"It's amazing what you can accomplish as long as you don't care who gets credit."
Harry Truman spoke these words, and they quickly became a mantra for competitive teams. Great players want to play with great players. Talented colleagues want to work alongside their equals.
Here’s the catch, though: As a manager, it’s your job to cultivate camaraderie. And you better own your responsibility, because without structure and purpose, your most talented workers will happily bounce.
So if you’re feeling dissension, it’s time to stop blaming your squad, look hard in the mirror and facilitate some old-fashioned “we’re in it to win it” teamwork.
Creating effective teams
Great teamwork facilitators are chronic communicators and bridge-builders. Most managers don’t take this to heart, which is why Visix statistics indicate that three-quarters of employers want their workers to collaborate but only 18% of employees receive feedback regarding their communication skills.
Unless you’re invested and telling people things like, “This is Jade — you’re going to wish you had her 60 hours a week. Use her time wisely,” you’ll never get the most from your people. By focusing on setting up talented folks for success, you’re planting the seeds for them to grow into confident, autonomous culture bearers.
Recently, we divided my company’s content team into internal and external production. I headed up the former. On Tuesday, I tweaked my schedule; on Wednesday, I handed the reins to my No. 2. But I didn’t just say, “Good luck!” I gave everyone a vision of how I expected team members to treat one another. Now, they’re killing it.
This isn’t to suggest that you can’t bring in an outside teamwork facilitator. Aligning everyone’s duties for optimal function might be better handled by an objective outsider. Hiring a professional facilitator isn’t an admission that you can’t do your job: In fact, it can be a smart move to get the benefits that come from high-performing, engaged teams.
How to facilitate teamwork
If you’ve ever been around a truly admirable team that seemed to work intuitively, you’ll never forget the experience. They buzz when on Slack, interact without hesitation and seem to know exactly what to do next. Even when their performance isn’t on display, they do the right thing and take calculated risks. Energy flows, results show and the company wins.
Want to get your team’s motor running the same way? Follow some proven tactics to make sure your team’s objectives are met:
1. Be a competent manager.
Nothing wounds a stellar culture than the cluelessness of an incompetent manager. Instead of hiding behind ignorance, seek knowledge all day, every day. And be sure to admit when you don’t know something and you need more information. You’ll gain trust from your team members much faster if you stay honest and play to your strengths.
2. Hire likable employees.
Regardless of how much you buy in to the adage, “Hire for culture; train for skill,” you need to build a team of personable people. Not sure how to gauge someone’s likability? We’ve found that tryout interviews expose red flags very quickly. Use similar strategies to identify people you think work well in a group together.
3. Stop being a control freak.
There’s nothing worse than a manager who pretends to give work away and then continually pops back in with last-minute overrides. That causes stress and reduces performance among team members. Work to set all your expectations upfront, then delegate tasks and stay out of the fray.
4. Communicate what “great” looks like.
Speaking of setting expectations, be sure you do so as clearly as possible. People might not understand what you want if you take only a moment to explain. It’s important to make your targets achievable, but not for a loner. People work together more effectively when they feel like a target is too far above them to complete on their own.
5. Treat everyone like family.
It’s on you to care about your people and treat them with respect, just as you would your kids. Children only learn to argue and fight when they’re given the example, after all. Be like Alex Cora, the Boston Red Sox manager who facilitated a team of champions. How did he do it? As one player noted to ESPN, Cora “just has a way of making you believe.”
Every team in your department could become the stuff legends are made of. They just need some help to find their rhythm. Once they do, you can stand back and watch the magic happen.