Working as a team can be challenging; you have to deal with the team’s multiple personalities, questions on how to handle tasks and feedback that may or may not resolve issues. As with individual projects, it is possible to work together as a team and achieve positive results. The key to effective work teams is not merely including everyone, but also respecting everyone’s thoughts, questions, suggestions and feedback. By following 10 simple tips, the task of working as a team is achievable.
Valuing each team member
When building an effective work team, it is important to respect and value each team member. You are the team’s leader and you have to listen to each member of your team as well as let each member have a voice. Everyone has a voice — even when you may not agree with certain suggestions. Do not ignore team members or shut down their ideas. Discuss every idea, suggestion, question and feedback. Avoid criticism of team members in front of others. Stay positive and your team will achieve success.
Idea sharing and brainstorming
No team is built on ideas that never surface. To get ideas on how to complete projects and tasks, schedule weekly idea-sharing and brainstorming sessions. Schedule one or more sessions during the early part of the week and listen to your team — really listen to them. Do not dominate the meeting with negative comments or reasons why certain ideas may or may not work. Guide your team during idea sharing/brainstorm sessions by asking open-ended questions. Next, take detailed notes during the meeting and publish the notes via email to all members of your team. Lastly, conclude each meeting with a brief summary of ideas generated during the session.
Welcoming lines of communication
As team leader, you need to have an open line of communication not only during meetings, but also when your team is completing projects. Welcome all comments, questions and suggestions from your team members. Never set the stage where a team member may feel like he/she can’t come to you with a question or problem. If you notice your team members are not communicating with you, facilitate conversation by asking questions and requesting status reports regularly on projects.
Dividing and delegating
When working on projects and tasks as a team, remember that each team member, as well as the leader, must have a part in completing tasks. Divide tasks within a project into manageable units and delegate the tasks to members: some individuals will start projects, some will complete testing of ideas and concepts, and some will complete reports on projects. Your job as team leader is to make sure everyone is on task and completing projects successfully. Check in on team members daily; ask for feedback and handle any issues that may arise.
As with individual projects, you must set goals for team projects and tasks. Each project/task should have a detailed timeline and the names of team members working on each area of a project. Once a goal is reached within a project, praise your team and discuss what worked and what didn’t within the project. Set goals that are challenging — avoid goals that are too easy or quick to complete. Clearly state each goal and make sure all team members are working toward it.
Being an active team leader
You are the team leader and you need to be active daily to help your team to achieve its goals. You cannot stand by on the sidelines and boss your team around. Actively work with team members to help them complete tasks within a project. Jumping in and helping shows your team that you care about the project and tasks as well as about each team member. Your presence helps open the line of communication.
Use project management software or a custom spreadsheet to keep track of your team’s progress, including when goals are met, what the team needs to complete, what is completed and any other issues you need to handle. Use this information to report back to your superior and to report to your team during follow-up meetings and feedback sessions. Once a team project is complete, enter a summary paragraph into the program or spreadsheet that states feedback from your team and how the project ended.
From starting meetings on time to ending projects on time, instill in each member of your team that time management is important. As team leader, you need to show up for meetings at least 10 minutes early to set up any equipment you plan to use. Plan each meeting by creating an agenda, and budget time for questions. Set an example for your team members and resolve any time issues they may be having as soon as they happen. Use your company’s email/calendar application to remind team members of meetings, appointments and project times.
Issues and resolutions
Issues and conflicts are part of every project, and even with careful planning your team is not immune to problems. As team leader, it is important that you keep a cool head when handling issues. If the issue is with an individual team member, discuss the problem with that individual person. Do not chastise that person in front of the team. Speak to them in your office and do not try to make them feel like a child. If the problem is with multiple team members, speak to that specific group of individuals in private. It is important to resolve issues when they first happen. Do not let issues build up. Document any and all issues and follow up with members that were having problems.
Feedback to upper management
As with any project, your superior will want feedback and status reports. Always know what your team is working on and be prepared to provide feedback to your superior and upper management. Make sure all feedback is detailed and includes accomplishments as well as any failures and issues with projects. Be honest with upper management and do try to cover up problems — this will only backfire on you later.