While there is no ‘I’ in team, the success or failure of said team often falls to one person: the leader. It’s possible to have a bad team with a good leader but it’s almost impossible to have a good team with a bad leader; such is their influence on everything that happens within the organisation.
Therefore, none of the below will work unless you’re already a confident, commanding, conscientious leader. But even this isn’t a guarantee for success, as building an effective team environment is as much an art as it is a science.
The three below points, however, should at least serve as the sturdy framework from which you can build something bold and brilliant.
Establish a collective vision
Set more team goals than you do individual ones, and prioritise them. Whether that’s new business won or awards achieved, make sure everyone is working towards the same end and buying into a collective vision.
Team goals also require team rewards so, while promotions and pay rises will always be important, try not to alienate employees by consistently commending a few top performers. The ‘Employee of the Month’ scheme – which has now largely been discredited – is a perfect example of how you can spend too much energy on individual rewards; what’s the point of investing resource into rewarding your employees if you’re only making one person happy to the disdain of everyone else?
To create an effective team environment it’s also mandatory that your team has a collective personality – what do you want your team to be known for? Whether it’s honesty, transparency, creativity, having a few shared traits that you build your team around will help guarantee continued achievement, rather than success which depends on a few key individuals which you will lose as soon as they leave the organisation.
Create opportunities for collaboration
Involve your team as much as possible when establishing the above processes in order to establish a healthy, collaborative environment from the get go.
It’s fine having grand notions of what your team should look like and what you believe its central values are but if you’re not giving your employees any time to foster them then you’re wasting your time. This ranges from the layout of the office to after-work drinks on a Friday. An open, collaborative workspace will help engender an open, collaborative work environment, while work socials are key to allowing your colleagues to get to know each other in an informal environment where they can loosen their collars a bit.
Collaboration works so well towards creating an effective team environment because it requires communication. The more your team member’s understand one another’s roles and capabilities, the better they’ll work as a unit.
Listen and learn
At the beginning of this blog I stated that creating an effective team environment is both an art and a science, and here’s why. You can do as much planning beforehand as possible (the science) but you’re always going to need to make tweaks based on the different characters within your team and their needs/wants (the art).
Try and learn as much about each individual as possible – an infinite process that will requires your constant attention. Distilling each team members ambitions into the wider collective vision while still keeping everyone motivated is a difficult task and not something even the best leaders get right every time. Don’t leave it until someone leaves the business to understand that you got it wrong. Seek feedback as often as appropriate, whether that’s in the form of performance appraisals, anonymous online feedback forums or town hall style meetings.
The more your team are feeding back into the process the more they will feel as though they have a stake in the success of the team as a whole.
All for one, one for all
Each team is unique and therefore there is no exact way to guarantee your team’s success, however the above is a tried and tested three-point plan that can serve as a useful blueprint for nurturing a healthy team environment.
Underperforming or unqualified individuals will sometimes hamper your team, and it’s your job as leader to either train them up and get them singing from the same hymn sheet as everyone else or weed them out of the business. Not every bad apple is salvageable – even the great man-manager Sir Alex Ferguson had to let go of a few players who refused to buy into the collective vision.
This is not to say that your team should consist of an army of clones made in your image – diversity is an essential ingredient to high-performing teams – but that each individual should at least share the same essential values and ambitions as their colleagues.