Teambuilding: A Guide for Business
In union there is strength, read our guide on teambuilding and make sure your team are all pulling in the right direction
Effective teamwork is the lifeblood of any business. Whether it is developing policies, a new product, or working towards a sales goal, people working together in harmony can produce results much greater than the sum of their individual inputs.
Luckily, there is a skill to forming a good team, and by following a few simple rules you can create genuinely productive teams time and time again.
Which people should I choose to form my team?
When assembling a team to deliver a project, there are a few important things to remember.
Firstly, size does matter. Keep the number of team mates between five and 12 people. Larger than this and the process loses efficiency as people will constantly need to be brought up to speed. If your goals necessitate a larger team than this, consider redefining your objectives, or splitting the group up into smaller sub-teams with specific responsibilities.
Secondly, assemble people with needed skill sets. It’s essential you have the expertise you need in all aspects of the process; for example, if you are developing a new food product, you might bring a scientist on board to advise on technical aspects of the process.
Thirdly, bring together diverse personalities. A homogenous line-up ensures stale thinking; a range of personal styles is valuable when solving problems. Even so-called ‘difficult’ people can bring a fresh approach. At the same time, don’t be completely blind to the prospect of friction between incompatible people.
Who should I include in the initial briefing?
You need to set out your goals and structure well initially if the team is to succeed in its objectives, and this should be done in an initial briefing.
During the initial briefing, you should make sure to narrow it down to just one team goal. To do this, decide on an overarching objective then break it down to define a specific job for each team member – making sure to minimise potential overlaps or clashes. Ask for input on how the goals could be changed or refined, and lay out a clear chain of command.
Make sure it’s clear how the team will function itself. Ensure this by agreeing on techniques for decision making and levels of responsibility. Furthermore, explain how you plan to monitor the performance of specific team members through team meetings and quality audits.
For the benefit of everyone, its best you are clear about how you’ll deal with disagreements. If two team members disagree, they should first try and resolve it between themselves; if this fails, the matter should be brought to the team leader.
How should I lead the team?
More than any other aspect of team building, leading the team is more art than science; some people have innate leadership qualities whilst others find it more difficult. Despite this, there are some techniques that can be learnt.
Organisation is one of the most important attributes of a potential team leader. It’s important as a leader to keep goals SMART (specific, measurable, agreed, realistic, time-limited). Delegate smartly and put a quality-control system in place.
You should also have a system in place to deal with situations when things go wrong – this might include assigning team members as backup options for important roles in the event of the illness of their colleague.
Similarly, when the going gets tough or even if things become a bit mundane, your ability to motivate your team is paramount to the success of your business and your ability as a leader.
As the figurehead of the team, others will follow your example – so be enthusiastic and optimistic about the team’s goals and the prospects of success. Dish out praise when it is due, and make sure achievements are recognised publicly. Additionally, practise what you preach; follow the team rules and procedures to the letter and keep an upbeat attitude when problems crop up.
Make sure to review the performance of your team. Keep an eye on how people are doing through a system of regular checks, and keep reviews upbeat, focusing any criticism on the positive steps people can take to address issues.
Throughout your team’s existence make sure to review your objectives regularly. Consider whether goals need to be changed as situations evolve, and the extra resources this might require.
You will need to take some tough decisions that may well make you unpopular in the short-term; have faith in your judgement and ride out the criticism so take responsibility.
Finally, while you’ll spend a lot of your time as a leader conducting meetings, knowing when and how to listen is as important.
Have an open-door policy and encourage people to come to you with problems early. If they are afraid to share issues with you, these problems may mount up until the situation turns into a disaster. At the same time, don’t let people undermine the team ethic by pushing for changes in private.
How do I make meetings productive?
Meetings are an invaluable tool for keeping things on track, but they must be properly managed. Meeting frequently is often a key to all team members singing from the same hymn sheet. Don’t just meet for the sake of it, though – keep the agenda of each meeting clear.
Circulate agendas well in advance and keep meetings short. Use meetings to update everyone on developments or to brief team members before embarking on challenging or unusual parts of a project.
Furthermore, make sure to involve everyone regardless of their ability. Encourage input with open questions – try not to suggest solutions yourself as you will box in the discussion. Encourage quieter members of the team to have their say by asking for their opinion directly.
When you have decided on a particular issue, wrap it up by assigning responsibility to a specific individual and give them a time-frame for completing the task. Make sure, at the end of the meeting, you review what has been agreed.
Finally, follow up on anything productive. Give everyone a copy of the minutes no more than two days after the meeting, and check up on progress at the next one.
How do I develop team spirit?
Team spirit is just as important for productivity as having clear goals. To develop a greater sense of team spirit, you should aim to create a confident yet relaxed environment in your team’s work space.
Making your fellow team members feel valued is key. If you know how individuals like to work and have a good idea of their skills, you will be able to allocate responsibility with this in mind – leading to greater enthusiasm for the job.
Additionally, stay away from favouritism. Even if you get on better with some people more than others, it is crucial that everyone feels their input is valuable.
Encourage learning by giving team members with complementary skills the opportunity to learn from each other. Provide support and any other necessary training so all team members have the skills and nous required to carry out their tasks.
Furthermore, make sure to reward people. Find out what motivates people and use this to motivate them – is it money, time off or a greater share or responsibility that they crave? Make sure rewards are dished out promptly and only when they are deserved.
Finally, encourage people to relax together. Social events such as a day out or just a simple trip to the pub can help break down boundaries and develop a common ethos.
How do I deal with problems?
When bringing a disparate group of people together in pursuit of a common goal, issues will inevitably crop up. How you deal with them is the crucial part and very telling as your ability as team leader.
Disagreements between team members is probably the most common problem you’ll come across in this regard.
If this manifests itself through personal criticism during a meeting, try and bring the conversation back on track by focusing on what someone can do to fix the problem rather than apportioning blame.
If you know two team members simply don’t get on, try and increase the distance between them where possible.
Don’t be afraid to drop someone altogether if they simply cannot function with the other members of the team.
Rivalries between teams can be another regular occurrence within a business. You should be at pains to remind everyone that you are, ultimately, pulling towards a common goal; invite members of other teams to attend rival teams’ meetings. Organise social teambuilding activities, again, to break down inter-team barriers.
However, do be prepared to hold a spontaneous review if an issue arises – poor decision making etc. Analyse the decision-making process itself to spot flaws – was everyone consulted on an issue and did everyone genuinely agree on a course of action?
When addressing underperformance, you need to obtain a consensus throughout the team that there is something wrong.
This may seem obvious, but if certain team members are in denial, nothing will get done. Bring in an outsider to sit in on meetings and provide a frank, objective view on how the team is doing.
Especially towards the end of a project’s life, there is a risk a team can lose motivation and focus as operations slow down and stop.
Combat this by planning a formal ending that everyone can look forward to, such as an end-of-project party. You could also try getting the team to draft a press release announcing the good news of completion; this will focus people’s minds on the end goal.