How Can You Improve Teamwork and Collaboration?

Start with WHAT and WHY

People love to talk about teams, teamwork, and how organizations are built on strong teams. We agree. Absolutely. That said, beware of the team building black hole of activities. Be wary of team building for the sake of team building. It can feel a bit too cotton-candy. (Lots of fluff. No substance.) And it can feel a bit haphazard – like HR is just throwing teamwork spaghetti activities on the wall, waiting to see what sticks.

Organizations struggle to connect people in meaningful ways. But it’s really not that mysterious.

What makes for successful collaboration and teamwork?

Start with a clear and measurable goal.

Obvious? Absolutely. Yet many organizations skip this very essential part. Defining the desired outcome provides your team with a shared vision of “What does ‘done’ look like?” Aligning people’s work with organizational goals is critical toward successful team building. Each department’s goals must work toward the overarching goals of the company.

Examples of well-written organizational goals:

“Organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful.” (Google)
“To accelerate the worlds’ transition to sustainable energy.” (Tesla)
“To create a world where anyone can belong anywhere.” (Air BnB)

Examples of well-written department goals:

Reduce customer support response time to 24 hours or less.
Increase quarterly sales revenue by 10%.

Establish clear metrics.

Everyone on the team needs to have a shared method to track progress. This provides the necessary framework to keep people on track.

Identify Key Performance Indicators (KPIs): Determine the key performance indicators (KPIs) that align with each goal. KPIs are specific, quantifiable metrics that reflect progress toward achieving an objective. For example, if your goal is to increase sales, a relevant KPI could be "monthly revenue growth rate."
Choose Data Sources and Collection Methods: Identify the data sources and methods for collecting the necessary information to measure each KPI. This may involve data from internal systems, surveys, customer feedback, or market research.
Use project management tools or software to track tasks and deadlines: This provides transparency and accountability, as progress is visible to the entire team.

Shared values and behaviors define your organization’s culture.

Once goals are in place, people need to work under the same behavior expectations. This should begin with a baseline of respect.

Create a clear and comprehensive code of conduct that outlines expected behavior and respect guidelines for all employees. The organization can develop a code of conduct that includes specific statements like: "Treat all individuals with dignity, regardless of their background or differences." "Listen actively and attentively to colleagues, valuing their input and ideas."
Establish reporting and resolution mechanisms. Implement a system where employees can report incidents anonymously, if preferred, through a designated email address or an online portal. Ensure that there is a clear process for investigation and resolution of reported incidents, with the involvement of HR or a dedicated ethics committee. Make sure everyone in the organization knows this process.
Walk the talk. Organization leaders must make long-term, authentic commitment to live the organization values. Lead by example. Follow-through on commitments. Develop trust. Model transparency. Share information with teams, even when it's challenging or sensitive. Recognize and reward behaviors that align with organization values. Provide training and development. Put real resources – time and money – into establishing a culture based on respect.

Hold people accountable.

This goes back to respect. Everyone has a clear vision, has defined the desired outcome, and they are working toward reaching those goals. Expect your team to do their jobs. Period.

Set Clear Expectations: Clearly define roles, responsibilities, and performance expectations for each team member. Ensure that everyone understands their individual and collective goals.
Provide Resources and Support: Ensure that your team has the necessary tools, updated technology, training, and support to accomplish their tasks effectively.
Address Issues Promptly: If a team member fails to meet their commitments, address the issue promptly and privately. Understand the underlying reasons and work together to find solutions. establish consequences for repeated failures in meeting responsibilities. Consistent consequences can reinforce the importance of accountability.

Ask for feedback.

When you value your employees’ voice, you build connections and trust.

Take a team assessment survey. Identify strengths and weaknesses in your team and get actionable results. Improve trust and team effectiveness with this invaluable evaluation tool.
Make 360-degree feedback evaluations part of the organization’s strategy to develop managers. Take the mystery out of them and improve manager performance with this powerful tool.

Great teams begin with a common goal. This goal anchors your employees, keeping them motivated and aligned.

“Teamwork is the ability to work together toward a common vision. The ability to direct individual accomplishments toward organizational objectives. It is the fuel that allows common people to attain uncommon results.” – Andrew Carnegie

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