Maintaining team cohesion
8 Tips to achieve successful and sustainable teamwork.
Written by Joshua Karl – Freelance HR Consultant – Guest blogger for We Love Work
Looking across the room, I can hear and feel the laughter coming from the recruitment team. They are so close-knit, always laughing and celebrating. They make a big deal out of birthdays and holidays and their support of each other extends in and out of the workplace. They go for lunches together and operate as a cohesive unit; it’s beautiful to witness. What is also evident from watching them is how genuine their interactions with each other are.
Taking a seriously long and hard think about team cohesion in addition to trolling through some academic articles online, I decided to ask them as living, breathing examples of what and how an ideal work culture operates. Also having myself worked in about 14 professional teams at this point in an employee and consultant capacity, there are a few reflections that match my recent observations.
When it comes to team cohesion in the workplace, many managers try to avoid the topic because it often takes a lot of time and effort. When it comes down to it, however, the benefits of having a high-functioning team cannot be overstated: increased trust, enhanced performance and productivity, more job satisfaction, staff retention and an overall sense of community are just some of the advantages. When you add all this together, what you get is a cohesive bunch of people working in sync towards the same goal, with a marked absence of frustration, resentment, suspicion, avoidance of accountability, lack of respect, and all those things that make people hate going to work.
Cohesion is a particular team dynamic that refers to how the individual members of a team work together and interact to promote a sense of “feeling part of the team”. Cooperation, mutual respect, effective communication, responsibility and ownership are all elements that combined together to promote team cohesion. In turn, team cohesion determines how successful a team is. Only positive outcomes for both the individual and the team can come from ensuring cohesion. It is the “glue” that holds a team together; keeping its members focused and determined to reach their common goals.
Below are some tips and considerations for achieving team success.
- Establish a mission. The most important factor is your team’s mission. Decide the goals of the group and how you will accomplish those goals. In a professional hierarchical setting, this would be a clear set of objectives, communicated explicitly by management.
2.Set appropriate, realistic goals. These should be tailored to and based around the skills and capabilities of the individual team members. Studies consistently show that when people are set realistic, challenging goals (rather than goals that are too easy or too difficult) they are more likely to persevere and remained motivated toward the goals. Strategically it’s also important to have metrics allowing team members to evaluate their performance and the connection between the work of the team and key business indicators.
3.Practice teamwork. Team-building exercises are the best way to see how individual members will work together to accomplish a goal. Before your team has to work on important tasks, see how they handle something simple like an ice breaker. Who took the lead? Who worked well together? Use what you observe and apply it to real business objectives. Ensure you have team-based rewards and appraisal, not only individual incentives.
4.Praise often. People are much more likely to reach goals when they are praised and shaped in positive and instructive ways. Rather than embarrass, berate, or humiliate staff into performing better, find creative ways to praise for effort and encourage them to do a better job the next time round.
5.Generate enthusiasm. It’s no secret that when we are excited, we are more apt to be motivated to play hard and win. Managers who show positive enthusiasm almost always benefit by the team picking up on this energy, and as a result the team usually works with better focus, motivation, mental agility and resilience.
6.Commit to staff development. Savvy business leaders are always putting resources towards the continued education of their staff members, and helping to develop their skills that will enhance their value to the team. Sending your staff (and yourself) to seminars on communication, emotional intelligence, team building and leadership training are worthwhile as well. Remember to follow up on these courses by giving staff your ongoing support and ensuring learning is shared and implemented within the team and beyond.
7.Encourage collaboration. Every office needs some collaboration among staff members in order to make the work happen, but there are plenty of benefits to making that collaboration more effective. By creating a space where employees can get to know each other — even if they don’t work closely that often — then you will create a space that is more comfortable and that encourages more creative thinking and brainstorming. Having staff members that know each other and that work well together means that better work will get done more quickly and more innovation will come of it.
8. Empower employees to improve their own systems. One of the surest drains on employee morale I’ve seen is when staff are working with outdated conventions and systems that create inefficiency and diminish their ability to shine. Giving employees input in how to improve work processes lets you take advantage of their experience, improves adherence to policies, and builds a sense of ownership for the results of work. Let your employees know how they can suggest ideas for improving processes, automated tools, and customer relations conventions. Maybe there could be a specified time during team meetings to offer and discuss suggestions. Even if you ultimately choose not to make the change, your employees will appreciate being listened to.
I’ve realised through the research and conversations that went into this post that there is really nothing new or ground-breaking in the theory or practise in how you achieve this. What is very clear though is team cohesion does determine how effective and successful a team is; short and long term. Essentially, although there are some quick wins and immediate changes you can make, to get it right actually takes work and commitment from everybody. Remember; a team is not a group of people who work together. It’s a group of people who trust each other.