Teamwork doesn't happen by accident.
Usually, it's a result of every person committing to the team's success and following a code of conduct. Gossip will not be tolerated. Conflict will be resolved directly. These rules might not be written in stone, but everyone understands their importance.
Here are ten rules to help you get started.
1. Always be kind
There's one clear sign of a well-functioning team. It's when everyone removes the anger and emotion from the equation and acts in kindness. Why does this work? For the past 16 years as a writer, I've tried to maintain this rule on any team by always showing kindness. I've tried to remove any bitterness, anger, resentment, and sarcasm. It works. Kindness is a motivator. It makes you approachable. It feeds the team because everyone likes to be part of something positive.
2. Go direct
Here's another secret to team success. When there's a conflict with someone, talk it out directly. Too often, a poorly functioning team is defined by back-biting. Someone commits a heinous act like accepting the recognition for landing a big client on the sales team (oh, how tragic!) and you're offended. What's the knee-jerk reaction? Telling the boss. What works best for the team? Going directly to that person and expressing concern, explaining your view, and working it out together. That's why it is not called bosswork.
3. Recognize the win
Teams that recognize the achievements of individuals will always function better than teams that only point out faults. It's human nature. We are motivated by recognition, not the blame-game. If someone lands a big marketing project or finishes a business plan long before it's due, be the person who recognizes that, even if it's not your job to point those things out. (Hint: It's even better if it's not your job.)
4. Focus on the outcome
One way to make sure conflict doesn't even happen in the first place is to focus on the outcome. If two runners from the same team are on a track and they constantly compare their performance, they won't ever reach the finish line before everyone else. When you both focus on the end goal, it's much easier to support each other and race faster. Let's say you're both in sales. OK, the goal is to sell the company product, not for you to get the biggest bonus. That viewpoint changes everything on a team.
5. Make it personal
The phrase "make it personal" has a bad connotation. It usually means you criticize someone in a personal way or you act overly familiar. On a team, getting personal is not always a bad thing. It means you try to understand what other people are going through, that you're relevant. When you remove the personal side of teamwork, it means you become a generic cog in a wheel and nothing more. You're a name without a face. Instead, find out what motivates and inspires people on your team.
6. Be an includer
The best teams are always inclusive not exclusive. Look for ways to bring other people into a project and to communicate about goals. Be an includer because that's how you want to be treated--not always in the dark about other projects, but made aware of what is happening and being allowed to contribute your talents and skills outside your normal wheelhouse. Teamwork is an act of willing participation and inclusion.
7. Demonstrate diligence
Here's when teams really start operating at a high efficiency level. When you're part of a team, make sure you demonstrate quality work so every notices (yet without fanfare). It's catchy. People notice how hard you work and they model that behavior. Make it downright required for everyone to demonstrate their proficiency and you will suddenly see how a team can model good behavior to everyone involved.
One of my editors likes to use the term over-communicate. It means you make sure everyone on a team knows what is going on, even at the risk of being too chatty. I struggle in this area at times. As an introvert, I sometimes withhold information or think people can read my mind. The beauty of apps like Slack or Microsoft Teams is that you can type your way to over-communication.
9. Stop the gossip
Another key to team success? Everyone must agree to stamp out gossip. It is the number one killer of motivation, progress, success, and even well-being on a team. It's a venom that can cause division and damage everyone involved, including those who partake in the gossip (because they are shooting the arrows and causing the pain).
10. Look for restoration
Wounds happen on teams. Gossip kills, but so does conflict and a lack of communication. People feel left out and hurt. Disunity on a team happens when everyone makes small back-steps to violate the team rules of conduct and causes micro-conflicts to happen that stay unresolved for long periods of time. Repair those wounds when they happen. Look for ways to be the one who brings restoration. It works.