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6 ideas to foster stronger teamwork in the workplace

Build a stronger team with these tactical tips

August 26, 2019

Teamwork – it’s one of the simplest concepts out there (heck, it’s been instilled in us since elementary school) but you’d be surprised to know how many teams underestimate its real power.

Teamwork is one of the biggest factors in a team’s success… or failure. 86% of employees and execs cite lack of collaboration and ineffective communication as a major reason for workplace failures.

Effective teamwork increases job satisfaction, team performance, and employee engagement. It also helps build psychological safety, which ultimately means your team will come up with more innovative ideas and creative solutions to problems because they know everyone’s got their back along the way.

So what’s the difference between OK teamwork and great teamwork? Great teamwork is something to be invested in, nurtured, and fostered — it’s never a one and done. It’s a blend of communication, collaboration, connection, and support. And even if you think your team is running smooth as butter, chances are, there are opportunities to forge stronger bonds, tighten up communication, foster collaboration, and build a culture of teamwork that actually makes the dream work.

Let’s find out how.

6 ways to foster successful teamwork in the workplace

1. Align on a broader team purpose

The first secret to building a stronger team is aligning on team goals and a shared sense of purpose. Clear goals and objectives will get the entire team on the same page, moving in the same direction toward a common goal, and that's the basis of stable, successful teamwork. When you've got a team of people rallying around a common objective, folks are more likely to feel like they're part of something, which boosts accountability too.

Tactical tips:

  • Establish a team charter: Clarify why your team is working together, the principles that guide your work, and the general rules of engagement. Collaborate on this work as a team so that everyone feels included and bought in.
  • Set team and individual OKRS: OKRs are goals that outline the why, in addition to the what and how. They’re a great way to help your team see how individual work ladders up to the big picture or a specific business objective and can be a powerful way to help folks feel their impact. You can use team-level OKRs to rally around a common goal and individual OKRs to track personal growth too. Many teams use them to track quarterly and long-term goals.

2. Build trust and gratitude on your team

Building a culture of trust and gratitude is a big one, and is sadly sometimes ignored in organizations because, well, “gratitude” isn't a balance sheet line item. But while it doesn't reside on a P&L, it's tremendously important for strengthening team culture and building a strong team.

Studies have actually shown that gratitude in the workplace can be a bigger, better motivator than compensation and bonuses. Knowing you're on a supportive team can have a huge impact. These things go a long way in fostering a culture of teamwork and creating a stronger team.

Tactical tips:

  • Get to know each other: Connecting on a more personal level is a proven way to build trust between team members. Try kicking off your team meeting or stand-up with a 5-minute icebreaker or team-building activity. Research shows when people talk at the beginning of a meeting, they're more likely to stay engaged throughout, which is why we built the spinner tool that’s part of Range’s meeting feature.
  • Celebrate success: Develop a practice of recognizing folks on your team for the work they do. You might choose to spend the first 5 minutes of a team meeting doing this, or use a tool like Range to engage and react to each other’s accomplishments on a day-to-day basis.

3. Promote autonomy, not micromanagement

When folks are empowered to own their work, great things happen – all across the team. Autonomy makes people more excited about their work. When teammates know they have autonomy, it often leads to a more collaborative environment since people are generally more engaged and aren’t afraid of losing ownership of their work. Effective collaboration fosters more creative ideas and greater innovation, so it’s a win all around. And working together with others who bring new ideas to the table magnifies individual talents and drives impact— that’s the power of teamwork.

Tactical tips:

  • Learn how to spot micromanagement: Recognizing some common behaviors and early indicators of micromanagement can help you stomp it out before it becomes a bigger problem on your team. We put together some common things to look out for, and ideas to solve for them to help you out.
  • Get crystal clear on project ownership: When there is a lack of clarity around project ownership, managers often feel the need to micromanage because there isn’t a point person and they’re worried about dropping the ball. Many effective teams also like to use a RACI chart for each project — clarifying who should be responsible, accountable, consulted, and informed on the work.

4. Encourage sharing and open communication

Effective communication is foundational to any successful team. When teams are talking, folks know who’s working on what, where projects stand, and who they can turn to for support or feedback.  Strong teams are built on strong communication practices.

Open communication also fosters more inclusive teams and a healthy work culture — where everyone has access to the same information and folks feel more comfortable surfacing issues because communicating openly when things arise is the norm.

Tactical tips:

  • Share daily updates and meeting notes: As a team leader, make sure your team has daily stand-ups or Check-ins on the calendar to promote frequent communication and build a habit around it. Share meeting notes and decisions broadly to ensure everyone’s in the loop.
  • Establish a clear source of truth: Good communication is as much about sharing information as it is about making that information easy to access later on. At Range, we use a team directory as our primary source of truth. When people have questions about who’s working on what or progress towards a particular goal or project, they know they can pull up the directory and quickly find what they’re looking for.

6. Consider remote employees

If your team is remote or hybrid, it can take some extra work to get teamwork flowing smoothly. When you don’t have serendipitous snack kitchen conversations and can’t swivel in your chair to chat with a teammate, you have to get a lot more intentional with how you communicate and connect. It’s a lot easier for micromanagement to slip in on remote teams too, since it’s naturally harder to keep tabs on what everyone’s working on.

Tactical tips:

  • Try async team-building activities: You don’t all have to be together to connect as a team. Asynchronous activities can be just as effective at strengthening team bonds — and they’re easy, since you can do them in your own time. A few ideas: Try asking folks to share their favorite GIF every Wednesday or answering team-building questions in your daily Check-ins. To get everyone to participate, keep it lightweight.
  • Make sure team meetings are inclusive of everyone: Video and hybrid meetings can be challenging. To facilitate a more inclusive discussion during team meetings, test your technology ahead of time, present your screen so everyone can follow along, and make sure to call on remote employees just as much as in-person ones. It’s also helpful to keep an eye on the screen to check in on body language in the same way you would for an in-person team meeting.

Bringing on new teammates – the concept of “grafting”

We recently learned about a concept called “grafting” (from this TED Talk), which offers some fresh ideas on bringing new employees into the fold that go way beyond simple onboarding. Grafting differs from onboarding in that it’s about mindfully integrating new hires into the fabric of your team through small practices over time — not just through a week of training or a new hire doc. It focuses more holistically on new employee well-being, rather than just throwing them into the trenches.

Grafting focuses on 4 key areas: empathy, integration, psychological safety, and communication. Here’s what that might look like in action.

Grafting in action

  1. Empathy: Empathy is about putting yourself in the shoes of a new hire to try to understand whatever challenges they may be faced with – whether it’s coming into a new role, adjusting to a new city, or something else. Try to make a new hire’s initial interactions and experiences of being on the team less about the specifics of a project, and more about getting to know them as a person.
  2. Integration: Integration is about setting new hires up for success. On a basic level, this means making sure they have all the equipment and information needed to do their job. On a deeper level, it means putting them in a position to be able to deliver some small wins quickly so that others can see the value they can bring, and they can see it too – “I’m contributing!” – and then build on that.
  3. Psychological safety: Psychological safety means creating an environment where new hires feel comfortable asking for help, voicing concerns, and admitting when they’re confused or wrong. Managers should let new hires know it’s OK to be vulnerable and admit when they don’t know something (an important skill for any teammate, but especially for new hires since “not knowing” can come up a lot). The simplest way to encourage these behaviors is by modeling them yourself.
  4. Communication: Open communication can be harder in new relationships, but it’s really important in the early stages of working with a new hire to ensure they’re feeling comfortable and that expectations are being met on both sides. Check in with new teammates throughout onboarding and have ongoing conversations around expectations and feedback. Frequent communication is key.

How Range can help

Successful teamwork isn’t an exact science and it’ll ultimately look different on every team. The recommendations in this post can serve as a solid starting point, but let it be an iterative one.

The best way to build a more collaborative environment on any team is to start checking in with each other as part of your daily routine. Connect with your teammates through regular touch-points (in meetings or async) and have ongoing conversations about gaps and opportunities to work better together. Make it a true team effort.

And when you’re ready to take that next step towards stronger teamwork, Range can help. Teams use Range to build up stronger habits around communication, collaboration, and connection through lightweight activities every day — bonus: Range also helps with productivity by helping you track daily tasks across all your tools. Through daily check-ins it’s easy for everyone, even remote team members, to see who’s working on what and support each other every step of the way. You’ll start to see more collaboration and team cohesion almost immediately.

The benefits of teamwork are endless — we’re here to help you unlock them.

Learn how Range helps teams fuel great teamwork
Teamwork in the workplace — 6 approaches
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