7 Strategies for Developing Cohesive Teams
Team working is vital in small businesses, which have to achieve challenging targets with limited resources. Before a team can perform effectively, team members have to learn to trust one another and find ways to work cooperatively to achieve their common goals. Managers can help this process along by implementing proven methods for enhancing group cohesion.
Team members may be drawn from an existing pool of employees or recruited from outside the company. When appointing people to work in the team, you should consider how well they will work with other team members. If an employee or candidate has high levels of technical skills but lacks the ability to work collaboratively, she may not be the right person to include in the team. High levels of conflict and arguments between team members will make it difficult to achieve team cohesion.
Team members should all be working toward the same goals and targets. If they do not have a shared vision, conflict and competition are likely to develop. Ideally, team members should be involved in the process of formulating the team's goals and targets. This will help to secure their buy-in and make sure that they fully understand the team's purpose.
One of the best ways to improve team cohesion is by valuing and encouraging contributions. Teams are successful when they draw from the expertise of every team member, with each person contributing different skills and experience. While some team members may be technical experts, others may have vital organizational, administrative or financial skills.
For a team to reach its full potential, every team member should play an active role. To assure this, each team member must feel that his contribution is valued.
Trust is a key element of team cohesion in the workplace. Without trust, it will be difficult for open and honest communication to take place within the team. Team members may be reluctant to share ideas and opinions for fear of ridicule or rejection.
While trust can build over time as people work together and get to know one another, it is possible to speed the process along using training exercises and team development strategies that inspire trust. A common example is to ask individuals to fall backwards and be caught by other team members.
By delegating authority to the team and empowering it to make decisions, you can increase team cohesion in the workplace. Team members are more likely to pull together and work collaboratively to achieve an agreed-upon outcome when they feel that they have ownership of the issues.
Empowerment works best when everyone involved is clear about which decisions can simply be implemented and which need further authorization.
Constructive conflict between team members is a sign of a healthy team. Teams that operate without any challenge at all risk "group think," where mistakes happen because team members feel pressured to agree with a course of action to avoid upsetting the team's harmony. However, unhelpful arguments and conflict should be tackled. If the team members are unable to resolve the situation among themselves, a manager may have to become involved to provide independent mediation or facilitation for the group.
When the team achieves a milestone or target, you should encourage team members to celebrate their success together. Simple, shared celebrations, such as a team lunch or drinks after work, can help to build camaraderie and act as an incentive to reach the next milestone or target. Take care to ensure that the chosen method of celebration includes all team members to avoid cliques forming and undermining team cohesion.