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In The Five Dysfunctions of a Team, leading business consultant and widely respected speaker Patrick Lencioni says, “It is teamwork that remains the ultimate competitive advantage, both because it is so powerful and so rare.”
Let’s learn what makes ideal teamwork in the workplace difficult to achieve, why it’s important to strive for it nonetheless, and how you can ultimately achieve it. This will give you the business advantage you’re seeking over your competition.
Uhuru’s approach unsurprisingly aligns with Lencioni’s work, as our processes and procedures are based upon it. Here are the key aspects you should look at to make sure you can increase teamwork in the workplace and achieve greater success for your company.
Trust is crucial. It’s the foundation of any relationship, and teamwork in the workplace is no exception. Team members that don’t trust each other simply won’t achieve optimal results. When they lack trust, team members are more likely to conceal weaknesses and mistakes and may hesitate to ask for help, provide constructive feedback, or offer help outside their areas of responsibility. They are also known to jump to conclusions about the intentions and aptitudes of others more quickly.
When members of a team don’t forge a strong sense of trust in one another, they fail to recognize and tap into each other’s skills and experiences. This ultimately leads to time and energy wasted on managing behavior. Untrusting employees tend to hold more grudges and even dread meetings because they may want to avoid their fellow teammates.
On the other hand, trusting teams are more open and comfortable with admitting weaknesses or mistakes and asking for help. They accept input and questions about their areas of responsibility without hard feelings and are generally willing to give one another the benefit of the doubt.
Taking risks in offering feedback and assistance is another thing you can expect once you’ve built trust and teamwork in the workplace. Talents can grow stronger, and gaps can be filled because workers will appreciate and tap into one another’s skills and experiences. They will also be able to more effectively focus their time and energy on important issues—not office politics.
Fortunately, there are steps you can take to help facilitate a trusting environment. For one thing, sharing your life with your coworkers echoes a concept we hold close to our hearts. This is the idea of bringing one’s whole self to work.
In our own team, we have set up Friday meetings (called “huddles”) that give our team the time and space to really get to know one another and each other’s personal histories. This is especially critical for remote teams, as there isn’t a physical water cooler space to stand and chat around during breaks.
Encourage employees to always say what they mean and mean what they say—and make sure you’re doing the same so that you’re leading by example. Workers will not appreciate the hypocritical nature of leaders who don’t practice what they preach. Don’t be what many people refer to as “fake”—give your team the benefit of the doubt whenever possible so they feel your trust in them.
Teams that don’t engage in productive conflict get stuck in a false sense of harmony. If your team does not engage in conflict, they can’t engage in constructive conflict, instead preserving a flimsier sense of harmony. This could eventually become detrimental to productivity. We learn that harmony at the expense of people holding back is not true harmony. It also makes for boring meetings, back-channel politics, and personal attacks.
Teammates may ignore controversial topics that are critical to team success. It’s crucial that employees feel they can tap into the opinions and perspectives of their fellow team members. An absence of productive conflict has the potential to also waste valuable time and energy on interpersonal risk management.
Instead, team members that engage in productive conflict typically have more lively, interesting meetings and are receptive to ideas from the rest of their team. They can solve problems more quickly, minimize company politics, and put critical topics on the table for discussion. It’s imperative to never retreat from healthy debate.
The key thing to remember while engaging in productive conflict is to discuss what’s best rather than who’s right. Who is right does not matter if you instill a sense of “we over me” (as we do at Uhuru). What matters is the idea that will further everyone’s growth. You’re not in the debate to prove someone wrong, but rather to figure out what is best for your team and your clients.
In order to have productive conflict and bolster teamwork in the workplace, be sure people are comfortable enough to ask questions and that all sides are always listening carefully. Employees should be prepared to put themselves in someone else’s shoes and concede when necessary. Refrain from sarcasm, name-calling, conversation domination, or character assassination (attacking one’s character and making it personal). Finally, look for a win-win in every possible situation.
Commitment will drive performance at your company. Striving for consensus, however, can impede that performance. Not everyone needs to agree on everything—each team member’s ideas simply need to be heard and fairly considered. In a similar vein, teams need to unite, even when they can’t be sure they’re choosing the correct path. Coming to a shaky decision is better than total inaction.
A failure to commit leaves room for ambiguity around direction and priorities—which can lead to mistakes, frustration, higher costs, and employee burnout. Uncertainty usually stems from a lack of confidence and a fear of failure.
The work environment should not be one where someone always has to second-guess themselves. When a team regularly practices true commitment, they end up with clear direction and a set of common objectives, which makes them better equipped to learn from mistakes.
Commitment to teamwork in the workplace will increase the likelihood that your employees will take advantage of opportunities before your competitors do. They will have the fortitude necessary to keep moving forward without hesitation, and change direction when needed.
Accountability is the willingness to call out team members on behaviors that might be hurting the whole team. Keep in mind, you’re not holding people accountable to be mean—you’re doing it for the larger group’s welfare. As long as you’re polite, it’s in everyone’s best interest—so, though it may feel a bit uncomfortable at first, it’s absolutely necessary.
Lack of accountability leads to divergent standards of performance, which can cause resentment. It can also lead to mediocrity, missed deadlines, and subpar deliverables. By not pulling their weight, team members may cause the entire team to fail. The employee that’s being held accountable should not take it personally—they should use it as an opportunity to fix mistakes and improve performance. You don’t want the team lead to be the sole source of discipline, so it’s important that other team members become comfortable with this process.
Proper accountability results in poor performers getting just the right amount of pressure needed in order to improve. Potential problems are identified quickly, and a feeling of respect is restored. This helps the team avoid politics and bureaucracy around performance management, which can otherwise hurt teamwork in the workplace. Start implementing more accountability by making goals and standards public so everyone is on the same page, and holding simple—but regular—progress reviews.
Lencioni also says, “Teams that are willing to commit publicly to specific results are more likely to work with a passionate, even desperate desire to achieve those results.” In other words, each team member that’s focused on results will be working toward the success of the whole.
Workers who are not results-focused can easily become distracted. Teams that don’t focus on results may remain stagnant and fail to grow. If you can’t seem to beat the competition, this is something you should zero in on. If you don’t instill teamwork in the workplace, you run the risk of losing achievement-oriented team members to other companies.
Teams that focus on results will keep achievement-oriented employees engaged and minimize lone-wolf behavior. Results-focused teams will also be able to enjoy success and use failures to become better. If you want to avoid distractions and have the highest-functioning team around, we have one last (rather powerful) idea for you.
If you really want to elevate your level of teamwork in the workplace, don’t try to do it alone. See how committing to a remote workspace could help. Uhuru can help you master this new way of getting the job done.
Remote teamwork has taken the workforce by storm—it’s proved to be much more efficient and effective than office environments across a range of industries. Becoming a remote company truly transformed our agency and the way our team works. It also brought everyone closer—even though we’re physically apart. Click the link above so we can show you how you can get the same results for your business.