We’ve all heard that two heads are better than one, but why?
All of us have unique talents, strengths and weaknesses. Through teamwork, individuals join forces to collaborate on projects and produce elevated results that they wouldn’t have been able to achieve on their own.
But improving your teamwork skills takes know-how and practice. Like in athletics, teams in the workplace must understand the rules of the game, how to communicate, and each team member’s role.
We’ll discuss the importance of effective teamwork and the skills needed to ensure your projects flow smoothly. It’s time to create impressive teams and reap the rewards of working well together.
What are teamwork skills, and why are they important?
Even if you enjoy being independent, it’s best not to go it alone for some activities. Divers plunge into the depths of the ocean in pairs, hikers climb mountains in groups, and racecar drivers have an entire pit crew supporting them.
The point is that we can all use some support from time to time. At work, solving issues in a team is often more effective as team members offer different experiences and perspectives. In the extreme sporting examples above, team members provide a safety net. Your coworkers and team members are that safety net. When it’s time to take a proverbial leap to start a new project or introduce an idea, employees will feel safer if a supportive team backs them. This way, issues and responsibilities don’t fall onto one person.
Strong teams work through problems, innovate, and increase productivity by dividing workloads. These teams grow because they learn from others’ strengths and collectively compensate for any individual weaknesses.
Forming a high-performing team has its challenges. Check out the following qualities of great teams to understand how to overcome the challenges of working as a team.
Examples of teamwork skills:
- Clear communication
- Speedy conflict resolution
- Active listening
- Effective feedback
- Autonomy, or lack of micromanagement
- Empathy and respect
- Ownership for mistakes
- Acknowledgment of a shared goal
- Respect for others’ ways of working
- Time management
What teamwork skills are essential to the workplace?
The skills and qualities we addressed are important, but there are a few from the list worth diving into deeper. If we had to pick what the 3 important skills for teamwork and collaboration are, they’d be as follows:
1. Clear communication
Communication skills make all the difference. Imagine sitting with a group of coworkers to make a plan for the next quarter without saying a single word. It would be impossible to make any progress. Encourage everyone to share ideas without letting one voice dominate the conversation, especially in group settings. Listen while others are talking, seek to understand before offering up opinions, and be open to learning something new.
2. Conflict resolution
There’ll always be differences of opinion in groups, so you need a plan to resolve conflicts, seek understanding and compromise. Ensure the entire team knows what to expect by setting clear rules, boundaries, and deadlines. Conflict resolution is highly dependent on good communication skills. Teams that talk together resolve issues together.
A strong sense of responsibility keeps groups accountable. Team members must work together to resolve issues to foster a sense of respect for one another and build trust. Plus, responsibility inspires an “all hands on deck” mentality: Everyone must do their part to fix problems that affect the whole team’s success.
Many skills contribute to how your team works together, but these are the core components you should address to tackle your team’s troubles.
How to improve teamwork skills: 4 tips
Knowing what skills make a team great is just one part of the equation if you're ready to build better teams in your work environment. The second part is implementing those skills and sticking with them. Here’s how you can get started:
- Practice: Good teamwork doesn’t necessarily come naturally, even among colleagues who work well together. Practice effective communication and conflict resolution. It may help to set rules of engagement for your first team project. It’s OK if people make mistakes at first; that’s how they learn. Over time, adhering to the group’s “rules” will become second nature for everyone.
- Get feedback: When team dynamics go awry, it’s time to adjust. Check in with your team if the communication is off or conflicts aren’t resolved quickly and peacefully. Ask group members for their feedback or conduct a survey. If needed, have a third party step in to observe the group and give constructive feedback from an outsider’s perspective. It’s also a good idea to talk about how the team is progressing, even when things are going well. Identifying strengths and areas of improvement will always benefit the team.
- Leverage differences: This point is especially important in a job setting because not everyone works the same way. Each person has their own strengths and areas of improvement, and everyone has something unique to offer. Some team members may be more verbally reserved but shine at written tasks. Use peoples’ differences to your team’s advantage and assign tasks to members based on their strengths. Avoid becoming frustrated with others on your team over their weaknesses. View these as growth opportunities.
- Embrace tolerance and patience: It's natural for team members to feel stressed and irritable when working under pressure or a deadline. Some may feel the work would get done faster if they did it themselves. But the team’s there for a reason, ultimately ensuring you complete the project correctly and efficiently. Take a deep breath if you find yourself getting frustrated. When there’s a difference of opinions, listen intently, talk calmly, and try to reach a middle ground.
Teamwork skills in action
Imagine a team without any communication guidelines trying to solve a complex problem or tackle a debate. In the absence of rules on how to interact, team members forget to actively listen, respect their peers who are speaking, and talk over one another. This wastes time and creates frustration, if not resentment. Knowing how to speak kindly and openly is crucial to seeing success.
Consider another team where no one takes responsibility for their errors. When an issue arises, there’s no accountability framework in place, leading to people wrongfully assigning blame and, again, resentment. If you don’t know the source of a problem, you’ll have a harder time fixing it. And if you already don’t know how to communicate, you’re on a difficult path to finding solutions.
The main point from the previous two examples? Having rules and guidelines helps teams work well, get along, and interact respectfully. But more important than rules and guidelines are the teamwork skills that help create them. Remember that you all share a common goal.
Why should you invest time in making good teams?
Taking the time to train teams to function effectively is well worth the investment. As we mentioned above, teams don’t immediately thrive: It takes patience and collaboration. Set rules and boundaries, and create contingency plans for any conflicts. The team will work more efficiently in the future, saving far more time and energy than the initial investment.
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