Contributed by Shachar Shamir
For businesses of all sizes, strong relationships between team members is the most important foundation to the success of team projects. While no one is expected to be best friends with their colleagues, strengthening your team’s ability to collaborate and openly communicate with one another can prevent projects from stalling, while creating a more positive work environment. Here are some of the ways managers can improve team dynamics in order to speed up the workflow, increase overall efficiency, and boost employee morale.
Pinpoint Cause of Employee Clashes
As you set out to improve the dynamics of your team, the first thing to do is pinpoint the root of the problem. Do certain team members not like each other, or do they simply not know how to smoothly transition tasks from one person to the other? Is there a toxic employee who negatively affects the whole group, or does tension simply result from general misunderstanding and miscommunication? Unless you discover the root of the problem, you won’t be able to address it properly.
But how, exactly, can you identify these issues? Begin by analyzing each individual team member, rather than trying to analyze the whole group at once. Sit down one-on-one with each person and discuss what their work habits are. Ask them about their typical decision making process, their preferred communication style within the workplace, and their values as an employee, in order to determine where certain team members might clash.
In addition, figure out whether any of your employees are motivated by individualistic reasons, such as workplace politics, that prevent them from properly collaborating with the rest of the team. Once you figure out the sources of the rocky team relationship, you can look for specific strategies to overcome each obstacle one by one.
Ensure Equality Among Team Members
Is one team member always left out, perhaps because he or she isn’t part of the same social group as the others? Are there smaller social cliques within your team? Rather than show partiality for any of these social groups or praising a single individual more than others, aim for an all-inclusive professional relationship with your team members in which each employee feels they’re contributing an equal part.
This can be difficult to do – even when managers think they’re giving equal emphasis to the efforts of each employee, they might not realize that certain employees nonetheless feel excluded or undervalued. Even worse, managers might even be part of an exclusive clique themselves.
To check yourself as a manager, it’s best to err on the side of caution. Be very conscious about equally distributing praise to all team members, and make an effort to substitute individual praise with praise for the whole team whenever possible. When you hold a team meeting, make eye contact with everyone in your team and make sure each person gets the chance to offer his or her input.
Not only will each team member feel good to be included as an equal part of the team, but the team as a whole will also become more cohesive as you bring everyone together.
Make Transparency the Norm
Often, tense team environments result from misunderstandings – and almost all misunderstandings point back to a lack of adequate communication. Improper communication among your team members can result in mistaken assumptions about who is or isn’t responsible for what work.
The best way to ensure healthy communication is to make transparency a core value of your team. In addition to making very explicit that all team members should communicate openly about their tasks and projects, you should make the very framework of your team’s operations founded on transparency. Often, this requires restructuring your strategies for how to manage the workflow and how to allocate tasks between team members. A few organizational changes that improve transparency include:
- Adopting workplace messaging platforms, such as Slack, to include all team members and other relevant employees in important discussions.
- Using digital management software, such as Monday, that provides all team members with visibility into the statuses of different tasks and subtasks.
- Displaying company updates, such as information about projects and new clients, on TVs or whiteboards in common spaces.
- Creating a company wiki, such as Hubspot, which allows employees to post about everything from personal insights and ideas to the company’s inside jokes.
- Embracing a culture of radical transparency, modeled after companies like Buffer, by sharing information ranging from fundraising information to employee salaries.
Be a Role Model
Whether they admit it or not, the rest of the team turns to their manager or boss as a role model. As a manager, you set the tone for the behavior and attitude within your team. If you aren’t professional or don’t take projects seriously, your team members will adopt the same attitude and produce sloppy work. If you constantly complain or show a lack of enthusiasm about projects, your team members will begin to lack the motivation to put forth their best effort and complete their tasks on time.
As you attempt to improve team dynamics, think about how you, as a manager, can reflect your own values for transparency, inclusiveness, and equality by proactively taking the steps to integrate these values into your team while making them a core foundation of your workplace culture overall.
Shachar Shamir is a tech and business blogger passionate about helping startups achieve success. He enjoys writing about marketing, business management, and professional growth.