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Turn Your Work Team Into a Close-Knit Family

In the end, good work teams are a little like close-knit families. They require acceptance, nurturing, patience, and support. They won't always agree and they often need to compromise in order to make the best decision for the whole. They also understand that each member is far from perfect, but at the end of the day, they can trust that their teammates "have their back" - not talk behind it.

Below are five key guidelines for developing your work team:

  1. Start at the top
    The leader creates the environment, standards and practice for the work to be done in any organization. To be effective, a leader should inspire team members to motivate themselves to do great things. He or she should lead by example, not be afraid to work well past midnight alongside the team to finish a project, and be respectful and fair, treating everyone (as the saying goes), "the way she would want to be treated." These are simple qualities yet they speak volumes because your team will almost never do as you say, but as you do.
  2. Hire the best people
    If you want to create a cohesive and trusting work team, you must hire employees with work ethics and beliefs similar to yours. Too often I hear from managers that they "knew" the person being hiring wasn't the best "fit", but went ahead anyway - ignoring their gut instinct. To create a team that works well together, you need people with fundamentally shared beliefs.
  3. Communication, Communication, Communication
    Yes, you've heard this one before. You keep hearing it because few people seem to get it right.

    Think about the couple who constantly complains about the way they communicate with each other. She says one thing and he hears something different. He assumes he knows what she has said, at which point he goes forward and acts on it. He can't figure out why she is then angry. Now she is not speaking to him at all.

    Apply this to your workplace. We all have had experiences of hearing the wrong message, assuming incorrectly, misinterpreting others' behaviors, feeling offended, and so on, just like that married couple. How many of us use "active listening" skills in the workplace? How many of us seek to understand first and then to be understood.

  4. Commitment
    Like a winning sports team, a good work team needs to agree on and believe in its basic purpose - it's mission or reason for existing. Commitment equals buy-in.

    With commitment from each player toward a common vision, the group can collaboratively translate its vision into key priorities - goals - and then establish the measurable action steps (objectives) for achieving success. Work teams that have clarity of purpose can easily visualize their connection to organizational success. They see their role in the big picture and they realize their team has the power to influence something bigger than itself. With strong commitment to move toward the same goal, the team creates a synergy - a force that is greater than the combined energy of its individual members. You can easily assess whether there is a high level of commitment among your work team by asking members why their team exists -and how the team's mission translates into specific goals.

  5. Support and Encouragement
    How do you think you finally learned how to walk? To play piano? Essentially you practised a lot - but you also received support and encouraging words to keep you going. Effective work teams need continued support and feedback to stay focused and to feel good about what they are doing. For a team to reach its full potential, members must be able to share their thoughts and ideas, and to see that these are valued and heard.

    Practising encouragement and co-operation allows a team to be flexible, responsive to customers, able to make concessions, and forgive past mistakes. This contributes to a positive work environment.

    Acknowledging and celebrating success milestones enhances the confidence of team members in their common goals and in the success of their efforts. We all want to be rewarded for doing good work even if it is naturally expected of us.

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