A high-functioning team can skyrocket your business forward. Employees that work well together can develop innovative solutions, spot problems early, and create a more supportive working environment. If your staff can’t function as a unit, don’t worry — building a powerful team takes work. Whether you’re dealing with personality conflicts, a lack of focus, or highly independent working styles, quick action can help. With a focus on teamwork, you can help employees pool their resources and learn to support each other.
Set Clear Expectations
The first step in creating a more effective team is to lay out your expectations. After all, your employees can’t live up to standards they don’t know about. You don’t need to point fingers — simply explain that one of your goals is to build a culture of collaboration, where everyone shares ideas and expertise at each stage of a project.
Then, ask for feedback: What are are our current challenges? How can we improve communication? What opportunities do you see for collaboration? An open discussion gives your employees the chance to air their frustrations and struggles in a professional way, so you can find solutions together. At the end of the meeting, outline what you expect moving forward.
Impose Regular Communication
Communication problems are at the root of many team struggles. When employees don’t keep each other in the loop, you might notice that different parts of the project aren’t quite aligned, or that employees don’t spot problems until late in the game.
As a manager, you can help by creating regular opportunities for employees to communicate. Start every day with a quick status meeting where everyone talks about what they’re working on; then, ask for input from the people who are affected by the task. If your salesperson is starting to call customers about a new product, the marketing director can help by offering talking points that match the messaging on your website and social media pages.
It’s also helpful to schedule frequent meetings with people who don’t naturally communicate, but whose work is closely linked. Consider a product development engineer and the technical sales representative — the engineer can help the salesperson understand the product at an expert level, and the salesperson can provide real-world insights about customers that help the engineer design better products. As employees experience the positive effects of regular communication for themselves, you can step back and allow it to happen naturally.
Hold the Team Accountable
As a business owner, your actions can affect teamwork. Consider how you communicate with the group. Do you praise or blame individuals rather than the team as a whole? If so, your employees have little incentive to work together — instead, it’s every man for himself.
To change this trend, focus on holding your employees accountable as a team. If they meet a goal, praise their collaboration or reward the whole group with a long lunch. If they fail, don’t allow anyone to cop out with, "Well, I did my part." Explain that if the group fails, everyone fails. When everyone realizes that their fate is interconnected, they’re more likely to support each other.
Sometimes, problems in a team are due specific personalities or behaviors. When this happens, it’s important to step in early. If you notice bad behavior, such as an employee that slacks off or antagonizes other workers, a simple one-on-one conversation can be enough to fix the problem. Other situations, such as sexual harassment, require more formal action. By taking control of the situation, you show employees that you support them and that you don’t tolerate bad behavior — a crucial part of building trust.
Chances are, your employees are smart, professional people. By creating structure, encouraging communication, and providing top-level guidance, you can build your staff into a powerful, high-functioning team.