How to Create Effective Teamwork in the Workplace

The Characteristics of Effective Teamwork

What good is a group of bodies at your business working independently from each other? For the best chance at success, your employees must work in concert to achieve the reward of being a well-oiled machine.

So how do we get there? Anytime you’re working in groups, teams, units or whatever term your business may deem to the party, it’s always important to have a common purpose.

Teams are assembled to perform a variety of tasks, such as seeking ways to improve effectiveness and profitability or to find the right candidate to fill that recently opened position. One characteristic that all effective groups share is the ability to take responsibility as a group to deliver on the task at hand. When a group fails, it’s typically because they failed to meet a few specific aspects that make a successful team: group dynamics, accountability, competency and not having a clear goal in mind.

Setting a Goal

Having a common goal seems to be a simple thing to accomplish, but many teams will struggle to immediately agree on what a final resolution should look like. Some members may not understand the goal, some will not “buy-in” to the larger picture, and some are not content with the role assigned to them (whether they believe it is too much responsibility or not enough). To make matters worse, sometimes members will feel intimidated to ask any questions and will just nod their head in agreement even if they are feeling this way.

A way I have seen this overcome in the corporations I have worked for is by setting SMART goals: Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Results-Based and Time-Bound. Rather than being tasked to resolve all customer issues, you will be tasked to utilize the ticket system to resolve the clients concern by responding within six minutes to the initial instance and determining the root cause to resolve the issue within six responses.

Establishing Group Dynamics

Put simply, having a diverse group that is filled with people of different backgrounds, skills and ideas is far better than having all like-minded individuals with similar experiences. Group dynamics has a basic foundation: the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.

By having various backgrounds and skill sets, you are opening the group up to a wider range of ideas and experiences. Some of the most influential experiences I’ve encountered have been debating with someone over an opposing viewpoint. Not only did it allow both parties to express their ideas, it allowed the opportunity to evaluate their argument and consider why they think that way. Healthy conflict should be encouraged as it promotes a free exchange of ideas, ultimately benefiting everyone involved. (Just remember, at the end of the day we are all adults and should finish our task without holding grudges.)

Sharing Accountability

A team must share accountability for their successes as well as their failures. This is especially important in business – imagine a department is tasked to finish a project and the whole group is held responsible to the deadline. Sounds familiar, no? By doing so, you’re creating a mutually collaborative environment. No one wants to be the one that brought the wrath of failure upon the group by not contributing their fair share.

This type of shared responsibility ensures that everyone feels the pressure to constantly improve. The best teams will hold each other accountable as well as taking direction from the team leader. If everyone feels the need to perform for the group and share responsibility, you won’t need to spend as much time on performance management and corrective actions.

Utilizing Individual Competencies

While having a diverse group is important, that group also needs to be filled with people that have the skills required to complete the task. Asking Larry from Accounting to assist in the development of a new product demonstration for Sales is unlikely to yield the results you’re looking for. However, looking for outside input from Larry into the required number of new product sales to reach your companies “numbers” is a good idea. People will be most successful where their skills are best utilized and appreciated.

Not only should the members of the team have the basic skills for the task, they need to be the right fit for your culture. A competent member will show a commitment to the goal and be proactive in feedback. Remember, we have a diverse group, so your members will also need to mesh with these personalities in a professional and social manner.

What Success Looks Like

When a clear purpose is defined and the items above are utilized, an atmosphere is created where you will see successful, collaborative efforts. You will see healthy conflict—debate within a group can often lead to new ideas. Members will feel free to express their ideas and understand their role within the group better. Remember, there is no right way to do things, only guidelines from successful teams in the past. The best characteristics will combine and evolve within your organization and in the end will lead to greater productivity.

All hands in!

2013-07-31T06:30:24+00:00 July 31st, 2013|


  1. sloot pumpernickel October 16, 2013 at 1:02 am - Reply

    I thought perhaps my ears were ringing.. alas, twas the low hum of buzzwords buzzing about. *Yawn*

  2. Peter Cartier October 16, 2013 at 8:29 am - Reply

    Thanks Sloot, you seem like you’d be a real pleasure in the workplace…

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