How to Turn Group Work into Teamwork
Thursday, May 2, 2019
Posted by: Sean Glaze
Before beginning my career as a team building facilitator and speaker, I was a high school English teacher. And as a teacher, I was all too familiar with how attempts at group work deteriorated into unfocused social time – or how a majority of the responsibility was unfairly placed on one conscientious individual, while others slacked off.
Classrooms across the country are filled with situations just like that. Unfortunately, this is a circumstance that also translates to the workplace. The cost of disengaged, unfocused, and disconnected workers is alarming. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. companies lose $3 billion a year to the effects of negative attitudes at work. And the American Management Association reports that 60% of executives listed lack of collaboration as one of their top leadership challenges. So what can managers and team leaders do to change this and improve their workplace culture?
The truth is that their solutions are surprisingly similar. Team engagement is a simple recipe, but it requires the inclusion of five very important ingredients. So here is a short description of the recipe I discovered; it works whether you are working with students, athletes, or employees, and in virtually any situation where you want to transform a GROUP into a more effective and cohesive TEAM. You may want to follow this Rapid Teamwork recipe with your people:
- First, you will want to ensure that there is a clear goal and adequate gear (resources) for the activity or project they will be working on. What is the essential question they will need to answer, or the outcome(s) that you want them to experience?
- Next, you will want to have given enough time to build relationships and a strong sense of community. Too many managers underestimate the impact of building rapport and strengthening the relationships and awareness of those who you are asking to work together.
- Third, you will want to provide clear expectations and roles for team members, and then continue to encourage them to meet those expectations once the activity has begun. Without establishing expectations, how will you know if they did what they were supposed to? And it is your encouragements and reminders that will serve as fuel for refocusing their efforts if they encounter adversity or frustration.
- Fourth, you will want to include some measurable accountability for assessing their efforts and attach a consequence for their positive or negative behaviors during the activity. Holding people accountable, and being willing to make adjustments to seating arrangements, groupings, or team roles, are all important to maintaining a sense of professionalism and purpose. If it isn’t important enough to measure, it won’t be important enough for your people to do well.
- And the final ingredient you want is to include some element of thanks and providing recognition. What gets rewarded will almost always get repeated, so if you would like certain behaviors to be repeated (or adopted by others) you should offer toasts or celebratory rewards – maybe candy, maybe other perks – to those who did what you desired they would.
You will find that the greatest gift you give your people is not the single insight or sense of accomplishment from any one project or activity. Instead, the greatest gift you will have given them is the skill of being engaged and working together successfully with others.
Teamwork is a tremendously important and learned skill, and along with the outcomes that your activity offers, you will also have shared with your people a set of valuable skills that they will be able to transfer to other situations they will certainly encounter later in life. If you are part of an organization whose culture needs to improve the sense of community among your staff, the steps for building a more cohesive and successful class, faculty and workforce are identical.
You can help to inspire more engagement when you include those five powerful and essential ingredients into your company culture. And if you realize that one of the ingredients is missing, that is the area where you will need to focus in order to improve the engagement of your employees.
Often, I find that companies are generous in investing in their strategy and technology – but then neglect to create and maintain connections and relationships among the people that are responsible for implementing that strategy. If that is you, perhaps a team building event would be a great idea – because all collaborative conversations are based on the quality of relationships that your people have developed!
Sean inspires people to have fun laughing together so they can have more success working together. His three books, The Unexpected Leader, Rapid Teamwork, and The 10 Commandments of Winning Teammates are powerful parables for building and leading great teams. As a successful basketball coach and educator for over 20 years, Sean gained valuable insights into how to develop winning teams, and founded Great Results Teambuilding to share those lessons. Today, he travels around the country delivering interactive events and entertaining keynotes that transform employees into winning teammates! Connect with Sean at firstname.lastname@example.org