If the events of the last year have taught us anything, it’s that teamwork matters more than ever. If a team cannot be high-performing in the best of times, there is little to no hope they will rise to the challenge during VUCA (volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous) times.
It’s no surprise then that the teams who were able to perform their best throughout 2020 and 2021 were those who already had a team dynamic built on trust, respect, and collaboration. The last two years highlight the one critical action that all team leaders should take in the next year: prioritizing their team dynamics. Here’s what we mean by that:
Team dynamics definition
Team dynamics is how each individual behaves, interacts, communicates, and collaborates. It’s how they show up, treat each other, and work together. Team dynamics can be positive or negative and can be a predictor of effectiveness.
Why are team dynamics important?
The benefits of having high-performance teams and their impact on an organization are undisputed, and team dynamics are the backbone of it all. How a team works together and gets along can make all the difference as Gallup found that high-functioning teams experience 21% greater profitability, a 41% reduction in absenteeism, a 17% increase in productivity, a 10% increase in customer satisfaction, and finally, a 20% increase in sales.
But what exactly makes a team high-functioning? It’s the right environment created by team dynamics. To prove this, McKinsey asked over 5000 executives to write down a word or two to describe the environment where they felt they had their peak experience on a team. They found three keys to great teamwork. First, the team was aligned on where they were going and how they would get there; second, high-quality interactions focused on trust, open communication, and embracing conflict; and third, an environment that fostered them to take risks, innovate, and experiment with new ideas.
If the team dynamics do not rally behind a common goal, where the team is built on a shared focus, trust, and collaboration, high-performance cannot occur.
How to strengthen team dynamics
Team leadership requires a continuous effort to create the right environment so positive team dynamics can thrive.
Here are five ways you can strengthen team dynamics:
- Lead By Example
- Build Trust With Employees
- Set Clear Goals and Accountabilities
- Create A Team Culture of Psychological Safety
- Play to Each Team Members Unique Strengths
Lead By Example
Employees look to their leader for cues of the norms and behaviors they should follow to fit in. A leader’s actions speak louder than words. If the team leader cuts people off, isn’t open to new ideas, and places blame when things go wrong, team members will do the same. Also, if the leader does not call out a team member for negative behavior, others will shut down, not contribute, or pick up these bad habits.
Build Trust With Employees
As the saying goes, “Trust isn’t given, it’s earned.” The same goes for building trust with employees. Trust develops over time. Trust will begin to form between each team and the leader, by proving a trustworthy track record, and building relationships and connections. To speed up the process, find ways to have shared experiences such as a team-building session or facilitate deeper connections by encouraging team members to get to know each other beyond the work environment through casual lunches together.
Set Clear Goals and Accountabilities
For a team to be productive and focused, they need a team vision with clear goals. Clearly defined vision and goals keep the team on the same page, all contributing to meet their accountabilities while knowing what the rest of the team is working to move closer to goal attainment. Research has shown that when goals are clearly defined, communicated, and repeatedly reinforced, there is a 33% increase in the likelihood that goals are achieved vs. those formulated in our heads.
Create a Team Culture of Psychological Safety
As found in the previously mentioned McKinsey survey of executives, it is critically important to create an environment where employees feel safe to take risks and try out their ideas without fear of being reprimanded for failure. An HBR article outlines the six ways leaders can build a team culture of psychological safety through their communication.
- Teams should embrace conflict as a way to find mutually beneficial outcomes
- See each individual as having similar needs as yourself and speak human to human
- Proactively evaluate your message before delivering it to ensure it will be received positively and is not perceived as an attack
- Be curious about others perspectives and options
- Ask for constructive feedback
- Conduct a periodic pulse check on how safe the team is feeling
Play To Each Members Unique Strengths
Every team member brings with them unique strengths that can help propel a team towards its goals. When team leaders play to these strengths, team members are more engaged. So much so, in a study by Gallup, 67% of employees who strongly agreed their leader leveraged their strengths are engaged as compared to only 2% when employees strongly disagreed. In addition, when team members are engaged with the work they’re doing, they are more committed to the team goal, bring an excellent attitude, are happy and willing to go the extra mile, and are more collaborative and accountable.
Conclusion: It’s Time To Prioritize Team Dynamics
All too often, team dynamics are left to develop organically. Instead, as we hopefully enter a time where the chaos of the last 18 months is behind us, those in team leadership roles need to be intentional about reinforcing positive team dynamics. If you’re unsure where to start, attending a leadership development program can equip you with the skills you need to drive team performance.
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