Team work makes the world go round. It is essential to getting anything done. No one, regardless of how efficient they are, can fly solo and still meet constant deadlines as well as handle big projects.

All of us have worked in teams at some point and are familiar with various team dynamics. It’s not difficult to work with others but it does require certain adjustments. Some people find it easier to work in a team, while others are simply not able to get along with anyone.

Good team play requires members to be flexible, quick to adapt to new situations, and assume responsibility for team goals. However, if you happen to lead a team that contains more than its fair share of seemingly uninterested members, or sees a lot of conflict and in-fighting leading to compromised productivity, we may have some helpful suggestions for you. Let’s look at how to encourage people to work together and grow strong as a team.

Understand the Root of the Problem

Notepad and pen

When you are not happy with the output of your team, you need to ask tough questions such as:

  • What is holding them back?
  • Has there been a lack of communication regarding directions to follow?
  • Are the subordinates scared of asking questions?
  • Are they not competent enough?
  • Are some of the team members slacking?
  • Is there politics at work?

There could be a number of issues involved, so don’t just assume that your team is deliberately under-performing. However, after having examined all the angles, if you arrive at the conclusion that certain team members are consistently falling short of their targets and impacting overall productivity of the team, you may want to speak to them about why that is.

Some people are shy and afraid of asking questions that they feel may make them look silly. Other team members genuinely get it all wrong, while some people may just need additional training or mentoring. It's important to realise that everybody may have a different problem, and while they may want to give their best, the wrong attitude could be holding them back. As a team leader, focus on drawing people out of their shells and try to genuinely understand their problem to find a way forward.

Encourage Communication among Team Members

Man using string telephone

This follows directly from the previous point. For a team to be efficient and productive all the members need to be on the same page. This requires open channels of communication between the members as well as the team leader(s).

Encourage your team members to speak up at the first sight of a problems and ask them to get even the slightest of doubts clarified before proceeding with assignments. Understand the strengths and weaknesses of all your team members and get them to help each other out based on these strengths. For example, at an advertising firm a copywriter is struggling with making sense of market research and finding good taglines, whereas another is skilled at it. If they are both on the same team, their leader should get the skilled writer to help out the struggling writer. Sharing knowledge and helping others not only creates a good bond among team members but also positively affects the productivity of the team itself.

Stress the Importance of Meeting Team Goals

Notepad

Sometimes people are unable to get along with each other due to personal differences. There could be ego clashes, a stubborn refusal to compromise, or simply a lack of interest in pulling their weight.

Situations such as these arise because more than one team member is too focused on all the wrong things – their personal equation with others, their own pride/personal issues, or a lack of interest in the work assigned.

Shifting their focus to things that really matter is the best solution to this problem. It’s important for a team to meet its goals, failing which everybody in the team suffers. As an example, make it clear to your team that their failure to meet team goals may affect the appraisals of all of them regardless of who was at fault, and that blaming other team members is not acceptable. At the end of the day what matters is team performance; if the team fails, it reflects badly on all the members.  A clear warning like that will get people to look past personal differences and work towards collective goals.

Educate Them about Different Personality Types

Students at desks

Sometimes an inability to get along with someone is based on a misunderstanding of their working or learning style. People may not have anything against you personally, though you may be convinced otherwise.

An awareness and knowledge of each other’s personality type and working style can mitigate these misunderstandings to a large extent. There’s a reason that universities offering advanced courses insist on splitting their students into groups and subjecting them to MBTI testing.

The star performer of your team loves to talk and hog the limelight, leaving other less charismatic ones seething with resentment and feeling left out. They may feel he’s doing this on purpose but some people just want to talk more; they are naturally full of energy and bubbling with ideas. To know you are dealing with an extroverted person with an activist style of learning can help you understand how to deal with them.

Similarly, the louder ones would do well to appreciate the reflective style of learning and functioning of the introverts instead of accusing them of dragging their feet in team meetings. For a deeper understanding of how the members of a team work together, check out Belbin’s team roles model, which describes the nine different team roles people can fall under.

This is not to stereotype people, but to understand that everybody functions in a different manner and that tolerance for different outlooks and abilities is a must for smooth functioning of a team.

Tell Them What’s in It for Them

Staff presentation

Appealing to a person’s sense of profit never fails. Spell out all the ways in which meeting team goals and improving productivity will help them personally. Point out to them the possibilities of career progression and lay out a plan for this to materialise. When faced with solid incentives and rewards, most people will realise the importance of rising above laziness and petty behaviour, and instead take responsibility for their work and increase their involvement in the team.

Conclusion

As the leader of your team there is a lot you can do to extract the most out of your team members as well as get them to work together in harmony. You will, however, have to lead by example. To begin with, be approachable and friendly. Lay down the ground rules and treat everybody with equal respect. Take an active interest in your people and find out their aspirations and challenges. When they see their leader interested in their personal progress and giving off a positive vibe, most people will open up and want to give their best. This is the best way to cultivate positive team dynamics and encourage people to be good team players.