Hays’ Alex Shteingardt shares his top tips for encouraging teamwork and a collective vision among your employees.
When it comes to the world of work, ensuring each member of a team has their eye on the same prize is deceptively difficult to achieve.
So, what are the steps leaders can take to instil a kind of ‘we thinking’?
1. Clarify the bigger picture
People come to work for many different reasons; sometimes this is purely to pay their bills. They don’t always put a lot of thought into the higher purpose of what they do and how they personally contribute to the team.
But without this knowledge, how can they possibly understand what their true purpose is at work? This will lead to a culture of ‘me thinking’, as these employees will not be aware of the common aim of the team and so tend to only focus on themselves and their own work.
Leaders need to proactively define, articulate and communicate the purpose of the organisations they lead. But this requires careful thought, as it’s more than simply describing your business’ responsibility, such as selling a product or providing a service.
It should be something that feels authentic to your business, that you know will motivate your people. A great example is this vision from NASA: ‘To improve life here, to extend life to there, to find life beyond.’
2. Use a team charter
A team charter is a document you create together with your team, outlining the team’s direction as it relates to your organisation’s wider purpose.
The charter needs to cover a range of sections, including the overall team purpose, the desired end results, the plan of action as well as the duration or time commitment before the goal will be met.
This will encourage a culture of ‘we thinking’ among your team as they will be aware of their North Star – the guiding principle and motivation behind every task or project they take on.
Your team charter needs to be at the heart of all decisions made, so your team members should be routinely reminded of it. Even if members are working remotely, you should still ensure everyone is clear about what the collective team aim is.
3. Open your calendar and schedule
This might seem to be a very simple step, but it’s also one that can help to bring your team closer together in mindset.
Without calendar sharing, employees will only be aware of their own responsibilities and timings, which therefore creates communication barriers between team members.
This simple method quickly breaks down these communication barriers, enabling employees to be more aware of their co-workers’ current demands or priorities, helping the team act like a successful group of ‘we thinkers’.
And by being open around what you as the team leader are personally working on, you are reinforcing the importance of that ‘we thinking’ culture to your team.
4. Treat success and failure fairly
A team of ‘we thinkers’ shares both its successes and failures. Rather than a gold medal for one person, achievements are equally celebrated. But this only works when the same approach applies to failures as well.
By accepting and sharing the responsibility of failures equally, nobody is left to collect the proverbial wooden spoon. You can then refocus on the next task as one, with nobody left behind.
If one person tried out a method that didn’t succeed, pinning the blame and punishing this person would achieve nothing. Instead, the team should learn from this and quickly bounce back, trying out a new method.
5. Communicate employees’ individual strengths
By identifying and outlining your team members’ strengths, you will be able to get the very best out of them.
However, make sure you remind them of why their skills are beneficial for the team as a whole, not just why these qualities make them so great as an individual. This will reduce the chance of encouraging ‘me thinking’ and keep them focused on the aims, purpose and goals of the team.
Once all team members understand where everyone’s strengths lie, it’s more likely they will collaborate on projects to create the best work possible instead of relying on their own skills.
A team member that understands when they might not be best placed for a task, and that someone else on the team may actually have a better suited skillset for it, is a prime example of a ‘we thinker’.
6. Try to be compassionate
Christoph Niewerth, Hays Germany COO, said that a compassionate leader possesses “the skills, vision and dedication necessary to build a supportive and collaborative culture, in which all employees thrive in the long term”.
Without building an environment in which your team feels comfortable and supported, you will unknowingly be building a culture of selfishness and independent work.
Ultimately, the teams that you manage are collectives of individuals from all walks of life, with different strengths, weaknesses and philosophies. By embracing these differences and focusing each member of the group towards a common goal within a supportive team environment, you will enjoy much more success than a disjointed team of individuals.
Alex Shteingardt is managing director at Hays Russia. A version of this article previously appeared on the Hays Viewpoint blog.