Teams can be fun, engaging and inspiring. But as a team manager at work, what you really want is essentially a productive and effective team. So what are the common habits of highly effective teams, and how can YOU also achieve that with your own team? The most effective teams:
- Take the initiative. The key to being proactive, is realizing that you hold the responsibility for your own actions and decisions. By understanding that you yourself are the one who will either benefit or suffer from the consequences of your actions, you will naturally take the initiative to plan for possible future problems, make an effort to improve the situation, and think of ways to become more productive. Blaming others or leaving the work (and thus your fate) to others may make you feel better temporarily, but it is not effective at all.
- Focus on the final goal. Effective teams have a very clear vision of what their future should be, and are focused on a final goal that they must work towards. As Steve Covey says, it is the “ability to envision, to see the potential, to create with [their] minds what [they] cannot at present see with [their] eyes”. Develop a team missions statement right at the start. Focus on that mission, and work towards that goal collectively as a team. Check back on that mission regularly, and use it as your guiding pole, to make sure that you are always on the right path to success. This would avoid getting distracted by other work that has no impact on success, and would lead your team to focus their time and energy in achieving the final goal in the fastest time possible.
- Set priorities. Teams have limited time and resources. They cannot do everything and do them all great, within a limited timeframe. Thus, to be effective, they have to extremely results oriented. As a team, decide your priorities based on the missions statement, and focus only on the important tasks.
- Create win-wins. A good and effective team works together in a cooperative manner. Collaborative team members COMPLETE one another, and not COMPETE with one another. Too often, people think that in order for one party to win, the other needs to lose. But in a win-win mindset, everyone wins, the end result benefits everyone. Make your team understand that “there is no such thing as a self-made man. You will reach your goals only with the help of others.” Hence, seek win-win agreements that are mutually beneficial and satisfying, so that resources are focused on achieving the actual team goal instead of being wasted on trying to stand out within the team.
- Seek to understand. Many people listen with the intent to reply, not to understand. This habit is especially evident when there are disagreements within a team. Disagreeing is not necessarily a bad thing, but it is only healthy if used correctly! Communication is extremely important in teams, particularly during disagreements. Strive to understand first, before seeking to be understood. Everyone in the team must understand the other person’s point before starting to defend their own perspective. Don’t hear with your ears, but listen with your heart and mind. (read more on how to reap the full benefits of disagreements here)
- Synergize. One plus one equals 3, 4, 5, 6…. Two heads are better than one. When a team is truly synergizing, they can come up with solutions that are way better than the sum of all the single solutions each person could have come up with individually. They can achieve a lot more than each of them could have done so independently. An effective team understands this principle well, and strives towards amplified success by tapping on the synergistic effects of teamwork. To generate synergy within your team, stay open-minded, communicate well, and actively brainstorm new solutions to old problems together.
- Maintain work-life balance. Great teams, no matter how amazing, are still made up of humans. Humans with flesh, blood and feelings. They should thus have the time to rest and re-energize. As a team manager, ensure that you preserve and enhance this greatest asset you have — your team. There are many ways to do this: Go on a team outing; allow team members to work from home to take care of a child; have coffee breaks together; encourage them to work out at the gym; etc. Only when your greatest asset is well taken care of, can your team be effective when they work.
Steve Covey’s best selling book “The seven habits of highly effective people” is a great read. Highly recommended!