It’s never easy leading a team, regardless of how many members you have. When different types of people are grouped together with different temperaments, miscommunication can occur, which inhibits workplace productivity. As a result, it can drive you to climb the walls. With a bit of tact, however, you can get your team to reach great professional heights.
According to legendary basketball coach Phil Jackson, “The strength of the team is each individual member. The strength of each member is the team.”
Even though leading a team can be challenging, working in a team can motivate, inspire, and drive employees. It is important to remember, though, that putting together a team at work does not guarantee its success right away. To be truly effective, a team must adopt a variety of positive habits and behaviors. And here are 12 such habits.
1. Quality 1:1s are scheduled every week or biweekly.
In terms of 1:1s, it’s difficult to put a value on them. Or, so we thought. But, we now have plenty of data to measure this essential soft skill.
Studies show regular 1:1s can boost productivity, reduce stress, solve bottled-up frustrations, and more.
As reported by Gallup: “On average, only 15% of employees who work for a manager who does not meet with them regularly are engaged; managers who regularly meet with their employees almost tripled that level of engagement.”
Similarly, a report from MHA in 2021 showed that talking to a manager about stressful things at work was strongly tied to the most healthy workplaces.
Moreover, due to regular 1:1s, GE managed to “drive a fivefold productivity increase in just one year.”
Undoubtedly, 1:1s play a fundamental role in high-performing teams, regardless of industry. Most leaders, however, do not prepare adequately for or do not have these opportunities.
2. The main goal of all parties is the same.
Each of us has some goal when we start a new job or project. But do those goals align with the rest of your team?
The entire team’s goal must be the same, even if some team members have different objectives. To be truly successful, a team must have the same principal goals and strive to achieve them all. In an environment where everyone is heading in the same direction, delays and project deviations are less likely to occur.
I would suggest setting new team goals every quarter. Ideally, this should be an active objective to keep everyone engaged. This could be a significant milestone within the next three months, like increasing overall productivity or completing a project.
When setting these intentions, make sure they’re SMART. In other words, every goal needs to be specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and timely. Remember, many goals can cause employees stress or anxiety if this standard isn’t met. You can alleviate this by setting them up for success from the get-go.
Also, I strongly recommend that everyone track new goals using their calendars.
3. Encourage time blocking.
“As the name implies, blocking your time is a way to plan your day into manageable chunks,” explains Calendar Co-Founder John Rampton. “More specifically, each block of time is devoted to one particular task or a group of similar activities.”
“In contrast to a to-do list, time blocking tells you when and what to do at any given time,” Rampton adds. At first, the concept might seem counterintuitive. However, dividing your calendar into blocks keeps you focused. Also, it keeps other people from stealing your time.
“Furthermore, time blocking lets you begin each day with specific tasks to complete rather than following an ever-expanding to-do list,” he adds.
As a leader, promote and encourage time blocking. How? Tell your team things like, “I’ve got 30 minutes to review your proposal on Tuesday, so I’ll let you know.”
It’s easy for them to follow your example if you show them how you do it.
4. Maintain a distraction-free working environment.
Get in the habit of “Play Hard to Get” from Not Today: 9 Habits of Extreme Productivity by Erica and Mike Schultz. It sounds obvious. But you can’t be productive when you’re distracted.
According to a survey by Mopria Alliance on workplace distractions, today’s workers experience 77 distractions a week, or one distraction every 31 minutes. Mopria Alliance’s survey found that most in-office and work-from-home employees were distracted by:
- Answering personal communications (such as online chats, texts, and phone calls)
- Checking their email
- Internet browsing
- Having unplanned conversations with colleagues
Not only does this interfere with their productivity, but it also can contribute to a decline in their mental health. With that said, you might ask your team to pause Slack notifications, close out of email, and keep their phones out of reach while they’re engaged in deep work.
5. Give your team members ownership.
In a team environment, everyone shares equal responsibility and accountability for their responsibilities and quality of work. Additionally, “team ownership” does not mean someone owns the team. It means that everyone has equal ownership.
As part of team ownership, employees ask each other for feedback, such as:
- “What is going well for you today?”
- “If you need assistance with this assignment, what can I do?”
- “Are you going to finish your assignment by the deadline?”
Overall, it emphasizes collaboration, communication, and collective leadership.
To implement ownership among your team, here are some ways to get started:
- First, make sure that they feel like they belong, like celebrating wins.
- Then, give your team a sense of ownership. For example, let them choose how and when to work.
- Align work, goals, and purpose. Developing a solid sense of purpose at work is strongly correlated with making intentional efforts to improve performance, according to a Northwestern University study.
- Avoid micromanaging. Rather than focusing on the small details, think about the big picture.
- Get input from your team. Encourage everyone to provide constructive, kind peer feedback to each other.
- Eliminate the culture of blame. Every team will inevitably miss a deadline, make an error, or underestimate a risk at some point. Use these mistakes as learning moments instead of pointing fingers or feeling angry.
- Reward your team for success, as well as being transparent.
6. Allow free dialogue to take place.
Communicating openly within the workplace should be a habit all leaders adopt. The key to having an accessible dialog is to avoid being rude. Instead, the idea is to allow your team to express ideas, proposals, and suggestions for improvement without worry.
Honesty is also part of open communication. As such, encourage your team to give feedback and share opinions. By doing this, you’ll always know how your team feels and what you can do to make improvements.
If you want the conversation to flow freely, try the following:
- During work hours, you can have informal meetings. The occasional half-hour coffee break will not significantly affect the total productivity score. But it will strengthen the personal relationship between your team.
- Make an online hub where everyone can communicate and collaborate. This could be an online blog or a Slack channel where team members can exchange ideas or offer advice.
- Get the team together after work for some team activities. For example, you can organize a weekend team-building event or a monthly dinner. Regardless, let everyone gather in an environment that isn’t an office. And, leave the work talk back at the office.
Keep in mind that open communication involves both parties, so make sure you’re involved as well.
7. Embrace healthy debate.
“An absence of any conflict or debate on a team may be a sign of a dysfunctional team,” writes business speaker, author, and workplace trainer Michael Kerr. “The absence of heated debate might indicate apathy, complacency with the status quo, a lack of passion, or an inability to share uncomfortable truths or differing opinions – which can lead to dangerous group thinks.”
“The best teams encourage healthy debates that focus on ideas, not personalities,” Kerr adds.
8. Avoid positional thinking.
“Your position or title shouldn’t define your leadership,” says John Maxwell. “That’s positional thinking, and it will cause you to disconnect as a leader.”
Influence is the essence of leadership. “Nothing more, nothing less,” he adds. “I make it my goal to see the people I lead as teammates, not employees. We work together toward a common goal.”
In other words, if a team “wins,” it isn’t because the one-star player did well. It’s because everyone played well. Get your employees to adopt this attitude, then build a team that helps each other shine. As Ralph Nader perfectly put it, “The role of leadership is to produce more leaders, not more followers.”
9. Assume the best intent.
In my opinion, this is probably the easiest habit to break but the hardest to remember. People tend to assume someone purposefully fails you when tensions are high, and frustrations are peaking. But, at the same time, making a choice to be happy and assuming nobody meant to frustrate and irritate you is much more complicated.
Even on high-performing teams, there may be instances where your assumption is incorrect. But this tends to be the exception, not the norm. When we take a moment to pause and assume positive intent, we’re able to reframe circumstances to reflect a more positive outlook.
10. Work at an optimal pace.
“It’s not about speed but finding the right pace,” says executive leadership coach Lolly Daskal. “If your team moves too quickly, burnout will soon begin to set in; too slowly, and things become stagnant.”
To continue to grow and succeed, productive teams must find the right balance, Daskal adds. As a result, it is now more important than ever to create an environment in which teams can work effectively. “Every team member wants to know: Do I have to work around the clock to look productive, or can I pace myself to bring out my best work?”
11. Embrace failure using the Waterline Principle.
What’s the Waterline Principle? W.L. Gore popularized this idea:
“The waterline principle means that it’s ok to make a decision that might punch a hole in the boat as long as the hole is above the waterline so that it won’t potentially sink the ship.
But, if the decision might create a hole below the waterline which might cause the ship to sink, then associates are encouraged to consult with their team so that a collaborative decision can be made.”
Giving your team the freedom to fail is what the Waterline Principle is all about. Let your team be independent and take risks where mistakes won’t hurt them or the business too badly.
Taking this approach can contribute to an open team environment and take a balanced approach to failure. Additionally, it can accelerate everyone’s development by giving them more opportunities to learn from experience.
12. Have fun.
In the end, you want your team members to enjoy working together and enjoying their work. When a team works well together, they have fun, leading to more productive and efficient results.
In the opinion of author Dave Hemsath, fun is the single most important characteristic of a highly effective and successful organization. Why? Because companies with a fun-oriented culture offer lower absenteeism, higher job satisfaction, less downtime, and greater employee loyalty.
Image Credit: Photo by Matheus Bertelli; Pexels; Thank you!