team gathered around table

Teamwork is a term frequently and freely thrown around the workplace. But when was the last time you paused and evaluated the actual quality of your group’s teamwork?

Use this guide to help identify how to improve teamwork among your employees.

Why Is Teamwork Important?

Teamwork provides three key benefits:

1. Bolsters motivation: Stanford researchers discovered that when individuals work together, even when physically apart, their motivation increases. Specifically, groups assigned to complete a task together not only reported more interest in what they were doing, but they kept at the task 48% to 64% longer.

2. Improves performance: Empirical research suggests that the team’s performance is higher than individuals working alone. Diversity in thought enables teams to share ideas and produce quick and impactful results.

3. Increases morale: When individuals are each given a task that helps fulfill team goals and purpose, they experience a greater sense of belonging and security in their roles. This can help boost the morale of team members. Without this sense of purpose, organizations are at risk of having team members who are thinking about quitting twice as often as satisfied workforce members.

What Are the Qualities of Good Teamwork?

The following four qualities facilitate good teamwork:

1. Awareness of Strengths and Weaknesses

A successful team knows each member’s strengths and weaknesses. This knowledge can help team members identify opportunities for collaboration, leverage the group’s skills to improve productivity, and ultimately achieve success.

2. Holding Yourself and Others Accountable

Effective teamwork is built on the fact that each team member’s performance plays a significant role in the group’s success. Thus, working together requires individuals to be cognizant of their own limitations and be proactive in seeking support from the broader group when necessary.

Along with holding themselves accountable, each team member must also take the initiative to raise concerns when they spot problems within the group. This process requires a degree of trust within the group and the agreement that all the team members are working together to achieve this goal. When a team member notices an issue with another person’s performance that could potentially limit the group’s performance, that team member needs to directly address the concern for the sake of the group’s overall progress. Team leaders can ensure team members hold themselves and others accountable by fostering a team culture of accountability.

3. Understanding When to Seek Help

Team members must understand when to stretch themselves and when to ask for guidance or support. This requires self-awareness of one’s own strengths and limitations as well as knowledge of the strengths of others. If the task is taking longer than anticipated, if the needs are unclear, or if outside factors are impacting progress, it’s time to seek help.

On a team with quality teamwork, when individuals feel like they are beyond their comfort zones, they speak up. They know who to approach for support and come prepared with effective questions and a willingness to learn.

4. Boosting Learning & Development via Cross-Training

Cross-training strengthens teamwork by ensuring team success when members are absent or unavailable. Teams who have been cross-trained in each other’s responsibilities better understand the importance of each person’s role, can adapt to changing workloads, and help in delegating tasks to meet project timelines.

When teams cross-train, they support relationship-building across departments and provide teams with opportunities to work with individuals they may not normally encounter in a typical workday. Not only does cross-training help backfill on a project or task, but it also encourages individuals to continuously learn and grow skill sets.

team leader standing at head of table with team sitting around table

How to Improve Teamwork in the Workplace

Improving teamwork requires first reflecting on your expectations for your team members. Every team and organization is unique. Laying out these expectations and team characteristics will build the right foundation for a high-performing team environment.

1. Active Participation in Decision Making

Diversity of thought and skill in a team enhances innovation by 20%. As every person possesses unique strengths, team leaders can leverage those strengths to boost productivity.

How to Improve Active Participation in Decision Making

Active participation requires first creating a psychologically safe environment. Otherwise, individuals may not feel comfortable or confident with sharing their ideas and concerns.

  • Encourage team members to seek and provide feedback. Having courageous conversations is necessary for teamwork and growth. Create an environment that invites open and candid feedback.
  • Implement brainwriting sessions that allow individuals to work together. These sessions invite team members to jump-start the problem-solving and decision-making processes. Welcome all ideas in a brainstorming session and encourage quiet team members to participate. Withhold judgment on the viability of ideas until the creative process has ended. This ensures that all team members are heard and all ideas have been exhausted.
  • Model and promote empathy. Foster a culture of empathic leadership during team meetings. While it is important to drive for results, a leader must understand the experiences and needs of those they serve. This helps people feel like they belong and know how they contribute.

It may also be helpful to discuss learning and work styles. For example, while one person may thrive in group brainstorming sessions, others may need alone time to reflect. Discussing personal preferences as a team can help team members understand one another better and establish a more effective decision-making process.

2. Common Purpose

Teamwork encourages individuals to take on a collective mindset. This requires having a common purpose and empowering everyone to work toward it as a team. 79% of leaders believe purpose is essential to business success because it gives team members stakes in what they are doing and contributing to every day.

How to Support Purpose

Begin by discussing each person’s role on the team and how that role fits into the team’s objectives. Discuss how it impacts other roles within the team and what each member can do to help their team members succeed.

It’s easy to get tunnel vision on a day-to-day basis. Thus, having this conversation encourages team members to gain insight into the bigger picture.

Consider using the RACI framework during this discussion. The RACI framework helps clarify each team member’s role in order to prevent potential confusion or conflict.

RACI stands for:

  • Responsible: This individual performs the work for a given task.
  • Accountable: This person ensures the task is progressing as planned and ensures it gets done.
  • Consulted: This individual provides essential input on the work.
  • Informed: This team member receives information on how the task is progressing and its outcome.

Discussing each person’s role allows individuals to gain clarity on the team’s roles and responsibilities as well as helps them understand where to step in and to what capacity.

3. Use of Social and Collaborative Technologies

Teamwork involves integrating several moving parts so that the team can operate like a well-oiled machine. Using social and collaborative technologies can help your team work together effectively and efficiently.

How to Improve the Use of Technologies

Look at the current technologies your team uses. Get your team’s feedback on how useful these tools are and then use this data to make the right technological changes.

McKinsey notes that social technology platforms reduce manual searching by 35% and drive more efficient and effective collaboration.

Consider the following social, engagement, and project management tools to kick-start the exploration process:

Elevate Teamwork with CMOE

Successful teamwork manifests in various ways, and there are a multitude of areas where teams can find opportunities to improve. CMOE’s Team Development Products & Services help you tap into your group’s strengths and minimize limitations. Let our team craft a customized development plan for you. Reach out for more information or to speak with our advisors on how we can help your team.