You've probably experienced the benefits of great teamwork firsthand: effortless communication, selfless collaboration, a finished product that actually feels finished. If the upsides of a closely knit team are so clear, why is it sometimes so difficult to get everyone on the same page?
Getting your team to work together is more critical than ever -- according to Salesforce, 86% of workers and executives find their workplace failures stem from a lack of collaboration. Despite this, more powerful technology and increasingly specialized roles can isolate people on the job.
As a leader, I'm only ever as effective as my team. Moving my business forward is impossible without having my team behind me, and I find that a high level of trust and respect leads to a happier and more productive company in the end.
No team achieves perfect synergy without some work, however. Here are five ways to get your team working together seamlessly:
1. Share your schedule.
Collaborating smoothly can be difficult enough as it is, but simply finding time to meet and work together seems impossible when every member of your team is busy working on his or her own projects. As much as good calendar management can help with those issues, it's even more important to set up a system where each member of your team has full access to others' calendars.
Having your team's calendars available at the press of a button makes scheduling meetings a breeze. Using analytics software can also give you greater insight into how your team is spending its time -- who's doing what and when. Getting data on what your team does with its time lets you find more efficient ways that time can be used going forward. Calendar sharing is just one way you can use technology to break down barriers between workers.
2. Make transparency a policy.
Radical honesty, radical candor and so on -- there are more buzzwords than ever explaining why workplace transparency is so important. While consistent honesty is certainly appreciated by all, what does it look like on a practical level for getting a team to work more closely?
One of the biggest culprits behind faltering team trust is a fear of confrontation. Too often, team members are too afraid to address a problematic behavior directly; instead, they talk to others without really solving anything. While it's not always possible to fully overcome this, it's important to do everything you can to make constructive criticism not only welcome, but also necessary. Everyone makes mistakes that others catch, and it's important for teams to know that it's better to be transparent early on than push off communication until it's too late.
3. Embrace remote work.
It may sound counterintuitive, but letting your team out of the office can be a big boost to collaboration across the board. Remote work can help lower an employee's stress, and a new work environment can provide a helpful creative boost. It also provides a unique perspective on collaboration.
When someone works outside the office, she's forced to use the full extent of her collaboration tools. In the office, it can be easy to ignore things like Slack, Trello and Google Calendar. While away, those applications become a lifeline for knowing exactly what her team needs.
Allowing people to work where they want to and (partially) on their own schedules allows them to bring their very best to the table when they're on the clock. One of the biggest keys to effective collaboration is making sure that your team members are working together happily and on their own terms. Remote work forces digital collaboration while allowing collaboration methods and styles to develop organically.
4. Optimize your meetings.
Meetings are one of the most important methods for keeping a team on the same page, but more than $37 billion is lost on unproductive meetings annually. One of the greatest challenges an office faces is how to encourage and maintain healthy collaboration without wasting time and money on weakly organized meetings.
A big mistake often made when planning meetings is to put high-level needs -- executive and corporate concerns -- above all else. While meetings are important for issuing directives, a collaborative team should have collaborative meetings.
Try crowdsourcing your next meeting beforehand. Send anonymous polls asking what concerns people want addressed beforehand, and build your schedule from there. Designing your meetings around the people in them can deliver a sense of empowerment across the whole team while underscoring the importance of listening to -- and addressing -- others' concerns.
5. Encourage (the right kind of) failure.
It's common knowledge in business today that, done right, failure can be a valuable experience. As painful as it can be, sometimes it's important to let your teammates take risks and put effort into shaky projects in order to learn from their mistakes.
Perhaps the most important element to an effective team is trust, and fully trusting your teammates will naturally lead to some letdowns. Have a failure postmortem with your team: What went wrong? What could have been done differently? How is this going to change the way work is done? A failure is only truly a failure if you don't learn from it, and making sure your whole team learns from its mistakes will bring its members closer together in the process.
Even with growing feelings of workplace isolation, teamwork isn't going anywhere soon. Every day that passes without an optimized team is a day that could've been more productive. Getting your team on the same page matters because a workplace that fosters a sense of real community is bursting with incentive to work better and smarter, making life better for everyone.