring long-term success. Changing global economic forces create increasingly complex business conditions, but it remains unchanged that every successful business is made up of successful teams. Effective leaders are therefore vital in the competitive marketplace. A graduate degree in project management is a great route for students who want to be successful team leaders and businesspeople.
Founded in 1948, Brandeis University is an internationally recognized research institution with the intimacy and personal attention of a small liberal arts college. Brandeis University is pleased to offer its M.S. in Project and Program Management (MSPPM) in a convenient online format for working professionals interested in project management.