How do you know your department needs a stronger sense of teamwork?
A lack of teamwork can manifest in a variety of ways. It may look like missing a project deadline because team members didn’t communicate with each other. Or it could look like consistently missing your sales goals each month. It could even look like an employee quitting because they were sick of co-workers competing instead of working together.
If any of these things are happening in your department, then you have a problem! Thankfully, though, with the right strategies, you can build teamwork in your department.
How Working Remotely Impacts Teamwork
With the rise of COVID-19, millions of employees started working from home. And even as of late September, as many as 33% of people are “always” working from home and 25% are “sometimes” working from home.
But how does working remotely affect the sense of teamwork in a department?
First of all, it can make communication more difficult. If an employee has a complicated question, they can’t simply walk over to their co-worker’s cubicle or their manager’s office to get verbal clarification. And even though employees can still talk via phone call, video chat, messages, and email, the lack of in-person connection can make communication more complicated.
The distractions of home life can also prove to be a challenge, whether from a partner, children, pets, outside noise, or household tasks.
Lastly, the temptation to overwork is harder to ignore when working from home. After all, with working remotely, the lines between work and non-work get blurred. A July 2020 study found that people spent an average of 48.5 extra minutes on work per day. Plus, their meetings increased by 13% and they sent an average of 1.4 more emails per day.
Some employees working from home feel they need to prove they can accomplish just as much as—if not more than—what they accomplished in the office. Overwork, though, can quickly lead to burnout and, as a result, feelings of resentment toward superiors and other team members.
Why Teamwork in Your Department Is So Important
The truth is that, without teamwork, your office or department will never fulfill its potential or achieve the success your company really wants.
As John Maxwell says in his book The 17 Indisputable Laws of Teamwork, “The truth is that teamwork is at the heart of great achievement. The question isn’t whether teams have value. The question is whether we acknowledge that fact and become better team players.”
Maxwell got it right—true success comes when people collaborate as a team.
If you’re facing a huge goal as a department right now, your best chance for attaining it is to build teamwork.
But before we dive into how to do that, let’s look at a few ways that teamwork can strengthen your department and help you reach your goals.
Teamwork builds morale in your department.
When a team is low on morale, it affects their entire output. When team members don’t feel valued, heard, or appreciated, they’re not as likely to give their best work.
Plus, low morale can easily lead to employee burnout—and it’s no secret that burned-out employees are more likely to quit.
And before you say that’s not a big deal, realize that the average cost of replacing a salaried employee is approximately six to nine months’ salary, according to the Society for Human Resource Management.
If your department tends to put employees in silos, you’ve probably recognized the tendency toward burnout or stress. While some people enjoy working alone on a project, no one wants to feel alone. No one wants to feel like the weight of the world (or the business) rests on their shoulders. When this happens, employees begin to feel like they’re viewed as a number instead of a person.
Yet by focusing on building teamwork in your department, you can lower the risk of employee burnout and turnover. Teaching your employees to communicate with each other and depend on one other can foster a strong desire to work together to reach their goal.
This is the essence of teamwork.
Teamwork leads to higher productivity and greater results.
When one person tackles a project, their output depends on them alone. If they’re having a great day, they may produce excellent work. But if they’re having a bad day or they’re sick or tired, it can affect their performance.
This is the beauty of focusing on teamwork—a team can produce excellent results even if one person is having an off day. If one co-worker falters, she has a team of peers who can fill in for her or help her accomplish her tasks. (This is one reason cross-training employees in a department is so important.)
Whether you’re brainstorming, gathering and interpreting data, crafting a marketing campaign, or creating content, a team will always be stronger than an individual.
But there’s another reason that teamwork outperforms the individual every time—shared values.
When an entire team is clear on the values and mission driving a goal, each person’s work will align with that vision. This is only possible through teamwork. If employees in your department have an individual mindset without taking the team vision into consideration, their output is more likely to be out of sync.
The clearer the vision, the stronger the teamwork—and the better the results.
4 Ways to Build Teamwork in Your Department
It’s one thing to know why you should build teamwork. It’s another thing to know how to do so. Now that you’re clear on why fostering teamwork is so important for your department, let’s look at some practical team-building methods.
The great thing about these suggestions is that you can do them even if your office is working remotely. (No, we’re not going to suggest trust falls or off-site retreats.)
In fact, if your team doesn’t have that in-person interaction at the office, then these strategies are even more important.
1. Make each team member feel valued and heard.
Making employees feel valued goes beyond a yearly Christmas bonus or anniversary mug. It also goes beyond special awards for successful projects, which can easily make those who don’t receive recognition feel overlooked and slighted.
Instead, making people feel valued involves focusing on the individual. So how do you do this as a department manager or business owner? Harvard Business Review offers several valuable suggestions.
First, making employees feel valued starts with the CEO and the chain of leadership under her. Each leader in your company should touch base early and regularly with every person who reports to them or is under their direct supervision.
If you lead a team, ask yourself when you last met with each person you oversee. When you met with them, did you just talk about what you wanted them to improve? Or did you go a little deeper and discuss their individual experience on the team?
After hearing their experience, be sure to give honest feedback with a special emphasis on what they’re doing right. By reiterating what specifically you appreciate about the employee, you’re essentially telling them that their contribution truly matters to you and the company.
This is one of the best ways to foster teamwork and eliminate a sense of competition among team members. Employees are more willing to help each other when they feel secure in their own value.
Lastly, offer flexibility. If possible, give your team the option to work remotely. Even telling an employee to come in late after working extra hours the night before communicates that you care about their well-being.
A team that is given flexibility is more likely to be flexible with one another—and pitch in for each other when needed.
2. Model collaboration as a leader in the company.
Are you the type of leader who craves the spotlight? Or do you share your success with others?
Here’s another question for you: Are you the type of leader who wants to blaze the trail alone? Or do you collaborate with other departments in your company?
Your team needs to see you model collaboration—both with the people you lead and with other leaders in your company. As your employees watch you exemplify teamwork, they’ll have a clearer picture of how to work as a team.
Keep this in mind especially when you receive public praise for a job well done. Choose to be the kind of leader who humbly and unapologetically accepts praise—and yet is quick to point out when others deserve it, too.
Another trait your team needs to see in you is flexibility. When you prove to be flexible and willing to pitch in when needed, it teaches them that they can do the same for each other.
Note: Being flexible and pitching in is not the same as micromanaging! Pitching in means being willing to help when the designated person isn’t available—not taking over when you think they’re not doing it right.
3. Give your team opportunities to collaborate.
Now that your team has watched you model collaboration, it’s time to give them opportunities to practice with each other.
Perhaps you still have anxious nightmares about dreaded group projects in school. But thankfully, that’s not what we’re suggesting here. In school group projects, there was usually one or two people who ended up doing all the work while the rest of the group did the bare minimum.
That is not collaboration.
Collaboration is when every member of the team jumps into a project with the mindset of “How can I help?”
Focus on cultivating this attitude as the foundation of your team projects.
Remember to reiterate your team’s mission and values often. You might feel like a broken record, but repeating the mission is crucial if you want your team to keep it front of mind.
Finally, make sure that, when giving your team opportunities to collaborate, you allow them to operate in their strengths. Although it’s important to try to improve on our weaknesses, it’s much more effective to focus on honing our strengths. The same goes for the people on your team as you build teamwork.
4. Streamline systems so everyone can understand them.
Just as making the vision clear is crucial to a team’s success, so is making the systems clear.
Analyze your team’s systems and ask yourself: Do these systems make sense? Are they redundant in any way? Are there any unnecessary loopholes that make the process harder on my team?
One way to make systems clear is by labeling any paperwork involved. For example, if you manage an accounting department, you want to make sure each invoice is clearly labeled according to what step of the process it’s in.
That’s why we offer self-inking stamps with stock messages. Our clients find it much easier to streamline their systems by using our stamps to mark their files with phrases like “Copy,” “Past Due,” “Paid,” “Faxed,” and more.
Or if you lead a team at a construction company, you want to make sure all plans, contracts, and proposals are accurately labeled. Many of our clients used our custom self-inking stamps to label their files “Reviewed,” “Revised,” “Approved,” and “As-Built.”
We also offer signature stamps to simplify the approval process for leaders and managers.
What other methods have you used to build teamwork in your department? Let us know in the comments!