As much as Americans cherish ideas of rugged individualism, a major factor in whether organizations succeed or fail is the level of teamwork and collaboration they inspire. In fact, 86% of executives and employees in one study cited poor communication and lack of collaboration as a main reason for workplace failures.
Nowhere are the stakes higher than in a professional practice, where building and maintaining key client relationships depends on the combined contributions of skilled, ambitious professionals. No matter how team-oriented you believe your practice to be, it never hurts to review and ramp up your teamwork skills.
A football team has a clear, unambiguous objective: score more points than the opponent. In a business setting, teams without a similar goal line quickly lose focus, motivation and effectiveness. At the outset, make sure everybody understands what the team is supposed to accomplish, how success (or failure) will be defined and what the timeframe is.
Match the team size to the task
More team members on a specific project or goal means more brainpower — and also greater difficulty keeping the group focused and reaching consensus. Rather than putting everybody you can think of on the team, consider the size of the task and how long you have to complete it, and assign just enough members to get it done.
Teams backfire when people with poorly defined roles slide while one or two members shoulder most of the work. Even as members work toward mutual goals, make sure at the outset that each has specific areas of responsibilities, with measurable tasks and deadlines for reporting to the team on their progress.
Evaluate your meetings
When your team gathers in a conference room, does the highest-ranking person in the room do all the talking? Do junior associates speak up at their peril? If so, you’ve got prisoners, not team members. Regardless of rank, everybody should contribute to meetings confident that their views will be respected and considered.
Reward the whole team
Nobody wants to feel as though they’re laboring solely to advance someone else’s career. As important as it is to recognize individual achievement and promote individuals accordingly, be sure to spread the accolades around when your team accomplishes a goal.
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