A cohesive team is entirely capable of achieving its goal or mission. But without a leader at the helm, casting a vision, explaining the interconnectedness of each other’s roles, recognizing each other’s strengths, and mediating conflict, a team’s cohesiveness is left to chance. That’s because ensuring team cohesion at every step in the journey takes intentional effort on the part of the team leader.
To help you step up the task, we’ve outlined four specific ways you can improve team cohesion in order to ensure everyone’s success.
1.Cast a Team Vision and Remind the Team of It Often
As a team leader, never underestimate the power of a strong vision. Casting a vision, or visioning, means helping people see what you see. It means giving team members a reason “why.” Why is the work you are doing valuable? What will be made possible by doing it? In fact, a Harvard Business School professor explained that “unless you win support for your ideas, big ideas never seem to take hold or have the impact you want. Our research has shown that 70% of all organizational change efforts fail, and one reason for this is [leaders] simply don’t get enough buy-in, from enough people, for their initiatives and ideas.”
By taking the time to cast a team vision from the get-go, you not only give individuals a sense of purpose but as the leader, you then have something to unite and align team members around through the highs and lows of teamwork.
Let’s take it one step further and provide you with a narrative formula to follow. This framework comes from the world of sales but can be applied in many different situations including casting a vision. Zuora’s sales presentation deck, touted as the “greatest sales deck ever,” gives you the five steps to creating a narrative that can be applied to casting a vision that resonates and inspires a team to follow your lead and take action.
The Formula for Casting a Team Vision
- Name the Big, Relevant Change
What needs to change? How did this change or need come to be? Did something happen, either good or bad, internally or externally, that made change mandatory?
- Explain That There Will Be Winners and Losers
Why does your team need to act now? What might happen if your team doesn’t do anything or fails to achieve their goal?
- Paint a Picture of the Promiseland
What will it look like to achieve the team goal? Who/what will benefit and to what extent? In what ways will individuals or groups be better off?
- Introduce the “Magic Gifts” for Overcoming Obstacles to the Promiseland
Does your team have an advantage of some kind? What strengths and talents do your team members possess that will help them overcome the inevitable obstacles? Does the team have resources that will be helpful to have when an obstacle presents itself?
- Present Evidence that You Can Make the Story Come True
What is your plan of action? Do you have an example of a team that took on a similar goal and was successful?
Keep in mind that it is not enough to cast your team vision once at the beginning of the journey. Creating team cohesion is an ongoing process and can be assisted by reminding the team of the vision often. It reminds everyone why they are working as hard as they are and what is made possible by doing so, which is a huge motivator for continued collaboration and teamwork.
2. Make Everyone’s Accountabilities and Responsibilities Known
Team cohesion relies on individuals feeling like they are “in it together” and that everyone on the team is carrying their weight. As a team leader, you can promote this by intentionally defining the accountabilities and responsibilities of every team member and then sharing them with the entire team. Doing so creates a sense of dependability within the team, which is one of the characteristics of a high-performing team according to Google’s Project Aristotle. On top of that, it creates a team culture of transparency and interconnectedness that encourages team members to hold each other accountable and help one another when a setback or problem arises, all of which positively contributes to team cohesion.
3. Tap Into Your Team Member’s Diverse Strengths
Biases, whether they are conscious or unconscious, can derail team cohesion. As the team leader, one way to counteract these biases is to unite the team around each other’s unique strengths. According to a study published in the book Helping People Change, doing so “triggers hormones that essentially stimulate people to be more creative, more positive, and engaged, enabling them to grow and change.” In other words, it’s well worth the time and effort to identify the strengths of the individuals on your team and explain to the group as a whole why having them will help everyone achieve the team goal.
4. Don’t Avoid Conflict, Mediate It
It’s natural on a team of highly-invested and engaged people for conflict to arise. While you may instinctively think of conflict as a bad thing (which of course it can be if left unchecked), mediated conflict can actually present an opportunity for critical thinking, innovation, and creativity. Not to mention, it may help you identify barriers to team cohesion that may have otherwise gone left unseen. Remember, as a team leader, it’s up to you to use your sound judgment and decision-making skills to decide if the potential benefits of mediating a conflict outweigh the costs of quickly and effectively settling it.
Conclusion: Team Cohesion Relies on Leadership
It takes an effective team leader to ensure a team works cohesively, even when things get tough and barriers to success pop up. Though by casting a vision, sharing responsibilities and accountabilities, taping into individual strengths, and mitigating conflict, you will be well on your way to ensuring your team remains cohesive right until the very end. Of course, you may also consider developing your team leadership skills, which can help ensure you are optimally successful.
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