Outstanding teamwork doesn’t just happen.
The core competency of management is to truly appreciate your staff and make the team more powerful than individual workers to produce business goals.
Training is not enough. You can develop the individual until the cows come home (said the city girl!); it’s not going to get your team engaged. At every level of the organization you must communicate the same agenda and priorities. Where you put your resources and how you spend your budget must reflect those priorities. The organizational strategy, operations and messaging must tie back to the critical business goals. They must be aligned to get true team engagement.
Your management style must create a culture that allows employees to not only follow the organizational strategy, but take initiative, and make it their own. Still, that’s not enough. Your process must foster teamwork.
Teamwork is the intangible cohesive activities that seamlessly bind each work product to create a larger-than-life whole. Think macaroni and cheese: each great on their own, blockbuster together. Even better, think of the Amazon Prime value proposition – anything you want with next day delivery.
As the leader, you must ensure that all team members can excel at their goals individually to collectively move the business forward. Engagement is one of the most important drivers in your management toolbox, and as such it’s your prime responsibility to provide the framework for staff to perform.
Master these three management skills to cultivate high performing teams:
#1. Nurture Attributes that Contribute to Team Success
Individual and team success are inextricably connected, yet each requires a different skill set. Individuals need confidence, likeability, grit and the ability to persevere and solve all issues at hand, no matter the situation. Teams need a dissenting voice and alternate views to grow and be successful. The process of thinking through alternative ideas and action plans strengthen key team drivers such as trust, shared purpose and problem solving. Seeing others’ perspectives and their “cages” foster team cohesion and better outcomes.
To nurture team attributes, set discussions, examples and presentations that stimulate active work. Present a decision point and ask for pros and cons instead of telling your team the pros and cons. When discussing solutions, roll around the conference table or the video chat and let everyone present ideas. Keep your mouth shut if you know from the outset than an idea will not fly. Let team members come to their own conclusion. If they aren’t biting, start asking directed questions that will lead your team to a conclusion. Say, “interesting idea,” “untenable,” “let’s move on.” The kicker is that the discussion will spark new ideas and confidence in the team process.
Apply the attributes that will foster team performance actively and liberally.
2. Use Techniques that Drive a Collaborative, Joyful Team Culture
Don’t ever confuse laughing in a workplace meeting with not being serious. In fact, laughter helps eliminate stress, opens up creative thinking and unleashes other avenues of new ideas. Getting your team to “group lol” (I did just coin that phrase!), can be as simple as starting the meeting with a thought. As the leader, making the first order of business a quote or thought that is circling Twitter, Insta or Facebook, such as, “I took the road less traveled, now I am lost,” sets the tone for the entire meeting. Relaxing your team with a group lol (see how that works), gets each person out of their own head and primes the pump for collaboration. Team members will feel good about how the meeting started.
Setting rituals is a classic cohesion strategy because they are a great bonding tool. Celebrate team milestones in a way that honors the whole team and the work that was accomplished together. Think “Snaps” a la Legally Blonde 2: Red, White & Blonde (sorry non-chick flicks fans), and if you watch closely you’ll see that the entire movie is about team building. Both Reese Witherspoon (Elle Woods) and Dana Ivey (Congressman Libby Hauser), both from different generations, come together for protection of animal rights. “Snaps for all!”
Establish meeting roles that provide each person with a stake in the game. If appropriate, give team members a chance to lead a portion of the meeting (shhh…. it doesn’t have to be an important portion). Provide rituals to promote a feeling of belonging. Put names on the agenda, provide a sacred office item in from of them (mascot, best pens, microphone). If its virtual meeting, give that person a halo, a super avatar or top billing on meeting list.
3. Hold Effective Team Meetings
Agendas, widely underused, help everyone prepare for their role in the conversation. It keeps the team on the same page. Literally. The agenda should be a page, or five items – fit right into the top portion of an email or what can be seen easily on a handheld. Setting up the agenda shouldn’t only happen in your head. The whole team can contribute if you use the end of each meeting to set key discussion items for the next. Involving staff and providing continuity from meeting to meeting fosters engagement.
Your toolbox will be stronger if you pivot when new items need to be discussed without straying too far from the meeting purpose, unless the sky is falling. We all know what happens when hot topics and issues are not discussed at team meetings. Staff are not engaged. Meetings drag, problems are overlooked and starting the conversation becomes painful and stressful. Provide real time data, thoughts and issues to engage team members.
Start and stop on time. No excuses, model this behavior and stick to it. Staff will appreciate that they know exactly how much time to budget for this team meeting. Knowing how their time will be used provides a feeling of appreciation, breeding empowerment for each team member. Empowerment produces actions.
Align team actions with organizational strategy and messaging. Plan how you will approach leading your team. Stick to the plan. Taking action and reaching, or better, exceeding business goals, is the hallmark of a powerful engaged team.