Small business leaders and entrepreneurs often have big goals and dreams that are best accomplished with the help of a qualified team of professionals. Great teamwork happens when everyone is on the same page, buys into the vision and specializes in what they do best. If you feel like your current team is disorganized, experiencing stress or downright ineffective, take note. Great teamwork skills are learned, so you and your team have the potential to grow into the great big vision for which you are aiming.

Great Teamwork in Action

Great teamwork skills have the potential to take your business from plain Jane good to out of this world excellent. Teams with a healthy dynamic make the challenging seasons easier to endure and the successful seasons even more fun. Look for these characteristics in your small business teams:

  • Personal meaning: Team members are clear on their "why" and are passionate about their work.

  • Reliability: People show up, do their part and can rely on others to do the same.

  • Psychologically healthy: Communication patterns are honest, transparent and free from manipulation, shame and guilt.

  • Structure: Everyone understands his part, what others are responsible for, how deadlines work and when to work on each project.

  • Unity: Team members are genuinely for one another. They work in harmony and do so efficiently. 

While each of these characteristics is integral to healthy teamwork, few teams exemplify them perfectly 100% of the time. Still, you will know your team is on the right path when work quality goes up while project completion time goes down. Work tends to feel energizing, exciting and easier than when each person feels like he is working all on his own or fighting other team members.

1. Teams That Unify Fly High

Creating physiological coherence as a team can create unity, lower stress, increase frontal brain activity and literally free everyone's minds to do the work they are hired to do more efficiently. They are more likely to engage in great teamwork as they communicate effectively and eagerly cooperate with others.

The HeartMath Institute has found that building team coherence starts with each team member becoming coherent on a personal level. For instance, when HRV biofeedback techniques were implemented in the Duke University Health System, turnover reduced from 38% to just 5%.

Begin by equipping the members of your team with self-regulation tools like heart-focused breathing or the quick coherence technique. Provide books like "Transforming Stress," "Transforming Depression" or "Transforming Anxiety" to your teams and consider starting your day together with a few breathing and visualization exercises. Consider providing inexpensive biofeedback devices in your break room, like the emWave 2 or the Inner Balance Bluetooth, which can teach them how to contribute to great teamwork.

2. Establish Big Dreams and Achievable Goals

One way to establish shared vision and goals on your march toward great teamwork is to create a collaborative vision board where each team member takes personal ownership of your small business's vision and mission.

Vision boards rewire the reticular activating system — part of the brain that filters out unnecessary information — to be on the lookout for things that help us achieve our dreams, taking some of the work out of teamwork and putting things on autopilot. Ask team members to cut out or print a photo or two that represents a positive dream they have for your company and then compile all the photos on a cork board.

All those big dreams will help get people fired up, but to sustain great teamwork, employees need to find a sense of accomplishment in their work. So, break down the vision into yearly, monthly, weekly and daily SMART goals that are:

  • S – Specific
  • M

– Measurable A – Achievable R

– Relevant  * T – Time bound

3. Essentialism Makes Light Work Instead of Busywork 

On any given small business team, each team member is likely to have unique strengths that differ from everyone else's strengths. One sign of great teamwork skills is when team members are working in their areas of strength almost exclusively without being weighed down by other little tasks. This speeds up every part of your team process and makes it easier to achieve or exceed projections.

Business leader Greg McKeown suggests that several things are key to practicing essentialism in the workplace:

  • Team players need breaks, ways to escape and rest.

  • People need the freedom and time to explore.

  • Embracing choice is integral to letting go of what is nonessential.

  • Having a clear purpose helps team members see what is and what isn't their role.

  • You achieve most of your results from a few small actions, and the rest bogs you down.

  • Focusing on one direction versus a million directions creates unstoppable momentum.

  • Trade-offs are inevitable in life and in business.

  • It is essential to learn to say "no" so you don't end up "majoring in minor activities."

  • Routines are key to daily progress and meeting goals. 

4. Communicate to Keep Things Organized

Gone are the days when teams had to rely on email and phone calls to communicate with other team members. Today, productivity apps like Asana and Slack help teams communicate efficiently and without distraction about who is supposed to do what and by when.

Many apps also allow documents and images to be uploaded as they are completed. This helps team members stay productive without being distracted by 50 other emails in their inbox or a five-minute phone conversation that ends up being an hour long.

5. Minimize Meetings to Amplify Results

Great teamwork does not equal having a calendar so full of meetings that it's hard to get personal work done. When you integrate essentialism and productivity apps into your team structure, there will be fewer reasons to have meetings at all. If you must schedule a meeting to address something vital to your project, make sure you meet the following three requirements:

  1. Have a clear agenda.

  2. Set a time frame for the meeting and do not exceed it.

  3. Invite only essential parties to the meeting and keep it brief. 

If meetings continue to take over your work schedule even when you abide by those guidelines, consider integrating quarterly or yearly retreats into your work schedule to address big issues without infringing on daily work.

6. Celebrate Every Tiny Victory

When people feel celebrated and appreciated on a team, it improves morale and helps keep momentum going. Consider creating a celebration board to hang next to your team's vision board so that employees can shout out themselves, one another and the company for small and big accomplishments. Three other ways to foster a culture of celebration and encourage great teamwork include:

  1. Celebrating birthdays, work anniversaries and holidays together.

  2. Team recognition nights or awards.

  3. Encouraging high fives or ringing a bell when certain small goals are met. 

Celebration helps to boost serotonin, dopamine, endorphins and oxytocin, leading to team relationships that are happier and closer as well as boosting frontal brain activity to make business decision making easier and more efficient. This creates a reward pattern in the brain that encourages your employees to associate work and being together with pleasure. Celebrated employees often feel motivated to work more efficiently and tend to demonstrate more innovation and creativity when faced with challenges.