While it’s long been said that “many hands make light work,” a team is more than just a group of people working on the same task. For a team to truly succeed, the individuals need to develop a cohesive bond that allows them to work in synch with each other. Even after you’ve assembled the right people for the job, your work isn’t done. Crafting a team is an active, ongoing process. An efficient team is like a complex machine, and like any other machine, it requires maintenance.
Outline clear roles for each team member.
One of the best ways to build team unity is to make it clear what each team member’s role is. Build a specific process that your team members follow when performing regular tasks, and make each team member’s part in that process very clear. This helps to prevent a situation where one team member ends up doing all the work, which can foster resentment. The other team members may be performing other crucial job functions, but even the feeling of unfairly getting stuck with work that should be divided can lead to a toxic environment. Make sure your team members understand what their role is, as well as the roles of their coworkers, if possible.
Make sure every member of the team feels valued.
In addition to ensuring that team members are aware of their roles, they should also recognize the value they bring to the team. According to a Gallup poll, the number one reason Americans leave their jobs is because they don’t feel that they are appreciated. This certainly includes paying them a fair wage, but it goes beyond that.
When you meet with your team, you should encourage feedback. Make sure that everyone is included in the process and has the opportunity to speak. They don’t have to speak up all the time—in fact, some team members may prefer not to—but it’s important that they know they’re welcome to add to the discussion and that their feedback will be given fair consideration.
Actively listen to your team’s recommendations, as well. Even if you disagree with an idea or suggestion, don’t just dismiss it out of hand. Give it fair consideration. If a team member feels that his or her thoughts are being ignored, it can lead to a toxic environment and damage the team’s cohesion.
Train your team, and revisit that training. (Just once won’t cut it.)
Teams evolve over time. Key team members leave, new workers are hired, dynamics shift, and over time, you can end up with a completely team than you started with. Turnover is particularly common within a sales team, which is why it’s crucial to train them on a regular basis. New employees of any type need to be shown the way things are done within your organization, but veteran team members also often need a course correction. Whether it’s sales management training to unite your team around the best way to move a lead through the sales pipeline or a refresher course on workflow management, training your team helps to ensure that everyone is at the top of their game.
Monitor and discuss team dynamics.
As a manager, it’s your job to keep an eye on the business process, but it’s also one of your key responsibilities to be aware of the dynamics between your team members. Take note of what is working and what is not.
When you meet with your team members as a group, have open discussions about how you can solve problems the team is having. Don’t use the time to criticize each other or whine about circumstances—use the meetings as opportunities to solve the problem together. Encourage discussions, and recognize positive team achievements.
Meet with your team members individually, as well. Sometimes, there are things a worker doesn’t want to say in a group setting, but they will often open up in a more private environment. Take note of your workers’ concerns and address those concerns.
Hopefully, over time, your team members will learn to communicate better and grow to trust one another. Healthy communication is at the heart of any effective team, and encouraging that communication is one of your most important jobs. Invest the effort into facilitating a conversation among all members of your team and they’ll start to come through for you and, perhaps more importantly, for each other.